He’s a 26-year-old Finn playing in his first NHL season after four years in the KHL, but Blues center Jori Lehtera is making people stand up and take notice of both himself and his young St. Louis linemates.
As a 26-year-old Finnish center who had spent the past four seasons in the KHL, Jori Lehtera wasn’t a household name when he made his NHL debut this season with the Blues. But the way he and linemates Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz have started the year for St. Louis, he’s going to be known to many more people, and soon.
Heading into Tuesday’s game between the Blues and visiting Sabres, Lehtera had the third-most points of any St. Louis player (three goals and eight assists in 13 games). But he doubled that goal total before the second period against Buffalo had ended by scoring his first NHL hat trick (and giving the Tarasenko-Lehtera-Schwartz line one hat trick apiece this season). Lehtera’s first goal came late in the opening frame when he beat Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth after a slick drop pass from Tarasenko:
Lehtera followed that up early the next period, scoring at the 3:21 mark after – you guessed it – another brilliant feed from the entertaining-as-heck Tarasenko:
The hat trick came later that same period, and it came in the form of a shorthanded goal created by a terrific move and pass from Schwartz:
Lehtera was a third-round pick of the Blues (65th overall) in the 2008 draft, but he’s been allowed to progress at his own pace and that plan appears to be working. His 6-foot-2 frame can handle the rigors of this league, and with the current rate at which his line is producing – they’ve amassed an astonishing 23 points in five games, and their 21 combined goals this season is the same number as the entire Sabres team has been able to score thus far – he, Tarasenko and Schwartz will feature more prominently in hockey conversations across the league.
Here’s one more reason to keep an eye on Lehtera: His delightfully cheeky goal at the 2013 KHL all-star game.