MONTREAL - Five weeks. That's all that stands between Artturi Lehkonen and the rest of Canadiens hitting the ice for training camp at the Bell Sports Complex.
After spending the last four months on home turf in Finland, Lehkonen can't wait to fly back to Montreal to continue preparing for the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
"I want to get it going already. It's been way too long of a summer again," said the 24-year-old left-winger, who signed a two-year contract extension on July 11. "You just want to get it started, hang out with the boys and feel the atmosphere over there."
Spending quality time with his teammates is one thing, in particular, Lehkonen really missed since departing for Northern Europe back in April.
Admittedly, though, he didn't mind a little time apart from a certain someone with whom he's rather close during the season.
"We have a really, really good group of guys. Obviously you miss the boys over the summer, but it's good to take a little break from Gally once in a while," joked Lehkonen, before expanding upon why he felt that way. "I drive in the car with him every day. We see each other every day. We have a lot of fun, but sometimes he can get a little bit annoying, especially when it comes to soccer. He thinks he knows something about it, but he's totally clueless. I mean, who in their right mind would support Tottenham Hotspur? That is a complete joke."
All kidding aside, the three-year NHL veteran has been making the most of his time in his native country training-wise.
He spent his sixth straight summer working out with trainer and physiotherapist Viljo Niemeläinen at the Sport Science Lab (SSL) in Turku.
"There's always new stuff to try when you come back in the gym. Viljo comes up with a lot of new things over the year," said Lehkonen, who clearly enjoys Niemeläinen's ability to keep things fresh all offseason long. "I feel really good and I've been staying healthy, knock on wood."
Here's a clip of some of the work the pair put in together on Monday, which Niemeläinen affectionately referred to as "The Shock Method."
And here's another clip of Niemeläinen pushing Lehkonen to the max three weeks ago with a rather cool exercise.
"That's a good core workout," explained Lehkonen. "It creates a lot of torque and you've got to fire up your muscles against the band."
On the ice, the Piikkio native enlisted the services of figure skating coach Tiia Hurme for a second straight year.
"Figure skating has so much stuff that hockey players can use in terms of working with your edges. There's a lot of balance involved and being more and more comfortable on your skates," mentioned Lehkonen. "You always want to improve your skating. That's a main focus."
Lehkonen connected with Hurme through his father, Ismo, a former Finnish Elite League player and coach.
"My dad got to know her through hockey. She has been coaching for a while. One time my dad told me, 'You should try it out and see how it feels.' It was good, so she got stuck with me," cracked Lehkonen. "We'll skate for an hour and then I'll work on some shooting."
It won't be long before Lehkonen gets to put all of his hard work to the test, and seeing it pay dividends at both ends of the rink would surely be the best reward.
"Obviously after every summer, you want to come back as a better player than you were last year. I wanted to be faster on my skates, have faster hands and just be stronger overall on the ice," insisted Lehkonen, who registered 11 goals and 31 points in 82 games last season. "Those were the main goals."