After Aleksander Barkov, Artturi Lehkonen was probably the most impressive draft-eligible forward in the SM-Liiga this past season. The soon-to-be 18-year-old collected 14 goals and 30 points in 45 games in Finland's best league, good for 0.67 PPG, and like Barkov, is an offensively gifted player with good speed and hockey sense. In international play, Lehkonen scored four goals and five points in eight games at this year's World Junior Hockey Championship, and three goals and nine points in seven games as a part of Finland's bronze-medal winning 2013 U-18 squad.
Lehkonen's consistency and the sustainability of his point production in his first years as a pro player in Finland make him a very interesting option for a team like the Flames later in the first round of tomorrow's entry draft. He took more shots than Barkov last season, had a lower shooting percentage, and played an average of about four minutes less per game, but was still able to put up very impressive results--even more so when you consider his youth and smaller stature (Lehkonen checks in at about 5"10 and about 163 lbs.).
From Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers:
It’s easy to see why teams will like Artturi Lehkonen on draft day. He’s fast, agile and good with the puck. He’s a strong skater with the hockey sense and tenacity to compete in a high-level professional league. As a 17-year-old. It’s also easy to see why some teams may be a bit cautious, as he’s not incredibly big for a hockey player.
...Artturi Lehkonen is a very good hockey player for his age, with the ability to play strong minutes and contribute offensively in the professional ranks already...
Lehkonen's vision and hockey sense have been praised by scouts, and both his speed and acceleration have been described as "superb."
From Last Word on Sports:
...Lehkonen is a talented offensive player and natural goal scorer. He has great stickhandling and the ability to beat defenders one on one. He also has a hard and accurate wrist shot...
...Lehkonen is a very good skater. His top end speed and acceleration are excellent. He also has great edgework and agility, which allows him to get past opposing defenders, either through slick moves, or by driving wide and to the net. His great speed means that defenders need to respect this, and back off him on the rush, opening up space for him to unleash the great wrist shot. His balance is good, but he still needs to bulk up as he can be pushed off the puck at times.
Along with concerns about Lehkonen's size and how he will adjust to North American ice, the forward also suffered two concussions last season, but did not appear to experience any prolonged ill-effects as a result of having his bell rung. Still, head injuries are something to be very cautious about when drafting and developing young players, as the Flames should know well after Kris Chucko was forced to retire from professional hockey due to concussion problems less than two years ago. I discerned from a very choppy translation of an article on a Finnish sports news website about the draft that Lehkonen, who is signed with KalPa through next season, plans to remain with his SM-Liiga squad next season in order to continue to improve as a player before coming to North America.
Lehkonen's ceiling has been compared to that of current Flame Mike Cammalleri.