‘Highly Competitive’ Lehkonen Thriving With The Avalanche
357 days after being traded, Artturi Lehkonen will return to Montreal.
He’ll do so as a Stanley Cup champion with a cup-clinching goal on his resume.
The 27 year old winger was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche on March 21, 2022 from the Canadiens. In order to get the relentless Lehkonen, the Avalanche had to part with top prospect Justin Barron, as well as a 2024 second round draft pick.
Well worth it, I’d say.
In his first full season with the Avalanche, Lehkonen has shattered his previous career highs in both assists and points, and is just one goal away from tying his career high in goals. The breakout offensively has come as no surprise to his head coach.
“When you see a player work as hard as he does and compete as hard as he does,” Jared Bednar said of the Finnish forward. “Then you see the skill and talent level, it doesn’t surprise me when guys like that have success, or grow into success. He just plays the right way, and he plays hard, and he’s highly competitive.”
That work ethic and high level of compete is hard to ignore. On the ice, I’m not sure there’s a harder worker on the Avalanche than Lehkonen. Off the ice, he’s a man of few words. I asked him where he gets his crazy work ethic from. His answer was pretty straightforward.
“Growing up, I had great leaders to look up to in my younger days,” Lehkonen told CHN exclusively.
After coming to Colorado at the end of last season, Lehkonen immediately jumped onto the top two lines for the team. In the playoffs, he moved around a fair bit, but ended up spending a lot of time with Nathan MacKinnon. The chemistry was there immediately, and MacKinnon even told media in the playoffs that he would have traded “10 first-rounders” for Lehkonen.
This season, with all the injuries, players have shuffled all around the lineup for the Avalanche. The one combination that has held steady? Lehkonen and MacKinnon. The Finnish forward has been MacKinnon’s most common linemate all year, as they’ve played nearly 600 minutes together.
Not everyone can play with a superstar like MacKinnon, but Lehkonen has not only figured out how to do it, but he’s thriving on the star’s wing.
“I mean, he’s a hell of a player,” Lehkonen told me. “I’m just trying to bring my game with him and help our line play well.”
His coach knows exactly why he’s fit in so well with MacKinnon.
“He works. He’s an extremely hard worker. Extremely hard worker,” Bednar said. “He’s in on the forecheck all the time. He’s a puck hound. He has the ability to play in traffic and check pucks back, which just allows Nate to spend more time in the offensive zone.”
Playing in traffic is his specialty. Listed at only 5’11” and 178 pounds, he plays much bigger than his actual size. He goes to the net and battles with defensemen much bigger than him. In the corners, he’ll outwork bigger players for the puck. And if he takes a big hit, that doesn’t change how he’s going to play.
“Just part of hockey,” Lehkonen said. “Sometimes, you get a hard hit. You just move on from there.”
That blue-collar attitude is exactly what endeared Lehkonen to Avalanche fans so quickly.
Well, that, and his knack for scoring huge goals in massive moments, which Canadiens fans know all about.
Stay tuned to CHN later in the week for a extensive film-room on Lehkonen.