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Scenes from Abbotsford Canucks practice: Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s first practice in North America

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Photo credit:@Canucks on Instagram
David Quadrelli
16 days ago
Well, this is new! Typically, our “Scenes from” series is reserved for the Vancouver Canucks, but with the big club having an off day and a very special arrival in Abbotsford today, we thought it’d be fitting to roll out our first-ever Scenes from Abbotsford Canucks practice!

What we saw

Yes, it was the big news of the day, and probably the reason you’re reading this article. Today marked Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s first North American pro practice.
Lekkerimäki skated on a line alongside John Stevens and Arshdeep Bains, two of Abbotsford’s most trusted and defensively sound forwards. Lekkerimäki also slotted in at the bumper spot on Abbotsford’s second power play unit.
Lekkerimäki looked right at home in his first practice, and while you’re likely trying not to do too much (what can you really do in practice?), he did show off some hands and his blistering shot on a couple of occasions. Today was also our first chance to get a look at Elias Pettersson 2.0, whose nickname in Abbotsford is Petey. This could be a problem one day.
EP2 skated alongside Akito Hirose, who moved over to the right side. With how crowded the Abbotsford blue line is on the left side — Matt Irwin, Christian Wolanin, Guillaume Brisebois, to name a few — it might be hard for both Hirose and Pettersson to find playing time.
The baby Nucks closed out practice with a four-on-four battle drill after Jeremy Colliton hammered home some points on systems as the group gathered around him and his whiteboard. They then went to a shootout that Team White lost after Pettersson and Lekkerimäki failed to convert on their chances:
We’ll let you decide what that means for their NHL futures.

What was said

Jonathan Lekkerimäki is a man of few words. If you ask him a question that can be answered with a yes or a no, you can bet he’s taking that option. But we did manage to get him to talk about his first North American practice.
“It felt pretty good,” Lekkerimäki. “They’ve welcomed me very well … I think the pace was high. I played with [Arshdeep] Bains and I’ve met him before so we chatted a bit and first practice was pretty good.”
Lekkerimäki added that he’s comfortable playing the bumper spot, and thinks he will be with Abbotsford for 2-3 weeks. It’s unclear at this time if Lekkerimäki will get into a game, but based on his spot on PP2 and with Bains and Stevens at practice, it’d be hard to believe if all the Canucks’ top prospect does during this stint is practice with the team.
Abbotsford Canucks head coach Jeremy Colliton spent a couple of years in Sweden, and still has his connections. He kept tabs on both Lekkerimäki and Pettersson, and certainly knows his new players quite well already.
Colliton’s biggest message to fans, media, and, of course, Lekkerimäki himself is to temper expectations regardless of what happens on the ice.
“It’s just great to get him here,” Colliton said. “It’s kind of the next step for him, just to be comfortable and be around our team and see how it’s gonna be. Obviously, he knows a bunch of guys from development camp, which is great. He knows us, knows the staff, but it’s always going to be an adjustment, so the quicker we could get him here and get him in the group and playing hockey, it’s only going to help him.
“The transition is hard. Like, there’s guys who are really good players in [the AHL] who go over to the SHL and they struggle, you know, and there’s guys who are really good players in the SHL that come over here and they struggle. Allsvenskan, guys who can play in this league go to Allsvenskan. Some of them can’t play. It’s good hockey. There’s a different style, there’s a different mentality, there’s cultural things. So, when you’re coming this way, there’s cultural things we have to help them with. Just, how things are done, how to carry yourself. Just normal, seems like simple stuff, but it matters. I think for me, it helps that I’ve been over there and can hopefully help bridge the gap.”

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