Skilled offensive defenseman with very good skating ability and a good two-way game. Best defenseman in the KHL in 2019-2020 and ready to play in the NHL in 2020-2021.
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March 2021 – Lehtonen has been traded to the Blue Jackets in exchange for goaltending prospect Veini Vehvilainen. After entering the NHL with outrageous KHL success, Lehtonen only saw 9 games in the Maple Leafs rotation, losing out on the 3rd-pair LD spot to the younger Travis Dermott but still rotating in more often than top prospect Rasmus Sandin. He managed 3 points in those 9 games, and was looking visibly more comfortable with each contest. He still needs to learn the ropes of defending the slot against NHL pros, but there is absolutely a valuable player here for a team willing to let him get comfortable. Hayden Soboleski
January 2021 – Lehtonen has now entered the Maple Leafs’ blueline rotation but has yet to stake his claim on a permanent roster spot. Through 3 games his ice time is slowly rising (but still only peaking at 13:06), but he isn’t showing the confidence or poise he had in the KHL. He isn’t getting shots through to the net, and both giving and receiving passes has been just a touch off, resulting in slight delays and lower danger outcomes. Adapting to the NHL doesn’t always happen instantly and this appears to be a case of the player needing a bit of time to learn the system and learn his teammates’ tendencies before he can become part of the dangerous creative offense group in Toronto. Hayden Soboleski
January 2021 – Lehtonen is beginning the 2020-21 campaign on the Maple Leafs’ ‘taxi squad’. He will still be seeing NHL action, but coach Keefe has indicated that he wants the newbie to have a chance to watch games and learn the system both on and off the ice. Expect strong fantasy outputs (G, A, SOG, PPP) when he is in the lineup, but it looks like he will be rotating to start the year rather than a locked-in spot. Worth streaming in fantast but will require your attention gane-to-game. Hayden Soboleski
November 2020 – After an extremely successful loan period in the KHL, Lehtonen is heading to Toronto to work with team training staff ahead of the upcoming campaign. His 8 goals and 17 points in 17 games while averaging well over 20 minutes a night made it clear once again that he is NHL-ready and could be an enormous boon for the Maple Leafs. Hayden Soboleski
September 2020 – Lehtonen has picked up right where he left in the KHL with 3 goals, 1 assist, 10 SOG, and over 20:00 aTOI in his first two games on loan. He is currently playing on the left side, but regardless his ability to generate scoring at even strength against tough competition should make him a target in fantasy drafts for the 2020-21 campaign. Hayden Soboleski
August 2020 – As preparations are made for a 2020-21 campaign with starting plans differing between leagues, the Maple Leafs have loaned Lehtonen to Jokerit of the KHL. This will put him back with a familiar team where he won KHL Rookie-of-the-Year honors and the top d-man points total last year and get some valuable in-game action before the NHL plans on returning in December. With so much talk about the handedness of the Leafs’ defense corps, keep an eye on whether Lehtonen asks to play on the right side as he had done in the SHL earlier in his career. Whichever side he plays on, he is expected to return to the organization for NHL training camp and become a fantasy factor right out of the gate. Hayden Soboleski
May 2020 – The Leafs have signed Lehtonen to a one-year entry level contract. Jokke Nevalainen
May 2020 – Lehtonen has managed to get out of his KHL contract with Jokerit a year early, making him the best European free agent available right now. Lehtonen is a bit of a late bloomer but the 26-year-old was the best defenseman in Europe during the 2019-2020 season. His 17 goals and 49 points in 60 games led all defensemen in the KHL by a wide margin. It was definitely a breakout season for him but he’s been developing steadily over the years, and there was a lot of NHL interest already after the 2019 World Championship tournament where he won gold and was named to the tournament All-Star team.
Lehtonen is also not just a pure offensive player who would be a liability defensively. He’s not a defensive stud but he plays an NHL level two-way game already. He is also a very good skater which obviously helps matters. He is expected to be NHL ready right away with no time needed in the AHL. Most likely he’ll start on the bottom pair and play on the second power play unit but he could work his way up to the second pair depending on the team he signs with. Jokke Nevalainen