The Montreal Canadiens have found a place for Otto Leskinen to continue his development while they wait for the 2020-21 season to begin. The young defenseman will return to Finland and join Kalpa Kuopio for the start of the year, returning when NHL training camps open in November.
After going undrafted, Leskinen had to wait until 2019 to sign his first NHL contract at the age of 22. The now 23-year old Finn had shown his well-rounded talent off at the professional level in Europe and on the international stage at events like the Spengler Cup, but it wasn’t clear what kind of upside he would really bring to the NHL. That polish paid off almost immediately, however, as Leskinen quickly found himself an important role on the Laval Rocket and made his NHL debut suiting up five times for Montreal.
On just a two-year deal, Leskinen will become a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 campaign. Getting him into some game action before NHL training camps open will only increase his chance of grabbing a roster spot, though it’s not clear how many opportunities there really will be in Montreal next season.
The team has five roster defensemen under contract (though that includes Karl Alzner, who has spent much more time at the minor league level of late), plus Victor Mete and Xavier Ouellet sitting as restricted free agents. Alexander Romanov is expected to be given a full-time spot after signing this summer, and other youngsters like Josh Brook and Cale Fleury will be competing. Leskinen has his work cut out for him if he wants to be a part of the Canadiens, but getting in some games over the next few months can only help him prepare.