Canucks Score Big With Lekkerimäki Selection at 2022 Draft

Day 1 of the 2022 NHL Draft can best be described as a roller coaster for Vancouver Canucks fans. With most of them glued to social media in anticipation of a J.T. Miller trade that never came to fruition, Canucks management were watching an unexpected prospect fall right into their laps. When they were on the clock, general manager Patrik Allvin confidently marched up to the stage and selected Swedish winger Jonathan Lekkerimäki with the 15th overall selection, the first of his tenure with the franchise.

Canucks Get Lucky at 15

To say the Canucks got lucky at 15 is an understatement. Going into the draft, most including the Hockey Writers Peter Baracchini, Matthew Zator and Andrew Forbes, all had Lekkerimäki in their top eight. That is the beauty of the draft, sometimes a prospect falls without warning and into a team’s lap, and the Canucks were able to select one of the best natural goal scorers of the 2022 class.

Jonathan Lekkerimaki Vancouver Canucks
Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When it comes to Lekkerimäki’s game, his biggest asset is his shot, as he had more goals than assists at not just the J20 Nationell level this season, but also at the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) level. Between the two leagues, he scored 27 goals in 52 games, with seven of them coming in 26 games with Djurgårdens IF in the SHL. He is also not afraid to shoot the puck, with his best SHL performance coming in February when he fired ten shots on goal in just over 16 minutes of ice time.

Related: Vancouver Canucks Draft Jonathan Lekkerimäki 15th Overall

At the international level, Lekkerimäki dominated the competition. At the Hlinka Gretzky tournament, he scored five goals in five games helping Sweden capture a bronze medal. It was all a warm-up, however, as he won gold at the World U18s after leading the tournament with 15 points in six games. Thanks to a strong season, he was named to Sweden’s Summer World Juniors team after not being selected for the original team back in December.

Lekkerimäki’s Potential NHL Timeline

Although Lekkerimäki possesses high-end offensive skills along with a good defensive base, he is not NHL-ready. This is a prospect that is going to take a few years to develop, but the payoff could be massive for the Canucks in the form of a consistent 30-goal scorer. Next season, he plans to play in the HockeyAllsvenskan league in Sweden, which is the country’s second-division pro league. There is also another option, as his Canadian Hockey League (CHL) rights do belong to the Vancouver Giants. While this option is highly unlikely, it would be beneficial to not just the player and organization, but also to the fans, as they could see their new first-rounder light up the Western Hockey League (WHL) on a nightly basis.

The goal is for Lekkerimäki to make the team out of training camp during the 2024-25 season. That being said, it is very possible he earns a spot on the 2023-24 roster if he continues to develop and show the confidence he did late in the season. He also needs to fill out physically a bit more as at 5-foot-11, he weighs only 172 pounds. The good news is, that some said the same exact thing about Elias Pettersson, who has since proven the naysayers wrong, showing he can play a physical game at the NHL level despite his lack of size.

Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide

Once Lekkerimäki does get to the NHL, the projection is that he will have an immediate impact on the Canucks’ powerplay. Although he plays right wing at even strength, he plays best on the left wall, where Miller spent most of the 2021-22 season. While he can fire home one-timers, he likes to move around and change the angle to give himself a better shooting option. This allows for lanes to open up and for goaltenders to lose their positioning in the net. As for his even-strength play, the hope is he can eventually play with Pettersson on a top-line, but it may take some time as he gets used to North American ice and the increased speed of the game compared to the HockeyAllsvenskan and SHL.

Not only did the Canucks add a prospect that will eventually be NHL-bound, but they also found a player that can score goals from the wing, which was a problem last season. Only one player who plays wing predominantly scored more than 20 goals last season, and that was Brock Boeser. Vancouver needed to add some scoring to their lineup, and they did just that by selecting Lekkerimäki.

A Swede Pick For the Canucks

It is hard to argue that the Canucks did not walk away with the best player available at 15th overall. They could have drafted a center or defenceman, but Lekkerimäki’s potential is already making him look like the steal of the first round. It was a tidy piece of business for Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin and the rest of the new Canucks management group, which should set them up in a strong position for years to come.

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