Photo Credit: Otto Marand / Djurgården
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Jonathan Lekkerimäki is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who plays in the Djurgården system. Lekkerimäki grew up in the Stockholm suburb of Huddinge and played youth hockey for the local club, Flemingsbergs IK. After playing for the local club, he ended up playing U16 hockey for Södertälje SK alongside his current Djurgården teammates, Calle Odelius and Noah Östlund. After his 2018-2019 campaign with Södertälje, he made the move to the Djurgården U16 club. Since joining Djurgården, he has played for them at the U16, J18, J20 and SHL levels.
This season, he made his SHL debut and split his time between the SHL club and J20 club. Lekkerimäki managed to produce very nicely at 5v5 at the SHL and J20 levels. More than half of his points in the SHL were at 5v5 and same can be said for his J20 points.
Not only did he suit up for Djurgården this season, but he also played for Sweden at the international level in multiple tournaments including the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the IIHF U18 World Championships (which Sweden won). At the U18s, he recorded the most assists and points. Lekkerimäki was also named to the U18 WJC All-Star Team alongside fellow 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospects Jiri Kulich, Logan Cooley, Lane Hutson, Tomas Hamara and Hugo Hävelid.
Lekkerimäki recently signed a two year extension with Djurgården and will more than likely suit up for them in the Allsvenskan next season.
D.O.B – July 24, 2004
Nationality – Sweden
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Right Wing
Handedness – Right
Lekkerimäki’s Style Of Play
In the offensive zone, Lekkerimäki is very good at finding open space for himself down low in front of the goaltender. He scans the ice and can quickly identify the areas that are not manned. When he gets into position in the slot and has an open passing lane for his teammate with the puck to exploit, Lekkerimäki is vocal and communicates by tapping his stick on the ice multiple times to get the attention of his teammate. Should his position no longer become a viable option for his teammate to exploit with a pass, he rotates his positioning quickly and stays on his toes looking for a new passing lane for his teammate to use.
But, what I really like about Lekkerimäki’s ability to find open ice is that he does a good job of identifying attackers who are puck watching and knows that they are vulnerable to keeping pace with him should he activate and skate from the half-wall to the slot to generate a passing lane. Lekkerimäki takes advantage of the defensive mistake and provides his teammate behind the net with a quality a lane to exploit. Check out the clip below in which he does just that, but later on in the shift he also identifies just how close the pressure is to him along the half-wall when has possession of the puck and managed to navigate out of danger by pushing the puck underneath the attacker’s stick blade.
He can be slippery and deceptive with his puck control when facing pressure. When he encounters traffic, he can be deceptive and quick by identifying teammates that are coming from behind him and then completing a quick drop pass. The goal is to get the puck into the hands of a teammate who is open and skating in his lane so the change in possession is seamless. Take a look at the below clip in which Lekkerimäki encounters traffic as he skates towards the slot and completes deceptive drop pass to Liam Öhgren to get the puck to a teammate who isn’t facing tight pressure. It leads to a Liam Öhgren backhand pass to the slot to find Noah Östlund.
On the subject of generating space from an attacker, when he gets to the boards with possession of the puck and he spots the back check, he positions his body as if he is going to go left towards the blue line, but pivots out quickly to go right towards the corner. Not only does he net separation by confusing the attacker into thinking that he was going to go in certain direction and then goes towards the opposite direction, but he keeps the puck on his stick when pivoting out and doesn’t bobble possession.
He is an underrated forechecker. When most people talk about Lekkerimäki, they immediately rave about his shot and his stick-handling and his forechecking doesn’t get enough attention. He can generate good stride extension length to skate hard after loose pucks. If he sees that his teammate is slightly out of position and an attacker picks up possession and looks to skate into the neutral zone, Lekkerimäki shifts over and uses quality stride extensions to catch up to the attacker. In the corners, you can expect him to get physical. He will hip check in the corner when he sees an attacker controlling the puck who is vulnerable as his back is turned.
