The Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet is reporting that Swedish playoff hero Artturi Lehkonen has signed a two year entry level contract with the Canadiens.
There has been no official announcement from either the Canadiens or the Frölunda Indians, his Swedish National League team. When asked about it by Sweden’s Sports Express publication, Lehkonen would neither confirm or deny the signing. “I can’t say any more than no comment,” he said. “Let’s see what happens.”
In late December Lehkonen signed a one year Frölunda contract extension which reportedly has an out clause should he make the Canadiens out of training camp at the age of 20. If not, chances are he is likely to continue his development in Sweden against next season.
The Finnish-born Lehkonen erased Daniel Alfredsson’s team playoff record in leading the Frölunda Indians to the Swedish League 2016 championship with 11 goals, 8 assists in 16 games. During the regular season he doubled his 2014-2015 statistics with 16 goals and 33 points in 49 games.
Lehkonen is listed by the Canadiens at 6 feet but his European team lists him a 5’11”, 176lbs.
Lehkonen was one of three choices taken by the Canadiens in the second round of the 2013 NHL entry draft. He elected to play the last three seasons in Europe including the last two in Sweden after playing with KalPa in his native Finland in 2013-14.
The Alfredsson playoff record Lehkonen broke was set during the 2005 championship where he scored 12 goals, 6 assists in 14 Frölunda games. The following year with Ottawa Alfredsson scored 43 goals and 103 points.
Martin Reway, the Canadiens fourth round choice in the 2013 draft, remains unsigned by the Canadiens. Reway, also a left wing, has a well-earned reputation for disruptive behaviour with a series of teams over the last four seasons, which may be causing the Canadiens to delay making a decision. He last played with Fribourg-Gotteron in the Swiss League and is reportedly negotiating with KHL Bratislava in his native Slovakia for next season. The Canadiens have until June of 2017 to sign him.
Along with Lehkonen and Reway the Canadiens 2013 draft choices included Mike McCarron in the first round, Jacob de la Rose, Zach Fucale and Lehknonen in the second round, Sven Andrighetto in the third and Reway in the fourth. Their other two choices were forwards Connor Crisp (3rd round) and Jeremy Gregoire (6th), both of whom had injury interrupted rookie professional seasons with St. John’s.
The Canadiens have four other players on their negotiation list, still playing in Europe.
Only one, 2015 third round draft choice Lukas Vejdemo, is considered a prospect. As a 20 year old in his first season in the Swedish National League with Djurgardens the 6’2″ winger scored 5 goals and 12 assists in 52 games.
Among the other Europeans , 2011 fourth rounder Magnus Nygren had a disastrous half-season turn on the Hamilton Bulldogs defense in 2014 before returning to Färjestad Sweden, likely never to be seen again on this side of the Atlantic.
25 year old centre Joonas Nattinen had a one-game stint with the Canadiens during three seasons at Hamilton. He’s now playing for Jyväskylä in Finland. He was a third round pick in 2009.
Right wing Maxim Trunev was a fifth round pick in 2008 who has never shown any inclination to play hockey in North America even if the Canadiens had demonstrated an interest in signing him which, based on his performance in the KHL, has been lukewarm at best. He is currently on the roster of Severstal Cherepovets.