Lehkonen: A Transformed Player

By JD Lagrange – Who doesn’t like Artturi Lehkonen? The guy still has many friends in the Canadiens’ organization. A smile that never ends, a hard working player leaving it out on the ice day in, day out. But also a guy who was highly underrated during his time in Montreal, both by fans and, by looking at his utilization and stats, by the coaching staff as well.

When they fired GM Marc Bergevin and hired Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens were in a bit of a pickle cap-wise. In fact, they still are although adding Sean Monahan’s $6.375 million is on the current management group. But when we go back to March 2022, Artturi Lehkonen was playing the final year of a contract coming with a cap hit of $2.3 million. He was due for a raise and the Canadiens didn’t feel that they had the place or money for him moving forward.

On March 22nd, they traded the 26-year old Lehkonen to the Colorado Avalanche for 20 year-old right-handed defenseman Justin Barron and the Avs’ second round pick in 2024. We know the rest. Lehkonen played an integral part in Colorado’s Stanley Cup win while the Canadiens continued what Bergevin had started in 2018 by getting younger, a reset, rebuild, re-whatever so to speak.

Transformed player

Under Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, Lehkonen is a transformed player. In fact, Bednar has done with the Finnish winger what Martin St-Louis has done with Cole Caufield in a way. Since joining the Avs, Lehkonen, known predominantly for his defensive play, has become an offensive weapon as well.

It’s easier to show in a table than in words, so have a look at the metamorphose:

PACE OVER 82GP8215163115:000:451:47
PACE OVER 82GP8227315819:233:261:20

Talk about a difference. He’s still the same good guy, the same great teammate, the same defensively reliable, hard working player that he was in Montreal. But he is showing the offensive skills that he had displayed in his rookie season when he scored 18 goals and was thought to become a great 200-foot player.

This season, coach Bodnar was in a bind when Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog fell to a long term injury. So the coach leaned heavily on Lehkonen to pick up some of the slack and he is responding beautifully. In fact, here’s what he’s doing so far this season…

PACE OVER 82GP8224406421:074:081:35

He also has only three giveaways all season.

Since joining the Avalanche, Lehkonen has signed a five-year contract extension worth $22.5 million ($4.5 million cap hit). To put that into perspective, compare that to the offer-sheet the Carolina Hurricanes gave to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, with the first year at $6.1 million and another eight years at $4.82 million. Joe Sakic made a hockey trade while Don Waddell had to obey his revengeful owner Tom Dundon in a non-hockey deal.

Would Lehky have had the same turnaround in Montreal? No one knows for sure. Maybe St-Louis would have had the same effect on him as Bodnar did, or maybe not. We will never know. What we do know is that Lehkonen is not complaining. He may miss the city of Montreal and the friends that he’s made, but he has a Stanley Cup to show for and a coach who believes in him, providing him with every opportunity to succeed.

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Lehkonen Utilization – Truth or Fiction?

By JD Lagrange – Many fans feel like Lehkonen was not utilized properly while with the Canadiens. Some claim that he was boxed into a limited role in Montreal and now that he’s in Colorado, he’s finally under better coaching, or better utilization anyway. Now is it truth or fiction?

From the get go, my colleague Bob Trask brought up a very good point which perhaps, can be taken into consideration.

Utilization sample

Based on data from Dobbersports.com, let’s look at Lehkonen’s utilization in the past five plus years. The following ice time percentage is only at even strengths. I have also set a 2% lower limit for ice time as anything less is rather irrelevant when determining the majority of the time.

2016-1715.20%Byron – Plekanec
11.07%Radulov – Plekanec
11.02%Danault – Shaw
10.29%Galchenyuk – Shaw
10.19%Flynn – Plekanec
4.62%Galchenyuk – Gallagher
4.30%Plekanec – Shaw
3.84%Byron – Galchenyuk
3.62%Andrighetto – Plekanec
3.37%Galchenyuk – Radulov
3.35%Desharnais – Shaw
2.96%Galchenyuk – King
2.08%Gallagher – Plekanec

In 2016-17, Lehkonen averaged 16:52 minutes of ice time per game. That was his rookie season, when he scored 18 goals. Tomas Plekanec was the team’s number one center, playing 16:49 minutes. Lehkonen played mostly with Plekanec, but also spent some time with Phillip Danault and Alex Galchenyuk.

