Welcome to the 10th installment of 'Names To Know', a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.
Previous Names To Know
The Blue Jackets hold two first-round draft picks—No. 6 and No. 12–giving the club a prime opportunity to bolster its young core as they continue their organizational reset. In a wide-open NHL draft, there are plenty of names to be considered ahead of July.
Today, it's time to talk about 17-year-old Jonathan Lekkerimaki, a right winger from Sweden. Mock draft models project Lekkerimaki right within the window of where the Blue Jackets will be picking from.
At five-foot-11, 172 pounds, and billed as a future top-six forward, among Lekkerimaki's better assets is his wrist shot and the ability for scoring a lot of goals as he did in Sweden.
Lekkerimaki split time in 2021-22 with the Djurgardens IF J20 squad where he played 26 games and scored 35 points (20 goals, 15 assists). With Djurgardens IF (SHL) he played 26 games scoring nine points (seven goals, two assists).
He participated internationally for Sweden in the U18 World Championship, leading the tournament with 15 points and 10 assists in six games (he also led Sweden with five goals) helping the Swedes win gold. Lekkerimaki had slight playing time in U20 competition as well. In the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he scored five points (all goals to lead Sweden) in five games.
The Blue Jackets boast a few players with a lethal shot, from the likes of Yegor Chinakhov to all-star Patrik Laine, so adding another offensive presence that scores a lot of goals sure seems like a way to go.
Jonathan Lekkerimki is FUN.— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) May 4, 2022
Watch this sequence.
His vision is . Identifies puck watching attackers that are vulnerable. Gets open ice at net front for a high danger scoring chance. Later, he identifies two attackers and stick-handles around them in tight quarters. pic.twitter.com/OfY7dhH2Y0
Jonathan Lekkerimaki ices it. Sweden takes gold for just the second time at U18MWC. Masterful goaltending from Hugo Havelid.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) May 1, 2022
As Josh Tessler of Smhat Scouting said, Lekkerimaki can continue to work on the defensive part of his game and increase his upper body strength to fend off the opposition.
"If he is facing an attacker of bigger size, he will struggle to secure possession of the puck as the attackers can leverage their upper body strength to push Lekkerimaki away from the puck," Tessler said.
What bodes well for Lekkerimaki seems to be everything else. He's a fast skater who knows how to get things done on the offensive end.
He'll turn 18 in July and will continue to grow into his NHL frame. There are some who think Lekkerimaki might be a center, which would increase his stock, as mentioned by Habs on the Prize's Patrik Bexell on the Locked On Blue Jackets podcast.
"Right now (Lekkerimaki) is projected 10-15, and if you project him as a center, he'll probably go 5-10," Bexell said.
While Lekkerimaki has experience playing center in the past, it sounds more likely Lekkerimaki is getting drafted with the intention of playing on the wing but perhaps center is in his future down the road.
He's under contract to play for Djurgardens next season in the HockeyAllsvenskan, the second-highest league in Sweden after Djurgardens was relegated from the SHL.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked him as his 10th overall prospect.
Lekkerimaki is a skilled winger who has various offensive elements in his game, but the clear strength of his game is his shot. He is a goal-scoring threat from the faceoff dots with a hard, accurate wrist shot and one-timer that projects to be a weapon in the NHL. He has good speed, hands and vision to generate clean entries and make plays but those aspects don’t pop like his shot. Like a lot of shooters, he leans too much on his best asset and play too much on the perimeter which isn’t ideal for a player who lacks size. Lekkerimaki projects as a quality top-six winger.
|The Hockey News||10th|