It’s safe to say that it has been a disappointing year for Jonathan Lekkerimäki up to this point in the 2022-23 season. But with some newfound confidence, things may begin to look up for the 18-year-old Swedish winger.
After a 2021-22 season where Lekkerimäki burst onto the professional hockey scene with seven goals in 26 SHL games, he has only scored twice in the Allsvenskan league — a tier below the SHL — through 23 games.
In the year 2022, Lekkerimäki contracted mononucleosis, put up 15 points in six games at the U18s, was drafted 15th overall, was concussed while playing in the Allsvenskan, and has played in two World Junior Championships for his home country of Sweden.
It’s safe to say the kid has been busy and his past 12 months have been hectic.
Lekkerimäki was interviewed by his Allsvenskan team for an article on their website and the quotes we will use are from this article
. The article is in Swedish so it has been translated.
He spoke about how this season has been full of ups and downs.
“The season has felt quite a lot of ups and downs,” said Lekkerimäki in his team-posted article. “I try to do my best every day and work my way into the HockeyAllsvenskan, I’ve tried that all along. It’s just about fighting on. I didn’t have the bounces with me. I’ve still had a lot of chances and got my chances.”
After spending the weekend in the J20 league, Lekkerimäki scored in his return to the Allsvenskan on Wednesday. He began the game as the 13th forward but worked his way onto a line with Liam Öhgren and Marcus Krüger — which is where he scored his second goal of the Allsvenskan season.
There’s clearly a lot of talent in his game but Lekkerimäki needs to figure out how to use that talent at the Allsvenskan level before Canucks fans can begin to believe that he can be an impact player at the NHL level. That being said, there are a lot of parts in Lekkerimäki’s game that should excite you. He has a wonderful release on both his wrist shot and slap shot, but needs to figure out how to be more of a play-driver instead of just being a shooter.
His goal on Wednesday, though there was hectic defending, saw the process of how he needs to play to be successful. Lekkerimäki goes to the net and is rewarded for his efforts.
The good news for Canucks fans is that this kid is just 18 years old and there is a lot of time for him to mature as a player.
It was said in the article that it was Lekkerimäki’s decision to go down to play in the J20 league last weekend after having a Friday Allsvenskan game where he didn’t have a shift against BIK Karlskoga.
Lekkerimäki went on to score two goals and add three assists in the J20 league games — showing off his talent and utterly dominating players in his age group. Lekkerimäki’s J20 game on Sunday was ridiculous. He possessed an 83% Corsi and when he was on the ice, his team controlled 92% of the expected goals.
Lekkerimäki also spoke about his time at the World Juniors.
“I have gained a lot of experience playing on a small rink above all,” said Lekkerimäki. “It goes so much faster there. Then it’s been a lot of fun to play two [World Juniors] in such a short time. There were two tough matches. We were close to winning, but it wasn’t enough all the way. It was tough…”
We will continue to follow along with how Lekkerimäki’s season goes in the Allsvenskan and have reached out to the Canucks for comment from General Manager Patrik Allvin or Director of Player Development Ryan Johnson about if there is any hope to try and bring Lekkerimäki over to Vancouver next season. It wouldn’t be to play in the NHL or likely even the AHL, but the Vancouver Giants of the WHL drafted Lekkerimäki in the CHL import draft and currently have him on their frozen list.
Having Lekkerimäki be this close to the organization would be great as it would open up the doors for the Canucks to have their development staff close to Lekkerimäki and help provide him with instruction and advice on how to work towards being an NHL player. Not only would a move to North America get him close to the Canucks’ development team, it would also get him close to wearing a Canucks jersey with the AHL team. There could be an option to get Lekkerimäki to Abbotsford for the 2023-24 season with the new transfer agreement between Sweden and the NHL that allows first-round picks to play in the AHL before they turn 20 years old.
Fun tidbit: Peter Forsberg was the man who signed the new transfer agreement.
For now, we will hope that Lekkerimäki continues to produce and fine-tune his game to one day become a scoring winger in the NHL.
He went through a lot in 2022 but is now fully healthy and if you want to be really optimistic, he has one goal in the two Allsvenskan games that he has had a shift in this season. Maybe a boost of confidence from dominating the J20 circuit will be exactly what he needs to have a strong 2023 year.