Next up, let’s talk about Lekkerimäki’s shot. He has quality mechanics. Good weight transfer. Quick release. Open stick blade. Everything that I look for. But, what makes Lekkerimäki dynamic is his ability to deliver a quick release shot on the rush and gets height on the shot. His shot off the rush is quite good, but he does need to address his accuracy. Lekkerimäki seems to be very in-consistent with his accuracy off the rush. While that might sound like a negative, you shouldn’t take it as one. The fact that he is able to get pucks on net off of the rush and pick corners has been a joy. His accuracy will improve over time and most of the time it has to do with how far the puck is away from Lekkerimäki’s body. But, I just love that he is trying to shoot off the rush especially since he possesses such a quick release. In addition to his quick release and shot off the rush, his stick-handling ability will prove it’s worth in the NHL when he is trying to generate space for himself to shoot. With that said, I do want to see him use stick-handling more and more before attempting shots from distance with an attacker right on him. For instance, there are shifts in which Lekkerimäki felt that he didn’t have any options with an attacker closing in on him, so he took a shot and hoped to get it on net. I just want to see him use his stick-handling with his outstanding vision to identify how much space he has in front of him with the attacker closing in on him and choosing the best moment to pivot out instead of taking a shot. Even though he does need to work on shot selection, if he has an open shooting lane and he is at the border between medium / low danger, but he still has a teammate in the slot at the backdoor, he will look to pass the puck to net front.
In terms of goal production and upside, Lekkerimäki has shown that he score goals in multiple fashions. He can score one-timers in the slot. But, he will also identify teammates struggling to get a shot off down low and who are facing tight pressure quickly, skate towards them and bail them out. Once he identifies them, he has the straight line speed with his skate extensions to get to the doorstep fast. It allows him to get quality tip-in goals. His stick-handling also gives him the ability to draw goaltenders to one side, quickly move the puck to the other side and then score. Also, he has done a great job of getting open ice in the neutral zone at the blue line, netting possession of the puck off of an outlet pass and then score on a breakaway and/or 2 – on – 1s.
He doesn’t produce a lot of primary assists, but he has had some nifty ones this season. When he skates near the net, in medium danger and facing tight traffic, he won’t force a shot. Instead, he looks for a tight gap to exploit. Additionally, if he can’t find a passing lane, he will wrap around the net with the puck and try to see if he can net separation to get a passing lane.
Lekkerimäki keeps good pace on the back-check at the SHL level. His ability to generate quality straight line extensions allows him to muster up enough speed to get vest to vest with the attacker and that has allowed him to shut down attackers in J20 play. But, in the SHL, he will appear to be slightly slower on the back-check. He gets in range of the puck carrying attacker, but is still one step away from putting enough pressure to stop the attacker from moving closer to the net.
Lekkerimäki does implement good pressure along the blue line when defending the point, good active stick, extends his stick blade towards the puck, doesn’t force a change in possession but it is annoying. He can be very mobile. Lekkerimäki can swivel his hips and activate into stride quickly. He will lower and widen himself at the point to take up more space in an effort to force the attacker to dump the puck. In certain situations, Lekkerimäki will position his the shaft of his stick on the ice to take away passing lanes at the point.
While he does do a good job of using his stick to take away opportunities for the attack, he doesn’t have a lot of reach with his stick. With that said, when defending at centered ice in the slot, he will extend out his stick at the perimeter, but he doesn’t take away enough space to keep the attacker out of the slot. Thankfully, Lekkerimäki’s speed and pivots allow him to stay close to the attacker, but if the attacker has the upper body strength to push past him, he doesn’t have to reach to poke-check from a slight distance as a plan B.
He tracks the puck well. Lekkerimäki identifies when attackers are trying to complete passes and he can assess based on the trajectory if he is in range to intercept it. If he spots a pass that he can get his hands on, he does a good job at determining the right moment to skate into the pass in order to disrupt the pass / intercept it.
When looking to get involved in the rush, you can usually find Lekkerimäki in the neutral zone looking for open space at the offensive zone blue line to net so that his teammates can find outlet passes to him. But, if he does net possession of the puck in the defensive zone, in most situations he will collect possession of the puck when he drops to the hashmarks in the face-off circle. He moves to the hashmarks to net possession of pucks when they become loose along the half-wall. When he is in control of the puck, he can struggle with puck security when facing tough pressure as he doesn’t have the necessary reach to navigate the puck around the tight pressure. Lekkerimäki will need to acquire the upper body strength and continue to grow in order to develop his stick-handling reach. In situations in which he has enough open space to work, he can complete long range passes to teammates at center ice including saucer feeds.
