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Canucks prospect Jonathan Lekkerimäki is on fire in the SHL

Lekkerimäki has seven — or maybe eight — goals in his last seven games.
Canucks prospect Jonathan Lekkerimäki laughs with Örebro teammate Samuel Johannesson during an SHL game.

In Swedish, they call it “stekhet” — ”sizzling hot.”

A year ago, Jonathan Lekkerimäki couldn’t find the back of the net in the HockeyAllsvenskan. Now, he can’t stop scoring in the SHL. The Vancouver Canucks’ first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft has seven goals in his last seven games — eight goals if you count shootout winners, as the SHL does. 

That gives Lekkerimäki a total of 18 goals in 40 games for the season, tied for fourth in the SHL behind players five, nine, and twelve years older than he is. The 19-year-old leads all junior-aged players in both goals and points by a wide margin and he’s already tied for the eighth-most goals ever by a 19-year-old in the SHL. He still has six games remaining in the season.

Let’s not forget, Lekkerimäki also led the World Junior Championship in goalscoring with 7 goals in 7 games and was named tournament MVP en route to a silver medal with Team Sweden. 

Lekkerimäki is scoring goals and possessing pucks

It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Lekkerimäki after a disastrous post-draft season, as he’s taken a massive step forward in becoming the sniper the Canucks believed he could be when they selected him. He had just three goals in 29 games for Djurgärdens IF last season but has found new ways to get into scoring positions and take advantage of his incredible shot.

The most impressive part of this recent string of goals is that he hasn’t been dependent on the power play to score but is chipping in offence in a multitude of situations.

With his shot, it makes sense that Lekkerimäki is a problem for opposing teams on the power play but it would be concerning for his NHL potential if he was only scoring on the power play. But Lekkerimäki also leads all junior-aged players in even-strength goals with 11.

In fact, Lekkerimäki has become a very dangerous player at 5-on-5, with the second-best corsi percentage on Örebro at 52.7% — in close-score situations, it’s even better at 54.3%. Those are very strong puck possession numbers for a 19-year-old winger in the SHL.

Let’s take a look at Lekkerimäki’s recent goals to get a better view of how he’s putting the puck in the back of the net. 

Taking advantage of the extra man

I know I just said that Lekkerimäki hasn’t been a power play merchant this season but the first of his recent run of seven/eight goals does come on the power play, specifically a 4-on-3 power play in overtime.

Lekkerimäki comes downhill on the left side, looking like a smaller, Swedish J.T. Miller and takes advantage of that time and space to fire the puck just inside the far post to win the game against Leksands.

Next was a 6-on-5 goal against MoDo in the final minute as his team pushed for a comeback.

This is a great use of the larger ice surface, as he starts all the way against the boards at th left point before skating in and firing a shot past a screen from the top of the left faceoff circle. There won’t be that much space available in the NHL, so that’s something to keep in mind.

It should be noted that even though Lekkerimäki has far more goals than assists, it wouldn’t be fair to call him a one-dimensional sniper. He sets up quite a few chances for his linemates that they simply don’t capitalize on, as Örebro is the second-lowest scoring team in the SHL.

Here’s an example from the game against MoDo, where he smartly attacks the blue line on a diagonal to drag the defender into the middle, which opens up space for his teammate down the right side when he drops the puck to him. 

It’s a great setup but the puck rings off the post instead of turning into an assist.

Lekkerimäki's 5-on-5 scoring

Next up was a two-goal game against Rogle, starting with a 5-on-5 goal that only looks like a power play because of how smartly Lekkerimäki uses the ice.

When Lekkerimäki’s path to the middle is cut off, he simply drops the puck to a defenceman and cuts all the way across the ice in hopes of getting lost by Rogle’s defenders. It works, opening up space for Lekkerimäki to step into a one-timer and drill it past the goaltender, showing that he has more than just a wristshot in his arsenal.

Still, his wristshot is pretty lethal, as he demonstrated on a 2-on-1 later in the game.

That’s just a sick finish off the rush. It doesn’t matter that the defenceman takes away the pass across, leaving the shot entirely to the goaltender — Lekkerimäki’s shot is unstoppable, rocking over the goaltender’s glove in the blink of an eye.

Lekkerimäki had another overtime game-winning goal against Leksands, this time showcasing how dangerous he can be when he gets in behind the defence. 

Lekkerimäki was unfortunately at fault for the turnover that led to Leksands’ lone goal in regulation, but he made up for his gaffe with a clinical finish on the breakaway. He leans into the defender to protect the puck, using all of his 5’11” frame, then chips the puck into the top corner when the goaltender starts to anticipate a move to the far post.

Against Farjestad, Lekkerimaki scored a goal, then later assisted on the late tying goal that sent the game to overtime. The goal is what we’re here for.

Lekkerimäki cris-crosses with his linemate to lose his defender, then darts straight to the goal to pick up the rebound and makes no mistake.

Scoring on the powerplay and in the shootout

Finally, we have Lekkerimäki’s one (or two) goal game against Timrå. At last, we have a good old-fashioned 5-on-4 power play goal.

This is just a stunning shot that even the goaltender can’t seem to believe, as he looks around in confusion, blocker frozen in place.

The way Lekkerimäki changes the angle is key here. He takes a hard stride towards the middle of the ice, which forces the goaltender to adjust to the middle, then pulls the puck in towards his skates just enough to give him that extra bit of space on the short side. 

Lekkerimäki capped off that game with the shootout winner.

To be clear, this was Lekkerimäki’s third attempt of the shootout, as the SHL allows shooters to go multiple times, and he failed to score on his first two attempts. Perhaps that’s why this attempt seems so simple: he just skates wide, comes across the slot, and shoots.

What’s great for Lekkerimäki is that he’s finding multiple ways to score. His wristshot from the top of the left faceoff circle is an obvious weapon, but he’s also scoring with his one-timer, shots off the rush, and by getting to the net for rebounds. 

The Canucks intend to bring Lekkerimäki over to North America when his SHL season ends so that he can get in some AHL games with the Abbotsford Canucks. He could even end up as a Black Ace with the Canucks’ NHL squad for their playoff run with a slim chance he gets into an NHL game.

More likely, Lekkerimäki will push to make his NHL debut next season, perhaps with some time in the AHL first to adapt to the smaller ice surface.