It now appears clear that Kontinental Hockey League All Star Mikko Lehtonen will be coming to the National Hockey League and it looks like he will be doing so a year earlier than expected.
Lehtonen is a left shot offensive defenseman and is coming a season in which he recorded 17 goals and 32 assists for a combined 49 points in just 52 games. After some very strong showings at international tournaments the undrafted Finnish blue liner began attracting attention from NHL teams and it appears his most recent season in the KHL has been enough to earn him an NHL contract.
The news broke yesterday when Jokerit Helsinki, Lehtonen's KHL team, announced that the team and Lehtonen had mutually agreed to terminate his contract a year earlier than it was set to expire. It was obvious from that moment that the extremely talented defenseman had made his decision to come to the NHL, although at the time of this writing there is still no solid news in regards to his destination. We do have some idea of the teams that may be involved however thanks to a number of journalists that have commented on the news in the last several hours.
First, according to Luke Fox of Sportsnet we are looking at a race that involves at least three teams, the Montreal Canadiens, the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils. To be clear here Fox indicates that there are other teams in the race, but perhaps these are the 3 contenders that he believes are at the top of the liist.
This one may already be a done deal however if sources out of Russia are to be believed. According to a report from Russian website Championat Lehtonen is being linked to the New Jersey Devils, although we consider this an unconfirmed report at this time. We are adding this for context but to be clear there has been no other source other than Championat reporting this news as of yet.
No doubt given the offensive talent he has displayed as a maturing defenseman at 26 years of age will have peaked the curiosity of more than just 3 NHL teams, so it remains to be seen where Lehtonen will end up.