The NHL Draft is coming up quickly and the San Jose Sharks fall just out of the top-10 in the first round, selecting 11th overall. Ahead of the draft, we’ll profile a handful of players who should be available, and make a case for the team to draft them ... or run the other way.
Jonathan Lekkerimaki, F — Djurgardens IF
Weight: 172 lbs.
Age at Draft: 17
2021-2022 Season (Djurgårdens IF J20): 26 GP, 20 G, 15 A, 1.35 PPG
2021-2022 Season (Djurgårdens): 26 GP, 7 G, 2 A, .35 PPG
THE SCOUTING REPORTS
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 calling card is his generation of offensive opportunities and numbers. He shines in scoring goals from all positions, usually with strong one-timers or wickedly released wrist shots, while continually setting up teammates. He can either carry the puck or simply find a spot to be open in the offensive zone. In both cases, once the puck is there, he’s a sure thing with the mitts he has. Be it stickhandling, shooting, or passing – he’s doing something productive.
— McKeen’s (Paywall)
THE CASE AGAINST
Drafting a player for one particular skill can be dangerous. In this case, it’s Lekkerimaki’s shot. A “one-trick pony” is dangerous because unless that pony is elite at that one trick, it can be easy to shut them down. Patrick Laine is an absolute elite sniper, but has had defensive issues that have created trouble between himself and his coaches. There comes a breaking point with each player and if they aren’t providing enough offensively to counteract the negative impact in the defensive zone, the coach isn’t going to play them. This is seen with young players constantly. It’s not to say that Lekkerimaki is a bad player defensively, but it will be something he needs to work on as he continues to develop.
If Lekkerimaki’s shot doesn’t translate as well as the Sharks (or whoever drafts him) what other impact can he make?
Instead of an impact player at 11th overall, it would be like getting another version of Kevin Labanc. This isn’t a knock against Kevin Labanc, but with the draft capital being invested in a player that high in the draft, an organization would hope for a player who provides more impact than Kevin Labanc. There are plenty of Kevin Labanc truthers out there who will say, Look at the analytics! He drives play! But at some point, Labanc (and players of his ilk) are paid to put the puck in the net.
The 17-year-old Lekkermaki did also miss the end of last season due to mononucleosis. While this shouldn’t impact his draft status, it is something to keep an eye on if he continues to have lingering effects from the notoriously hard to knock condition.
THE CASE FOR
Jonathan Lekkerimaki has a skill that translates to the NHL today. As a 17-year-old, his shot is already as close to NHL-caliber as you are going to find in this draft. Other than Daniil Gushchin, the Sharks do not have a player like this in their system, someone who has the potential to put up a 40-goal season as a Certified Sniper.
Finding players with elite skill is hard to do — Lekkerimaki has one and it’s one of the most important ones. The Sharks have struggled to score goals since their last deep playoff run.
Goals Per Game, Last 3 Seasons
- 2019-20: 2.6, 27th (NHL Average: 3.02)
- 2020-21: 2.6, 26th (NHL Average: 2.94)
- 2021-22: 2.6, 28th (NHL Average: 3.14)
San Jose stinks at scoring goals and Lekkerimaki can help in that department. He is already playing against men in the SHL and scored 7 goals in 26 games, at the age of 17.
If you are trying to #FindEklundAFriend and build the next core around William Eklund, what better player to play beside Eklund than Lekkerimaki? The pair played together on Djurgardens, and were known to feed off each other, as shown here:
#SHL: RW Jonathan Lekkerimaki (2022/2004) scored his 4th goal in 14 games early in the 2nd period to give Djugardens a 1-0 lead over Farjestad after 40 mins. C/W William Eklund (SJS 1st/2021) is centering the line and picked up his 9th assist in 13 gamespic.twitter.com/LXCCQEW7aI— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 30, 2022
Next season, Lekkerimaki is going to be playing against professional players in the HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden’s second-tier men’s league. Between Lekkerimaki, Noah Ostlund, Liam Ohgren and Calle Odelius, Djurgardens is expected to try to claw its way back from relegation and into the SHL again. This will be the perfect time for Lekkerimaki to prove that he isn’t just a sniper, but can carry a team to the top.