While the NHL and NHLPA haggling over financial terms with the league not being allowed to have fans to start next season, players have either made their way or are in the process of heading to their home cities in preparation for the start of training camp.
The preliminary indicators are that clubs will open camp in mid-December (except for the seven non-playoff teams who will start earlier) for a potential January 1 start date and a 60-game regular season, which means that players coming from Europe or the United States will have to quarantine for 14 days in advance of camp.
On Friday, Leafs blueline prospect Mikko Lehtonen terminated his contract with Jokerit to head to North America. The 26-year-old defenseman signed with Toronto in May after winning the KHL’s award for top defenseman after scoring 49 points (17 goals, 32 assists) in 60 games. This season, Lehtonen was averaging a point-per-game (17 points in 17 games) playing 23 minutes per game.
#Jokerit and Mikko Lehtonen have mutually agreed to terminate the player’s contract. Next stop for him is Toronto.
It is expected that Lehtonen with the versatility of playing both the left and right side will compete for a bottom-pairing role with Travis Dermott, Zach Bogosian, and Rasmus Sandin.
Preparations for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships in Edmonton next month are moving forward and rosters for the upcoming tournament should be announced in the next few days if they have not already been.
Team Russia released their roster of 28 players on Friday and three Leafs prospect (2020 first rounder Rodion Amirov, fourth rounder Artur Akhtyamov and 2019 fourth rounder Mikhail Abramov) were included. Amirov and Akhtyamov were selected for the Karjala Cup tournament between Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic earlier this month, with Toronto’s top pick earning honors as the tournament’s top forward.
Akhtyamov served as the backup for Nashville first rounder Yaroslav Askarov, and may get a game or two in Edmonton depending on whether Russia plays back-to-back games.
Abramov was signed to a three-year entry-level contract in early March after a 76-point season with Victoriaville in the QMJHL. This season, the 19-year-old has 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in six games and continues to look like a steal for the Leafs after being picked 115th overall.
Leafs 2019 third-rounder Mikko Kokkonen and 2020 picks Roni Hirvonen, Topi Niemela or Veeti Miettinen, who are all playing in the Finnish SM-Liiga are potential selection for Team Finland, while winger Nick Robertson would be a shoo-in for Team USA if the Leafs release him for the tournament.
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