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Kari Lehtonen
Kari Lehtonen - Dallas Stars.jpg
Lehtonen with the Dallas Stars in 2014
Born (1983-11-16) November 16, 1983 (age 40)
Helsinki, Finland
Height 6 ft 4 in (193 cm)
Weight 210 lb (95 kg; 15 st 0 lb)
Position Goaltender
Caught Left
Played for Jokerit
Atlanta Thrashers
Dallas Stars
National team Flag of Finland.svg Finland
NHL Draft 2nd overall, 2002
Atlanta Thrashers
Playing career 1999–2018

Kari Lehtonen (born November 16, 1983) is a Finnish former professional ice hockey goaltender who played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Atlanta Thrashers and Dallas Stars. He was selected second overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Thrashers, becoming the highest-drafted European goaltender, as well as being tied with Patrik Laine, Alexander Barkov and Kaapo Kakko for the highest-drafted Finnish player in NHL history.

Playing career

Early years

Kari Lehtonen Dallas Stars Versus Chicago Blackhawks warmup
Lehtonen in March 2011
Kari Lehtonen (15115377490) (cropped)
Lehtonen signing autographs at Galleria Dallas in 2014, during his tenure with the Dallas Stars

Lehtonen was drafted second overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers after an outstanding 2001–02 season in the Finnish SM-liiga. Lehtonen was the backup goalie for Jokerit, but captured the starting position and won the Urpo Ylönen trophy, given to the best goalie of the season, and the league's playoff MVP award, the Jari Kurri trophy. Lehtonen stayed with Jokerit for one more season before moving to North America.

Atlanta Thrashers

During the 2003–04 season, Lehtonen mostly spent his time with the Chicago Wolves, the Thrashers' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, but he was called up for a number of occasions and played four games for the Thrashers, winning all four of them and posting one shutout. In the four games with the Thrashers, he posted a .953 save percentage and 1.25 goals against average (GAA).

Lehtonen spent the 2004–05 NHL lockout season with the Wolves, adjusting to the North American playing style. After playing 57 games for the Wolves, of which he won 38, posting .929 save percentage and 2.27 GAA, the Thrashers called him up, and Lehtonen started the 2005–06 season as the starting goalie for Atlanta. On the opening night of the 2005–06 season, Lehtonen suffered a serious groin injury when Florida Panthers centre Nathan Horton collided with him. The injury sidelined him for 35 games. Lehtonen was once again injured on April 6, 2006, when Tampa Bay Lightning forward Chris Dingman collided with him; Lehtonen tried to get to his feet, but sprained his ankle in the process.

Shortly into the 2006–07 season, Lehtonen broke the Atlanta Thrashers shutout streak record previously held by Michael Garnett. He also set his career highs in every category. AirTran Airways, a low-cost airline, signed Lehtonen as an endorser for the 2006–07 season. On February 8, 2007, Lehtonen became the Thrashers franchise leader for wins by a goaltender with 49, surpassing Pasi Nurminen's record of 48. On April 12, 2007, Lehtonen was the starting goaltender for the Thrashers in their first Stanley Cup playoff game.

After a rough start to the 2007–08 season, Lehtonen suffered another groin injury on October 18, 2007. He would miss 16 games before returning on December 5, 2007. He finished the season with a respectable save percentage to go along with four shutouts as the Thrashers failed to qualify for the 2008 playoffs.

Dallas Stars

On February 9, 2010, Lehtonen was traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (Ivan Telegin). Prior to the start of the 2010–11 season, the Stars signed Lehtonen to a three-year, $10.65 million extension. In his first full season in Dallas, Lehtonen compiled a 34–24 record with a 2.55 GAA. Lehtonen and the Stars were officially eliminated from contention for a seed in the 2011 playoffs after losing to the Minnesota Wild on the final day of the regular season.

On September 4, 2012, the day before an impending lockout, Lehtonen signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract. Lehtonen made the playoffs with the Stars for the first time in 2014. Prior to the 2015–16 season, the Stars acquired fellow Finnish goaltender Antti Niemi to compete with Lehtonen. They alternated regularly the next two seasons. In the 2016 playoffs, Lehtonen established himself as the primary goalie. However, in Game 7 of the second round, he was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period as the Stars' season ended with a 6–1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

He earned his 300th win on December 13, 2017, in a game against the New York Islanders by making 32 saves to clinch a 5–2 win.

International play

Lehtonen has been selected to play for Finland's youth and national teams on many occasions. He won a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. He played in two games, one victory in the preliminary round and a loss in the semi-finals.

