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2017-18 Player Review: Jori Lehtera, veteran presence all day

Jori Lehtera was acquired during the 2017 NHL draft and amazingly the Flyers fell in love with his veteran presence. We review his debut season in orange and black here.

Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils
Jori Lehtera, doin’ that hockey vs the New Jersey Devils
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In a somewhat surprising draft night trade, the Flyers sent Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera straight up. Whoops, being told the Flyers also got two first round draft picks. Seen by most Flyers fans as another fringe veteran added by GM Ron Hextall or as a salary dump required to make Schenn contract fit under the Blues salary cap, Lehtera turned out to be both.

By The Numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM Shots on Goal Shooting Percentage
62 2 5 7 14 41 4.76

When the season started, Lehtera seemed locked into being the team’s 13th forward. He was only dressed during the season’s first month when injuries forced him into the line up. The Flyers ended up liking what they saw. Lehtera soon became a 4th line mainstay and started to get regular penalty killing work, as well as the occasional spot on the second power play unit as the season rolled into December.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
Score-Adjusted Corsi For % SA-Corsi Relative Corsi For % RelTM Score Adjusted-Expected Goals For SA-Expected Goals Relative Goals For % PDO
48.95% -1.51 -1.65 13.73 -9.71 38.71% 97.22

In terms of shot metrics, Lehtera was among the worst of the regular Flyers skaters. He posted a 48.7% Corsi For and was a -1.94 in Corsi REL, which were similar to Travis Konecny’s final numbers (48.96 CF% & -1.24 CF REL) and actually better than Wayne Simmonds (47.33 CF% & -3.26 CF REL), but his xGoal numbers were dreadful. Only Dale Weise posted a worse xGF% among players that skated 10 or more games as a Flyer than Lehtera’s 42.63%. Lehtera’s -8.74 was third worst among players with 10 or more games played, again ahead of Weise and Valtteri Filppula.

5v5 Individual Stats

Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
Points/60 Primary Points/60 Shot Attempts/60 Expected Goals/60
0.75 0.32 4.29 0.4

Lehtera was certainly used in a more defense first role than most of the players mentioned above, but the Flyers rarely seemed to have the puck and be on the attack when Lehtera was on the ice. In terms of positional play, Lehtera was more than adequate, but his skating limited him to being little more than a one zone player most nights. One area he did very well in, despite it being a very small sample size was faceoffs, winning them at a 57% clip.

The Flyers also utilized Lehtera as a penalty killer, where he did a mostly solid job despite a couple high profile mistakes that had a definite impact on how a lot of fans viewed his work on the unit. Hextall did point out that that the PK units seemed to get better towards the end of the season, and that coincides with Lehtera getting more use there. Overall, the Flyers coaching staff found a level of trust with Lehtera that overrode his marginal and downright poor metrics and earned him a steady role among the team’s regular forwards.

Three Burning Questions

  1. Did this player live up to our expectations for this season?

Overall, Lehtera met expectations. At best he was going to be a bottom six player that offered veteran presence and solid positional play and little else. That’s pretty much what the Flyers got from him.

  1. What do we expect from this player next season?

Probably more of the same. Hextall made a point to shoot down the likelihood of a buy out of the final season of Lehtera’s contract. Given Dave Hakstol’s usage patterns over his three year NHL career, I’d assume Lehtera has an inside track for a spot on the 4th line. It’s possible that young players or either trade or free agency acquisitions could push him to the press box or even the AHL, but those are no guarantee right now.

  1. What would we like to see this player improve on?

In Lehtera’s case, his biggest issue is his lack of speed. The best way to counter that is with continued solid positional play and to be more decisive and execute better when the puck is on his stick. A slower skater can still be an effective player in an aggressive system when he can make quick decisions and passes the puck well. Lehtera did show flashes of the top six center he was in St Louis, but more often than not he was content to chip the puck out of his own end or simply play dump and chase with his zone entries.

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