Jonathan Lekkerimaki has spent the past four years idolizing Vancouver Canucks star centre Elias Pettersson.
Now he’s poised to be his favourite player’s teammate.
The Canucks chose Lekkerimaki with the 15th overall pick in the NHL entry draft Thursday.
“It’s amazing,” said the Swedish right-winger. “I can’t describe it.”
The native of Tullinge said he’s been a fan of Pettersson, a fellow Swede, since he cracked the Canucks’ lineup in 2019. While he’s had discussions with Vancouver, he didn’t anticipate hearing the club call his name.
“I had some talks with them with the combine. But I didn’t thought it was coming,” he said.
Lekkerimaki turned heads at the 2022 Under-18 World Championship, leading Sweden to gold with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in six games.
“We didn’t start so well but got better in the tournament and then ended up with a gold medal,” he said of the performance. “And it’s nice.”
The five-foot-10, 165-pound forward spent part of last season playing for Djurgarden in the Swedish Hockey League and registered nine points (seven goals, two assists) in 26 games.
Lekkerimaki is a dynamic player, said Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin.
“He has an ability to score goals, but also make a lot of plays,” he said. “I think his hockey sense is great. And he’s a threat in so many different ways there.”
Hired by Vancouver in January, this is Allvin’s first draft as a general manager.
The rookie was busy on the draft floor, assessing whether it would make sense for his team to trade for a later pick.
“We don’t have a second-round pick so we were checking if it makes sense for us to pick up another second-round pick and still get one of the players we like,” he said. “But we were extremely happy to see (Lekkerimaki) at 15 there.”
Vancouver is set to make five more selections, starting with No. 80, when the draft continues Friday.
After a rough start to last season, the Canucks rebounded under head coach Bruce Boudreau and finished 40-30-12, missing the playoffs by five points.
THE CANADIAN PRESS