2017-1819.34%Gallagher – Plekanec
16.84%De la Rose – Galchenyuk
12.98%Drouin – Galchenyuk
10.17%Drouin – Pacioretty
5.73%Drouin – Byron
4.46%Hudon – Plekanec
2.48%Hudon – Pacioretty
2.38%Danault – Pacioretty

In 2017-18, Lehkonen was fourth in ice time amongst forwards on the team with 16:29 minutes per game. That’s the year they tried Jonathan Drouin at center, and he played 17:36 minutes, most of any. Phillip Danault (16:35), Plekanec (16:18) and Galchenyuk (16:14) were used very evenly. Lehkonen spent most of his time with Galchenyuk, but spent considerable time with both Plekanec and Drouin.

2018-1915.32%Armia – Kotkaniemi
13.10%Domi – Shaw
9.38%Byron – Kotkaniemi
9.30%Domi – Drouin
6.02%Agostino – Kotkaniemi
3.88%Byron – Domi
3.88%Thompson – Weise
3.52%Kotkaniemi – Shaw
3.22%Armia – Domi
2.90%Domi – Tatar
2.06%Hudon – Kotkaniemi

In 2018-19, Lehkonen dropped by almost a minute, averaging 15:33 minutes per game. Danault (17:47), Max Domi (17:23) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (13:44) were the team’s top-3 centers. In spite of his drop in ice time, Lehkonen split his time with Kotkaniemi and Domi mostly.

2019-2018.36%Domi – Suzuki
11.61%Armia – Domi
5.65%Armia – Suzuki
5.57%Domi – Weal
4.08%Danault – Gallagher
3.71%Armia – Kotkaniemi
3.63%Kotkaniemi – Weal
2.82%Cousins – Domi
2.73%Kotkaniemi – Poehling
2.68%Suzuki – Tatar
2.68%Byron – Kotkaniemi
2.63%Cousins – Thompson
2.46%Domi – Drouin

In 2019-20, Lehkonen’s ice time was similar to the previous season, averaging 15:29 minutes per game. Max Domi was his center for the most part, but he spent considerable time with rookie Nick Suzuki as well. That year, he certainly bounced around the line-up more than in previous years. I feel like this wasn’t a knock against Lehky, quite the opposite. It spoke of his versatility as the coach trusted in him.

2020-2130.1%Byron – Evans
11.1%Armia – Kotkaniemi
9.0%Byron – Kotkaniemi
6.3%Perry – Staal
3.8%Byron – Danault
3.8%Evans – Caufield
2.9%Danault – Anderson
2.8%Staal – Evans
2.4%Kotkaniemi – Evans
2.0%Anderson – Kotkaniemi

2020-21 seems to be when the coaching staff started giving Lehkonen more of a defensive role and his ice time suffered, going down to 13:25 minutes per game. twelve forwards averaged more ice time than him that season. He spent a lot of time with Jake Evans at center, although he did play with Kotkaniemi quite a bit and with Eric Staal when the Canadiens acquired him. On a side note, Lehkonen averaged 15:07 of ice time in the playoffs, so the coaches played him more.

2021-22 season

Now to this season. As the Canadiens went through a coaching change, I figured that I would split the ice time based on who was the coach. I was also curious to know what three coaches thought of Lehkonen in different situations so I’ve added the short-handed and power play time.


Now for the linemates… It would have been a very difficult task to break down the percentages between the Habs and the Avs, so this is how they present them. So the actual percentage numbers are not relevant as it relates to ice time between the two teams so we have to look at them team by team. This is why I put the Habs in red.

With the Canadiens, he was playing mostly on Evans’ line, and spent a bit of time with Suzuki.

With the Avalanche, he is mostly playing on the third line with J.T. Compher as his regular center. He did have the spot shift with Nathan MacKinnon.

2021-2211.2%Armia – Evans
10.0%Toffoli – Suzuki
5.6%Gallagher – Evans
4.8%Nichushkin – Compher
4.7%Pitlick – Evans
3.7%Nichushkin – MacKinnon
3.5%Armia – Paquette
3.5%Burakovsky – Compher
3.2%Poehling – Caufield
3.2%Armia – Dvorak
3.1%Armia – Poehling
2.7%Poehling – Pezzetta
2.5%Hoffman – Suzuki
2.2%Suzuki – Caufield
2.1%Compher – Newhook
2.0%Poehling – Evans


For the first few years of his career, I argue that Lehkonen wasn’t given a strictly defensive role. But the for the past two seasons, particularly under Claude Julien and Dominique Ducharme, he wasn’t used enough offensively. And when given a chance to produce, he’s a very capable winger not only defensively, but offensively too.

So yes, you can keep saying that the Canadiens’ coaching staff, at least the past two years, weren’t using Lehky to his full potential. He is right where he should be in his role with the Avalanche. Still, the Canadiens did very well in the return they got for him at trade deadline. It will be very interesting to see what type of contract he will be getting at the end of the season.

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