ST. LOUIS - In 2008, the Blues drafted a versatile young playmaker in center Jori Lehtera.
The Helsinki, Finland native played seven games with the Peoria Rivermen in 2008-09, then opted to go overseas to continue his career. He’s spent the last four seasons in the KHL and represented Finland at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where he tallied a goal and four assists.
LAST SEASON IN KHL
Goals: 12 | Assists: 32 | Pts: 44
He also had a chance meeting with Blues GM Doug Armstrong at the Olympic dining hall back in February, where Armstrong expressed a desire to have him in St. Louis.
As they say, one thing led to another, and now here he is - participating with his new teammates during informal skates at the Ice Zone at St. Louis Outlet Mall.
We sat down with Lehtera for a few minutes to get to know him better, and here are a few of the things we learned:
1. He didn’t know he was drafted until a day later. He was halfway across the world vacationing with a few buddies in Greece during the 2008 NHL Draft. He learned he was picked by St. Louis when he woke up to his cell phone buzzing with text messages and voicemails saying “congratulations.”
2. He thinks there’s nothing special about him. He doesn’t play any musical instruments, he never won homecoming king and when asked about his hobbies, he said he just practices hockey. An argument could be made that there IS something special about him, though. Why else would Armstrong want to bring him to St. Louis so badly?
3. He really likes St. Louis grocery stores. Lehtera arrived in town on Tuesday, so he’s only been here a few days. When he was asked about his early impressions of St. Louis, he said “I think everything here is great. I didn’t know it was going to be this good. Even when I go to the grocery store it’s unbelievable. Everything is fresh!”
4. Lehtera and Tarasenko might work magic together on the ice. Both players suited up for Sibir Novosibirsk in the KHL in 2011-12, and both were practically point-per-game players. Lehtera has 26 points in 25 games, while Tarasenko had 38 points in 39 games. “He’s a skilled guy that can score, and everybody wants to play with a guy like that,” Lehtera said. He may get another chance. Ken Hitchcock indicated Wednesday that Lehtera will be paired with Tarasenko to start training camp.
5. Scouting reports say Lehtera is a skilled playmaker with plenty of versatility. Hitchcock will certainly like that about him. He scored 55 goals and 100 assists in the KHL over the course of four seasons, and helping Finland to a bronze medal at the Olympics isn’t too shabby, either.
6. His favorite movie is Dumb and Dumber. And why wouldn’t it be? Everyone loves Harry and Lloyd’s shenanigans. And yes, he’s anxiously awaiting the sequel.