Lehtonen, 26, signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs in May that will represent his first opportunity in the NHL. The smooth-skating Finn was undrafted but continued to develop overseas, winning the KHL Defenseman of the Year award last season. He scored 49 points in 60 games to earn that honor, a pace that he was blowing out of the water this year as he scored at a point-per-game rate.
Unfortunately, Lehtonen was limited to just 17 games with Jokerit this year because of COVID-19. The defenseman contracted the disease in October and had to wait out a quarantine with the rest of his teammates, though he only experienced mild symptoms.
Still, his performance should have fans in Toronto excited about his potential as a top-four option in the NHL. Lehtonen’s not a flashy player but racks up points with quick breakout passes and a heavy dose of shots in the offensive zone. His ability to score from the point could make him a candidate to run one of Toronto’s powerplay units, taking over the role from the departed Tyson Barrie.
Like all the other players under contract, Lehtonen will have to wait on the league’s final decision for when training camp officially starts. But with no loan agreement holding him back, he can head to Toronto to start his quarantine and begin to prepare for his first chance in the NHL.