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Behind The Bench: Kari Lehtonen

by on 08/19/2011


Born:  Helsinki, Finland
Birth date: November 16, 1983
Height:  6’4” (193 cm)
Weight:  205 lbs (93 kg)
Position:  Goaltender
Catches: Left
NHL Draft: 2nd overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002
NHL Team: Dallas Stars
Jersey No.:  #32
National Team: Finland
NHL Contract: 12/13
Cap Hit: $3,550,000


1997-98: Lehtonen joined Jokerit U-16 team of Jr. C SM-sarja

1998-99: Lehtonen joined Jokerit U-18 of Jr. B SM-sarja and helped the team win the Jr. B SM-sarja Championship

1999-00: Lehtonen joined Jokerit of the Jr. A SM-liiga and helped the team win the Jr. A SM-liiga Championship. He was named the best goaltender at the 1999-00 IIHF World U-18 Championships and helped Finland win a gold medal.

2000-01: In his second season with Jokerit, Lehtonen helped Finland win a bronze medal at the IIHF U-18 Championship and a silver medal at the IIHF U-20 Championship.

2001-02: His third season with Jokerit was a coming out party for Lehtonen. He helped Jokerit win the SM-liiga Championship and was named to the SM-liiga All-Star Team, won both the Urpo Yionen and Jari Kurri Trophies for being the best goal in the regular season and the playoff MVP, respectively. Lehtonen then went on to dominate at the international level. Lehtonen helped Finland win a bronze medal and finished the tournament with the best GAA (1.17) and the best Sv% (.943). Lehtonen was named the tournament’s best goaltender. Following his outstanding season the Atlanta Thrashers drafted Lehtonen 2nd overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

2002-03: Lehtonen won the Urpo Yionen trophy for the second year in a row and was named to the SM-liiga All-Star Team. Lehtonen helped Finland win another Bronze at the IIHF World U-20 Championship.

2003-04: Lehtonen spent his first season in North America with the Thrashers’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. He played 39 games with the Wolves and finished the season with a record of 20-14-2, 2.27 GAA and a .929 Sv%. Lehtonen was recalled for 4 games with the Thrashers and won all 4 games and posted a shutout.

2004-05: Lehtonen spent the NHL lockout with the Wolves opting to stay in North America to further adjust to the different playing style. Lehtonen played in 57 games and had a recorded of 38-17-2, 2.27 GAA and a Sv% of .929. Lehtonen was named to the AHL Second All-Star Team for his efforts.

2005-06: Lehtonen spent most of the 05-06 season on the sidelines nursing injuries. On opening night, Lehtonen suffered a serious groin injury after colliding with Nathan Horton and missed 35 games. Lehtonen then sprained his ankle in early April. Lehtonen still played in 38 games with the Thrashers and posted a 20-15-0 record with a 2.94 GAA and a .906 Sv%.

2006-07: Lehtonen broke the Thrasher shutout streak with two games and also became the franchise leader in wings by a goaltender. Lehtonen also set career highs in all categories. He played in 68 games and had a record of 34-24-9, with 4 shutouts, a 2.79 GAA and a .912 Sv%

2007-08: Struggled throughout the season and suffered a groin injury.

2008-09: Suffered a back injury and an upper body injury, missed half the season.

2009-10: Struggled through the season suffered another back injury and was traded before the trade deadline to the Dallas Stars for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 4th round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

2010-11: The Dallas Stars let go long-time Stars netminder, Marty Turco, and re-signed Kari Lehtonen to a three-year $10.65M contract extension. In his first full season with the Stars, Lehtonen compiled the best season of his career with a 34-24-0 record with a 2.55 GAA and a .914 Sv%. He only missed 4 games with a back injury

Talent Analysis

Lehtonen is a big goalie who can handle the puck very well. His size allows him to cover the net very well and he is very confident when he is as his best. Lehtonen is a butterfly goalie that likes to go down a lot and tries to be positionally sound to block shots. He has a good glove hand and often makes flashy saves with his glove. Lehtonen is very good at moving laterally, and pushing himself post-to-post. Lehtonen needs to avoid reoccurring injuries as they could cause his ruin his potential.


Lehtonen will be a quality starting goaltender. He is a future All-Star goaltender and Vezina Trophy nominee. He is entering his prime as a goaltender and as long as he stays healthy he will be a tough goalie to beat.

NHL Highlights

  • 1st NHL Game – March 19, 2004 vs. Florida Panthers (3-2 W)
  • 1st NHL Win – March 19, 2004 vs. Florida Panthers (3-2 W)
  • 1st NHL Lost – October 5, 2005 vs. Florida Panthers (0-2 L)
  • 1st NHL OT Lost – October 5, 2006 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-3 OTL)
  • 1st NHL Shutout – March 27, 2004 vs. Florida Panthers (3-0 W)

Career Highlights

  • 1997-98 – U16 Pohjola Camp MVP
  • 1998-99 Jr. B SM-sarja Championship Winner
  • 1999-00 Jr. A SM-liiga Championship Winner
  • 1999-00 IIHF World U-18 Championship Best Goaltender
  • 1999-00 IIHF World U-18 Championship Gold Medal
  • 2000-01 IIHF World U-18 Championship Bronze Medal
  • 2000-01 IIHF World U-20 Championship Silver Medal
  • 2001-02 SM-liiga All-Star Team (Goaltender)
  • 2001-02 Urpo Yionen Trophy
  • 2001-02 Jari Kurri Trophy
  • 2001-02 SM-liiga Championship Winner
  • 2001-02 IIHF World U-20 Championship Best GAA (1.17)
  • 2001-02 IIHF World U-20 Championship Best Goaltender
  • 2001-02 IIHF World U-20 Championship Best Sv% (.943)
  • 2001-02 IIHF World U-20 Championship Bronze Medal
  • 2002-03 SM-liiga All-Star Team (Goaltender)
  • 2002-03 Urpo Yionen Trophy
  • 2002-03 IIHF World U-20 Championship Bronze Medal
  • 2004 World Cup of Hockey Runner-up
  • 2004-2007: AHL Second All-Star Team
  • 2006-07 NHL YoungStars Roster
  • 2007 IIHF World Championship Silver Medal
  • 2007 IIHF World Championship Best Goalkeeper
  • 2007 IIHF World Championship All-Star Team

Career Stats

NHL Regular Season: 285 GP, 134 W, 111 L, 0 T, 28 OTL, 2.79 GAA, .913 Sv%
NHL Playoffs:
2 GP, 0 W, 0 L, 5.59 GAA, .849 Sv%
AHL Regular Season:
102 GP, 61 W, 32 L, 4 T, 2 OTL, 2.33 GAA, .927 Sv%
AHL Playoffs:
26 GP, 16 W, 10 L, 1.86 GAA, .940 Sv%
Fin Regular Season:
72 GP, 39 W, 20 L, 8 T, 1.92 GAA
Fin Playoffs:
21 GP, 14 W, 6 L, 1.68 GAA, .940 Sv%
Fin U-18 Regular Season:
2 GP
Fin U-18 Playoffs:
10 GP
Fin Jr. Regular Season:
70 GP, 46 W, 19 L, 4 T, 2.44 GAA
Fin Jr. Playoffs:
13 GP, 9 W, 4 L, 1.33 GAA
13 GP, 8 W, 4 L, 1 T, 1.70 GAA
10 GP, 8 W, 1 L, 1 T, 1.76 GAA
6 GP, 4 W, 2 L, 1.93 GAA, .913 Sv%
0 GP, 0 W, 0 L, 0 GAA, 0 Sv%

Behind The Bench appears Monday to Friday only on


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