MONTREAL, QC – The Montréal Canadiens announced Monday that defenseman Otto Leskinen has been loaned to KalPa Kuopio of the Finnish Liiga to start the 2020-21 season.
On May 7, 2019, the Canadiens came to terms with Leskinen on a two-year, entry-level contract. He was assigned to Laval out of training camp and skated in 52 games before the American Hockey League canceled the 2019-20 season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The 23-year-old Pieksämäki, Finland native notched two goals and 20 assists for the Rocket before returning to Finland after the AHL announced that the season had ended and that there would be no return to play.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) August 3, 2020
Leskinen was recalled on December 4, spending five games with the Canadiens and plugging a hole left on Montréal’s third pairing due to the injuries plaguing the team. During his stint with the big club, Leskinen tallied zero points.
Kalevan Pallo (referred to as KalPa) fans are no strangers to Leskinen’s puck-moving style of play. The 5’11” blueliner sported KalPa’s black and gold for 178 games from 2015 to 2019. He left Kuopio with 11 goals and 44 assists across those 178 games and led scoring among KalPa defensemen in 2019 with 31 points (8 G, 23 A).
Leskinen did not return to Montréal at the opening of training camp for the NHL’s return to play. Expect Leskinen to take part in Canadiens and Rocket training camps for the 2020-21 season.
AN EMERGING TREND?
The New Jersey Devils have also loaned players to European teams while the AHL waits for its season to begin.
With the expected start of the AHL season delayed, one could reasonably expect to see more European prospects loaned to teams in the leagues across the Atlantic.
Joining a team in Europe allows players to skate and play with a higher intensity and pace than just practicing or individual on-ice sessions. With such a long period between the last game they played in North America and the anticipated start of the 2020-21 campaign, the ability to play professional hockey is crucial to maintaining developmental progress and readiness for the upcoming AHL season.
More than one-third of Finns have a surname that ends in the suffix -nen. Within the Canadiens organization, there are six Finns. Four of them follow this naming convention:
- Otto Leskinen
- Jesse Ylönen
- Joni Ikonen
- Artturi Lehkonen
The remaining two Finns whose names don’t share the -nen suffix? Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, both of whom are from Pori.
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