Career statistics

Regular season and playoffs

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP W L T OTL MIN GA SO GAA SV% GP W L MIN GA SO GAA SV%
1999–2000 Jokerit FIN U20 33 21 9 3 1974 86 2 2.61 .904 12 9 3 758 14 4 1.11 .952
2000–01 Jokerit FIN U20 31 20 9 1 1799 71 3 2.37 .911 1 0 1 54 4 4.44 0 .857
2000–01 Jokerit SM-l 4 3 1 0 190 6 0 1.90 .937
2001–02 Jokerit FIN U20 6 5 1 0 360 11 1 1.83 .944
2001–02 Jokerit SM-l 23 13 5 2 1242 37 4 1.79 .941 11 8 2 623 18 3 1.73 .940
2002–03 Jokerit SM-l 45 23 14 6 2634 87 5 1.98 .928 10 6 4 626 17 2 1.63 .941
2003–04 Chicago Wolves AHL 39 20 14 2 2192 88 3 2.41 .926 10 6 4 663 23 1 2.08 .942
2003–04 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 4 4 0 0 239 5 1 1.25 .953
2004–05 Chicago Wolves AHL 57 38 17 2 3378 128 5 2.27 .929 16 10 6 983 28 2 1.71 .939
2005–06 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 38 20 15 0 2166 106 2 2.94 .906
2006–07 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 68 34 24 9 3934 183 4 2.79 .912 2 0 2 118 11 0 5.59 .849
2007–08 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 48 17 22 5 2707 131 4 2.90 .916
2007–08 Chicago Wolves AHL 2 2 0 0 124 4 0 1.93 .934
2008–09 Atlanta Thrashers NHL 46 19 22 3 2624 134 3 3.06 .911
2009–10 Chicago Wolves AHL 4 1 1 2 247 11 0 2.67 .899
2009–10 Dallas Stars NHL 12 6 4 0 663 31 0 2.81 .911
2010–11 Dallas Stars NHL 69 34 24 11 4119 175 3 2.55 .914
2011–12 Dallas Stars NHL 59 32 22 4 3497 136 4 2.33 .922
2012–13 Dallas Stars NHL 36 15 14 3 1986 88 1 2.66 .916
2013–14 Dallas Stars NHL 65 33 20 10 3804 153 5 2.41 .919 6 2 4 346 19 1 3.29 .885
2014–15 Dallas Stars NHL 65 34 17 10 3698 181 5 2.94 .903
2015–16 Dallas Stars NHL 43 25 10 2 2280 105 2 2.76 .906 11 6 3 555 26 1 2.81 .899
2016–17 Dallas Stars NHL 59 22 25 7 3178 151 3 2.85 .902
2017–18 Dallas Stars NHL 37 15 14 3 1945 83 1 2.56 .912
SM-l totals 72 39 20 8 4,066 130 9 1.92 .933 21 14 6 1,249 35 5 1.68 .941
NHL totals 649 310 233 0 67 36,838 1,662 38 2.71 .912 19 8 9 1,019 56 2 3.30 .887

International

Year Team Event GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA SV%
2000 Finland U18 6 5 0 1 307 9 1 1.76 .963
2001 Finland WJC 1 1 0 0 60 2 0 2.00 .920
2001 Finland U18 4 3 1 0 239 7 2 1.76 .935
2002 Finland WJC 6 4 2 0 360 7 1 1.17 .943
2002 Finland WC DNP
2003 Finland WJC 6 3 2 1 357 13 2 2.19 .923
2003 Finland WC DNP
2004 Finland WCH DNP
2007 Finland WC 6 4 2 374 12 1 1.93 .913
2012 Finland WC 4 2 2 232 11 1 2.85 .894
2014 Finland OG 2 1 1 119 3 0 1.51 .935
Junior totals 23 16 5 2 1323 38 6 1.72
Senior totals 12 7 5 725 26 2 2.15 .909

Awards and honours

Kari Lehtonen.jpg
Lehtonen at the 2007 IIHF World Championship
Medal record
Ice hockey
Representing  Finland
Olympic Games
Bronze 2014 Sochi
World Championships
Silver 2007 Russia
World Cup
Silver 2004 World Cup of Hockey
World Junior Championships
Silver 2001 Russia
Bronze 2002 Czech Republic
Bronze 2003 Canada
IIHF World U18 Championship
Gold 2000 Switzerland
Silver 2001 Finland
  • Urpo Ylönen trophy for best SM-liiga goaltender — 2002 and 2003
  • Jari Kurri trophy for best player during the playoffs — 2002
  • SM-liiga champion 2002
  • 2004 World Cup of Hockey (runner-up)
  • Silver Medal in the 2007 IIHF World Championship
  • Best Goaltender in the 2007 IIHF World Championship
  • Bronze Medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics

Records

  • Atlanta Thrashers franchise leader for games played by a goaltender (204).
  • Atlanta Thrashers franchise leader for victories (94).
  • Atlanta Thrashers franchise leader shutouts (14).
  • Atlanta Thrashers franchise leader for games played by a goaltender in a single season (68).
  • Atlanta Thrashers franchise leader for saves in a single season (1,892).
  • Atlanta Thrashers franchise leader for shutouts in a single season (4).
  • Atlanta Thrashers franchise leader for starts in a single season (66).
  • Atlanta Thrashers franchise leader for minutes played in a single season (3,934).

Mask history

  • While playing for the AHL's Chicago Wolves, the Hamburglar was featured on Lehtonen's mask, an homage to the nickname he received shortly after arriving from Finland and becoming enamoured with McDonald's hamburgers.
  • He had a depiction of rapper Lil Jon, who is an avid Thrashers fan, on his mask.
  • In the past, Lehtonen has worn helmets featuring characters Yuna and Rikku from the video game Final Fantasy X-2, as well as Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu's characters from Kill Bill. Lehtonen, however, is not a video game fanatic; "I've never played it, but I saw a couple of commercials about the game and just thought it looked awesome."
  • He also had a mask made featuring Optimus Prime from Transformers, which was never worn in a game, only in pre-game warm ups.
  • He also wore a mask that showed a depiction of Heath Ledger's Joker character from The Dark Knight, with a stylized ATL featured on the other side.
  • His first mask for the Dallas Stars depicted Clint Eastwood's character from the movie The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
  • His second mask for the Stars featured Chuck Norris.
  • His former mask for Dallas Stars featured characters and scenes from the movie Tombstone.

Personal life

On July 2, 2011, Kari married longtime girlfriend Abbe Schutter in a private ceremony at the Club at Hammock Beach in Palm Coast, Florida. Kari met Abbe while playing in Atlanta.

Lehtonen's childhood idol was iconic Finnish goaltender Jarmo Myllys.

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