Wilmington, MA --
In hopes of making it big in the NHL, many European born players travel across the Atlantic to try their hand at professional hockey in the United States.
While lifestyles may change between continents, the game remains the same -- just ask Mikko Lehtonen.
“Everybody’s been asking me (about) that,” said Lehtonen during Bruins Development Camp. “It’s the same sport here its just the ice surface is a little smaller.
“Of course in the NHL the guys are strong and skilled but it’s the same game everywhere you go.”
At 6’5”, it’s hard to miss the Finnish skater and his superb puck control and with the wider rinks in Europe, Lehtonen plays a much more open game in comparison to many North American born players.
“It makes it a little faster and you get scoring chances that don’t happen so often on big ice surfaces. But I like both,” said Lehtonen, who also noted the difference in the off-season training schedules for teams in Finland.
“In Finland the pro teams practice together the whole summer, so I can practice with the team I used to play for in my hometown.
“That has been really good.”
Lehtonen has played for the same team in his hometown of Espoo, Finland since the 2003-04 season, but he hopes to be a Bostonian sooner rather than later.
His most recent trip to the Hub was part of Lehtonen’s second go around with B’s Development Camp.
“We’ve been out (in the city) for a couple days and it looks really nice,” explained Lehtonen. “I can’t wait to live here and play here, hopefully.”
Like most of the other prospects in the locker room, Lehtonen enjoys spending his free time on the golf course or training in the gym.
However, a rumor found its way around the prospects’ locker room that underneath the fearless exterior of this Finnish hockey player lives a rock star yearning to be heard.
When asked if the rumors were true and if he was an “amazing” singer, Mikko just smiled and responded, “Oh that’s absolutely true…(I like to sing) everything. I sing all the time. When I’m in the shower, its unbelievable.”
Forward Jeff LoVecchio, a fellow prospect at the camp and Lehtonen’s roommate for their time in New England weighed in on his friend’s abilities and whether or not he really could hold an audience in front of a microphone.
“I’m his roommate,” said LoVecchio. “It’s true.”
Hopefully B’s fans will be singing Lehtonen’s praises for years to come.