Toronto Star

Lehtonen eager to check out new city

Free-agent defenceman from Finland has a week left in his quarantine


Mikko Lehtonen has heard Toronto is a nice city. For now, he’ll just have to take everybody’s word for it.

The Maple Leafs defenceman who left Finland’s Jokerit for his new NHL home is more than halfway through quarantine and going a little stir crazy, but thankfully with his girlfriend, in a downtown apartment.

His view: “Three big buildings. That’s all I see,” Lehtonen said in a phone interview. “All I’ve seen of Toronto is what I saw in the ride from the airport. I just want to go out and walk and see the city.”

There’s a lot of other things he wants to do, like pass the puck to Mitch Marner or William Nylander in a game to see what they can do.

He said he had six days to go in quarantine and a lot of training equipment inside his apartment, but not much else.

“I can work out in my apartment, but I can’t go out. I’m stuck here,” said Lehtonen. “The Leafs made a good setup for me. I’m in good hands, but it’s a long time being in an apartment, watching TV series. There’s not a lot to do, but I’m alive, so I’m happy.”

Lehtonen is the puck-moving defenceman the Leafs signed in

the off-season to step right into an NHL job on a rebuilt blue line. Many teams wanted the services of the five-foot-11, 196pound blueliner with a lefthanded shot.

“It’s a traditiona­l team,” said Lehtonen, “and my game fits very well with these guys. They like defencemen who can skate well and move the puck well; those are my strengths. I’m a good skater and can move the puck.

“I think I improved a lot and try to get better all the time.”

He’s friends with Marlies forward Kalle Kossila, but otherwise doesn’t know any Leafs, although ex-Leaf Kasperi Kapanen sent him a text saying he’d love Toronto.

Lehtonen, T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian join returnees Morgan Rielly, Travis Dermott, Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl on defence, with the team expected to dress all seven at least some of the time.

He was on Finnish teams that won gold at the 2019 world championsh­ip and 2014 world juniors. The 26-year-old had eight goals and nine assists for Jokerit of the KHL before opting out of his contract and flying to Toronto in anticipati­on of the NHL season.

 ??  ?? Mikko Lehtonen joins the Leafs at age 26, with plenty of internatio­nal experience.
Mikko Lehtonen joins the Leafs at age 26, with plenty of internatio­nal experience.

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