2002 prospect interview: Kari Lehtonen

By Robert Neuhauser

Kari Lehtonen
Team: Jokerit Helsinki
Position: goalie
Birthdate: November,16th, 1983
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 187 lbs.
Catches: L

When did you start playing hockey?

I think I was four years old when I stood on the ice for the first time.

Where did you start playing hockey?

I was in my hometown, of course. I started playing in Vantaa, after that I went to Helsinki to play for Jokerit.

Who directed your first hockey steps?

My older brother was the main force which brought me to hockey. At the very first time I played the forward position, but then soon I found my place among the pipes.

What is your biggest success in hockey so far?

My two appearances for the Finnish Under-18 team were both huge successes and I enjoyed
it very much. I have a gold and a bronze medal from the Under-18 WJC. Playing for the
Under-20 team is also great, I was on the team that won silver in 2001 and now the
bronze from the WJC in Czech Republic is another success.

Who is your biggest fan?

This would be my whole family. I feel the support of all the members and it really
helps me.

Who is your hockey role model?

I admire the style of Patrick Roy. He is a perfect goalie and I try to learn from him.
I watch the Avalanche games to see him in action.

Your favorite Finnish team?

Definitely Jokerit Helsinki, the team I play for.

You are a top prospect for this year’s draft. Do you have a special team you want
to be drafted by?

I don’t care about what team selects me, I’m happy with the fact that I will be drafted,
that’s great. I also don’t have an exact favorite NHL team, I just follow lot of teams.
Basically said, I like the Canadian-based teams, but not one exact team.

Do you have a favorite number you like to wear on your jersey?

I prefer the number 32. I like that number, but it has no special sense, I just like it.

Are you superstitious? Do you have a certain thing you do before each game?

Yeah, I try to do the same things I did when my team has won for the last game. I also use
always the same warmup, but that wouldn’t be a huge superstition.

How would you describe yourself as a player?

I think I have a solid size and I know how to use it when covering the net. This would
be my biggest asset. On the other side I need to add more weight and gain more experience.
The experience will come with more games, goalie’s maturity doesn’t come so fast.

Have you had any serious injury in your previous career?

No, I’m lucky.

Your plans for the near future?

I hope I’ll be drafted in summer, but I won’t rush to North America immediately. I want
to stay in the Finnish Elite League for one or two more seasons to become NHL ready
and only after that I’ll come over to try my luck in the NHL.

What do you do in your free time?

When I have some free time, then I just try to relax. Besides relaxing I like to play
videogames or watch movies on TV.

What’s your main goal for this season?

First I want to help my team in the Finnish League, this is my biggest goal. The second
goal, or dream, is then the NHL Entry Draft. I’m already looking forward to it.

Your other hockey dreams?

Definitely the NHL and also I would like to perform for the Finnish senior national team.

And what would you do if you wouldn’t be a hockey player?

It’s hard to say, but I hope I would be a big company boss!