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Strength is big key for Lehner

Tuesday, 06.23.2009 / 9:00 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"He's much stronger (than North American goalies). It's night and day in physical maturity. He's huge. And just by watching him, he's got that confidence and strength."
-- Al Jensen

The way the NHL game is played today, players have to be willing to go to the net to score goals from in close. To battle those attacking forwards, it helps to have a big, strong goaltender.

Enter Swedish netminder Robin Lehner.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound native of Gothenburg not only is big, he tested as the strongest goaltender at the 2009 Scouting Combine.

He finished above-average on the bench press and 4-kilogram medicine ball throw, but what really was impressive was his push strength of 349 pounds, third among all players. How that relates to hockey is Lehner's ability to keep crease-crashing forwards from pushing the puck through him in scrums.

"He's much stronger (than North American goalies)," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "It's night and day in physical maturity. He's huge. And just by watching him, he's got that confidence and strength."

That all was evident early in the season while Lehner played for Frolunda's junior team. Unfortunately, it didn't carry over. An Achilles tendon injury sidelined him for parts of January and February, and he finished with a 3.05 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

"The first part of my season absolutely lived up to my expectations before I got injured," Lehner told NHL.com. "After that it went down because I didn't get to play the games I wanted to play, I didn't play as much."

Lehner played only 22 games last season, and he said that led to his poor play at the World Under-18 Championship in Fargo, N.D. He went 3-2 with a 2.80 GAA and .916 save percentage as Sweden finished a disappointing fifth.

"It was hard to prepare for Fargo without the games," Lehner said. "I got a couple games in with the Under-18 team, that's good but it's not the high level you need to prepare for a good tournament. The whole team came not in its best shape to the tournament. …We are disappointed how it went in Fargo. We should have done better, absolutely."

However, scouts are still positive -- Lehner has remained Central Scouting's top-rated European goaltender all season.

"He's been pretty steady," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "His main asset is he's a very big, very tall goaltender. He covers a lot of the net. He's calm. Plays the butterfly but doesn't go down too quickly. He has potential."
And those who have had to play against them tout him as well.

"He wants to stop every puck, no matter what," top-rated Swedish forward Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson told NHL.com. "We can pass 10 times from side to side and he still wants to get the puck. He's real competitive, real good goalie. He's a huge guy, moves well. He's a hard guy to score on."

Jensen, who knows something about goaltending -- he played seven NHL seasons and shared the William Jennings Trophy in 1984 -- was highly impressed by Lehner's Combine performance, especially the way he fought through the grueling VO2 Max test of endurance.

"Even on the bikes, he was determined," Jensen said. "That last one, the VO2 Max, he worked his tail off. He worked hard, he spent everything -- he was out of gas. But he worked hard. He could have coasted through it. I could tell he worked hard. That showed his determination.

"I've got a good gut feeling by watching him around here. This guy is going to be a good goalie someday."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.