Building Blue: Jonathan Lekkerimäki prepares for North America in the next chapter of his young hockey career

    Abbotsford Canucks

June 26, 2024 – American Hockey League (AHL)
Abbotsford Canucks news story

Jonathan Lekkerimäki performed at a higher level this season and showed why he deserved to be selected 15th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

He was named Most Valuable Player of the World Junior Championships, had the most goals, assists and points in the SHL by a player under the age of 20, and was given a six-game AHL stint to acclimatize to the North American pro. game.

All in all, the year has gone quite well for the youngster who turns 20 in July.

Health was a major factor in Lekkerimäki’s turnaround. Last summer he was able to build and maintain muscle, allowing him to be a reliable player all year round at his SHL club Örebro.

He scored 19 goals and added 12 assists on the season, but was most proud of the way he stepped up on the defensive end of the ice.

“I’ve improved my play off the puck and my overall game,” Lekkerimäki said of the progress he’s most proud of this season. “I think I took the biggest step there last year.”

Lekkerimäki has enjoyed his SHL season and believes he has taken the right steps in his development at this point in his career. While working hard and improving his game without the puck is the most important thing, he also admitted that scoring goals is fun.

The 19-year-old worked his way up the AHL lineup for six games this season, scoring a goal and an assist with the Abbotsford Canucks. Although his time at Abbotsford was short, he learned many valuable lessons and he believes the time he spent in the AHL will help him hit the ground running in the fall.

“It was a good experience for me to play a few games in the AHL and I learned that it is a tough league, a fast league and there is a lot of physical play. It was good to be in those types of games play.’ said Lekkerimäki.

This summer is a big one for the young winger as he looks to transition his game to playing full-time at a smaller rink. Lekkerimäki never prepared for a season of professional hockey in North America, but he learned a lot about what worked well for him to stay physically fit and healthy last season.

He didn’t take much time off during the offseason and started his offseason training in late May. This long runway gives Lekkerimäki a chance to come to training camp and show he can fit in with the NHL and AHL players at camp.

“I need to get stronger and bigger so I can take some hits and make some hits as well,” Lekkerimäki said of coming across the pond and playing in North America. “I like to be a physical player, maybe even more so when I’m angry.”

Improving his skating is another offseason goal for Lekkerimäki so he can create space for himself in North American competition.

When asked what he wants to show the Canucks’ coaches during training camp, Lekkerimäki said he wanted to showcase his strengths and show them the type of player he can be.

One of the strengths of Lekkerimäki’s game is his work on the man-supremacy. He played primarily at left half-wall in the SHL, but saw time in the bumper with Abbotsford in his AHL stint.

“I like to play with the puck on my stick,” Lekkerimäki said of his favorite part of playing on a power play unit. “I like the man advantage because we get a lot of pressure on the goalkeepers and then hopefully score.”

Lekkerimäki has seen his confidence steadily increase throughout the 2023-2024 hockey year and he is now taking all of his good feelings into the off-season, where he is already preparing for the new challenge of playing his rookie season in North America.

Next year certainly won’t be easy for the 19-year-old, but the organization has put in place a support system to give him the best chance to develop and grow his game.

• Discuss this story on the American Hockey League message board…

The views expressed in this press release are those of the issuing organization and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its employees.