NHL Prospects

Jonathan Lekkerimäki takes home 2024 Elite Prospects Award as top junior player in SHL

Since 2013, the "Elite Prospects Award" has been given to the most outstanding developing player in the SHL.

Previous winners include:

For the 2023-24 season, hockeysverige.se and eliteprospects.com, through their panel which includes Johan Nilsson, Peter Sibner, Jimmy Hamrin, Simon Eld, Martin Jansson, Rasmus Kågström, Robin Olausson, Ronnie Rönnkvist, Uffe Bodin, Måns Karlsson, Magnus Hävelid, and Johan Rosén, have named Örebro's Jonathan Lekkerimäki as the recipient of the Elite Prospects Award.

"It's obviously exciting to receive this award for my season," Lekkerimäki said with a smile as he held the puck-shaped trophy, a testament to being the season's best junior in the SHL before we reviewed previous winners. "Of course, it's great to be among them. It's an honour. There are many great names, so it's just fun."

The 19-year-old from Tullinge, south of Stockholm, representing Flemingsberg as his home club, scored 19 goals and totalled 31 points in 46 matches during his season in Örebro.

Örebro head coach Niklas Eriksson shared with HockeySverige and Elite Prospects that "‘Jonte' is a calm and reliable individual with an incredibly strong mental focus on his sport. He is goal-oriented and willing to put in the work required to reach the absolute top. As a player, he is a top-notch goal scorer. His shot is both fast and powerful, with precision. He is also very skilled at moving the puck laterally, making it difficult for defenders and goaltenders. ‘Jonte' is also a good team player who wants to contribute defensively."

“I think my season has been good,” Lekkerimäki said. "I integrated well into the team and gained trust immediately, so it was just about pushing forward, which I think I demonstrated throughout the season. I feel like I've developed everything during the season, both offensively and defensively. Attacking the goal and taking shots."

How has it been living in Örebro? "Both my girlfriend (Pandora Nåtby) and I have enjoyed it a lot. Plus, we've lived close to the arena, so it's felt very good."

Örebro had a turbulent season with a coaching change and various concerns within the group, but this didn't affect Lekkerimäki much. "Personally, I wasn't affected much. I focused on my game and doing my best for the team to win matches."

Was there any noticeable impact within the group? "A little bit maybe, but not so much," says Lekkerimäki, who feels the team didn't fully meet expectations. "A good start. Then, a bit up and down. We might not be completely satisfied with the season, but it's okay."

After the SHL season and before returning to play for Tre Kronor, the 19-year-old spent time with the Vancouver Canucks' AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Canucks, playing six games and picking up a pair of points.

"It was good, educational; I got to play on a smaller rink and experience how it was there. It was fun to play a few games too. The biggest difference from the SHL, I thought, was the play along the boards. There was also a bit more physical play and less time with the puck over there. Fast-paced and enjoyable nonetheless."

Does that style of hockey suit you? "Yes, I would say so, but I also had to adapt to some small details in the game. For instance, the shot, because you're always a bit closer to the goal, so you have to take more shots."

Were you surprised when Sam Hallam called you up to serve in Tre Kronor? "Yes, a bit. It was very exciting when Sam called and said I would be joining. I've been with them for two weeks now, but we'll see how it goes in the future. Anyway, it's been very fun."

Did you ever hesitate about returning to play for the national team considering you had secured a spot in Vancouver's AHL team? "No, not at all. When I got the call-up, I wanted to seize the opportunity and come home to play. It was also amazing to put on the national team jersey and very enjoyable."

Is the goal to make it to the World Championships? "Yes, absolutely. To stay with them for as long as possible and do my best."

What's planned for your upcoming season? "Right now, I'm mostly focused on the national team. Trying to secure a spot there and perform as well as possible. Then we'll see what opens up for me."

Could it be that you stay in Sweden? "We'll see what happens," Lekkerimäki said with a secretive smile.

If you were to award this prize to someone, who would it be? "That's tough, but maybe I would give it to Axel Sandin Pellikka."

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NHL Prospects Abbotsford Canucks Vancouver Canucks Örebro HK SHL Jonathan Lekkerimäki
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