Lekkerimäki can be rather reliable in the neutral zone when facing the rush. When at the boards and working against an attacker with a similar frame, Lekkerimäki is able to sandwich the puck carrying attacker. At open ice, Lekkerimäki will implement vest to vest pressure at open ice while the attackers are skating up ice with the puck. But, as we discusses earlier, he doesn’t have the upper body strength in SHL play to contend for bobbled pucks in a tight battle. If he is facing an attacker of bigger size, he will struggle to secure possession of the puck as the attacker’s can leverage their upper body strength to push Lekkerimäki away from the puck.
Earlier I mentioned that Lekkerimäki will look to grab open ice at the offensive blue line to create outlet pass lanes for his defensemen to use and I felt compelled to bring it up again. His ability to create quality stretch pass lanes has been fruitful in creating plenty of scoring chances. His determination to establish open ice in the neutral zone shift-in and shift-out has led to breakaways and quality 2 – on – 1 s.
In situations where he is in control of the puck and not looking to establish open ice for an outlet feed, he has shown that the can stick-handle through rather tight pressure. Lekkerimäki will look to cradle the puck underneath the attacker’s stick (triangle), so that Lekkerimäki can cut around the defender even when there isn’t much room to breath. He will sometimes bobble control of the puck, but I love that in situations where he can’t get any open space that he tries to go underneath the triangle. Even if he bobbles the puck, I like he is using his stick-handling resources to try to navigate around pressure and get into the offensive zone.
Lekkerimäki has excellent ankle flexion as his knee cap is consistently aligned with the toe of his skate. His ankle flexion and his lowered posture (knees bent) allows him to generate quality straight line speed. When he looks to go into stride, he starts off his stride with a crossover. After the initial few lengthy crossovers, he deploys a shortened skate extension, but over time he lengthens his extension. With his excellent skating mechanics, he has shown that he can generate and maintain quality speed through crossovers and straight line speed to ensure that he has the necessary speed to get back into the neutral zone towards the defensive zone blue line when an attacker has the puck on his stick and Lekkerimäki is behind the rush. In tight battles for loose pucks, he can rely on his crossovers to give him some edge if he slightly further back from the attacker (like a DRS boost for those F1 fans). When making turns, he does a good job of leaning on his edges to retain the speed that the had prior to making the turn and he can also add to the speed after completing turn by utilizing quality crossovers and lengthy skate extensions to get into gear.
Given Lekkerimäki’s ability to find open ice in the slot and in the neutral zone to key up passing lanes, he constantly puts himself in the position to succeed offensively. His shot off the rush and shot in a standstill position allows him to capitalize when he has the puck on his stick. There is a lot to like about Lekkerimäki’s offensive game and the fact that he can use utilize quality stick-handling to get out of sticky situations only increases his value.
From a defensive perspective, there are areas that he needs to work on especially with upper body strength to increase his reach and fend off bigger competitors. But, he has the speed to get to loose pucks before his competitors do even in situations where he doesn’t seem to have the upper hand. All-in-all, I feel confident that the NHL team who drafts Lekkerimäki is netting a top six forward, who will be defensively responsible and at the same time generate top six point totals.
After publishing this report, I had been asked by a few people on whether or not I would potentially line Lekkerimäki at center at the next level. I get why teams would try to experiment with him at center, but I have a few issues that I think would prevent him from being a center. His reach. Until he can acquire quality off-puck reach, he will face challenges defending in the slot. Same issue behind the red line. Also, I don’t think his playmaking ability is consistent enough in which I’d feel entirely comfortable with him at center at the NHL level. If he can grow into his size and be a bit more consistent with his playmaking, you could potentially put him at center. But, until we see Lekkerimäki address what I had mentioned above, I would leave him at wing.
May 7, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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2 thoughts on “Scouting Report: Jonathan Lekkerimäki”
Josh, thank you. You do great work. I am a Wings fan and wonder if Lekkermaki projects as a center. And if he will grow to 6’0 plus, could be an Elias Petersson type or is that too much?
Chris, Thanks for the kind words. I actually just added a paragraph in the “Projection” section on Lekkerimäki and my thoughts at center versus wing. A few folks had asked me about him lining up at C this morning and figured I would add a paragraph with insight.