When the Colorado Avalanche look to fill out the roster for next season, one key area of concern is secondary scoring - especially at right wing. The Avalanche currently only have Nathan MacKinnon and J.T. Compher as right-shooting forwards, and both of them play center. Finding a right-shooting option to play in the middle-6 should be a priority of Joe Sakic this summer.
There are options on the free agent market. David Perron and Thomas Vanek fit the bill, but they are both older and are going to be looking for significant contracts. There’s also the possibility of bringing back Blake Comeau, but he doesn’t help much in the scoring department.
One less-conventional option that is out there is for the Avalanche to look to the Europe and bring over a guy like Ville Leskinen who is currently playing for Kärpät in Finland.
Leskinen is a right-shooting winger with good size at 6’1” and 190lbs. Having just turned 24, there is room for him to grow and develop further.
Since becoming a regular in the SM-Liiga, he has improved his production each season. In 2015 with Sport he collected five goals and 15 points in 34 games. The following season with Kärpät he doubled his output scoring 14 goals and 30 points. This season was a breakout for the young Finn. Leskinen score 24 goals - good enough for fourth most in the league - and put up 45 points in only 49 games. On a per game basis, Leskinen finished third in Finland’s top league in scoring. That’s pretty impressive for a kid that played most of the year as a 23-year old.
According to Finnish-langue site Faneille, North American scouts have shown interest in Leskinen this seasons. Despite not playing for Finland at the Olympics or World Championship, they have been watching him play all year and the NHL seems like a realistic possibility for Leskinen.
By all accounts, the young winger plays a fast and creative style of game that would allow him to adapt to the North American style of play relatively quickly. He has great acceleration and tremendous puck skills that allow him to create his own scoring chances when given time and space.
Youth and speed were the identity of the Avalanche this past season, in that regard, Leskinen would fit right in.
Thanks to his age, Leskinen would have to be signed to a one-year entry-level contract, something that would eliminate a lot of risk for any NHL team that would be looking to bring him in. This might also be a hindrance. If Leskinen were to play in Finland for one more season, he could sign with an NHL team next season for more than just the one-year ELC.
Going this route is a distinct possibility for the Avs as they have already shown a willingness to go after European free agents when they signed Czech goalie Pavel Francouz last month. With the AHL team moving to Loveland next year, the Avs could keep close tabs on Laskinen if he needs time with the Eagles to adapt his game.
Signing Leskinen would be an option that would cost the team very little if the move to North America didn’t pan out. On the flip side, he could prove to be a perfect compliment for a lineup that could use another scoring option on the right side.