— Robin Lehner(@RobinLehner) October 22, 2012
The story of Riku Helenius is a sad one. Drafted fifteenth overall in the first round of the 2006 draft by Tampa Bay, the Finnish goaltending prospect has so far failed to live up to expectations. Much like the Senators’ selection of Mathieu Chouinard, Helenius is another textbook example of attrition that so often plagues highly drafted goaltenders. Albeit, to the Lightning’s credit, they actually managed to get Riku signed to an ELC before he could re-enter the Draft.
Over the years, he’s bounced around the ECHL, AHL, SEL, SM-liiga and currently he’s back playing in the AHL – a place where he has now become a footnote in the lore of Lehner.
From his infamous hunting comments, to throwing a bodycheck on an unsuspecting Kevin Poulin, to being one of only four goaltenders to win the Calder Cup as a teenager, to winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as Calder Cup MVP, to shutting out the Bruins in Boston; helping to stabilize the position in the wake of Anderson's chicken unpleastantness, to his Ricky Henderson-esque Twitter feed (@RobinLehner), the big swede has quickly solidified himself as one of the most popular prospects in franchise history. The people love Lenny, and Lenny loves them back.
The recognition of how important this season is for Lehner’s development has not been understated; especially in light of Ben Bishop signing a PTO with Binghamton that will eventually see him steal some minutes.
To see him say all the right things in development camp and exhibit some maturity that may have otherwise been lacking, and then back it up with strong play — owning a 3-1-0 record, allowing 6 goals in 5 games, a 1.32 GAA and a save percentage of .954. (Even if you have to pinch your arm to remind yourself that it is just a small sample size)
Then again, it is reassuringly awesome to see him retain the fiery, competitive demeanor that makes him such an intriguing goaltending prospect…to the video!
You cannot help but gravitate towards a player who:
- Caves in the face of a goalie whose first name sounds borrowed from a Japanime character.
- Bypasses skating to the bench so Todd White can unlace his trapper unlike another European Sens goaler. Jani Hurme’s notoriety in the nation’s capital will subsequently be reduced to, “That Finnish Guy Who Always Wore His Sunglasses Inside the Bar”.
- Pays homage to Chris Neil’s patented ‘raise the roof’ post-fight celly.
- Nearly knocks Nathan Lawson over in the tunnel with the force of his high-five. (As an aside, full marks should be given to Lawson for: a) not falling over; and b) instinctively, not closing his eyes or flinching away when Robin lifts his hands and brings them toward him.
And to top it off Dave Schreiber had the call.
Sure they ended up losing the game, in collapsable fashion – but not without escaping with a point. To be honest I have a lot less problem with Lehner fighting when up 5-0, than say in a close game of consequence. The chance of a team coming back from that kind of deficit is exceedingly small with 30 minutes to play, which Robin understands. He didn't break a hand or get suspended so bullet dodged. And less than 24 hours later backstopped the team to a 2-1 win in Hershey.