Lehtonen in October 2014.
November 16, 1983 |
|Height||6 ft 4 in (193 cm)|
|Weight||210 lb (95 kg; 15 st 0 lb)|
|NHL Draft||2nd overall, 2002
Kari Lehtonen (born November 16, 1983) is a Finnish professional ice hockey goaltender currently playing for the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League (NHL). He was selected second overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, becoming the highest-drafted European goaltender, as well as the highest Finnish player, ever in NHL history.
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.
Years in Atlanta
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. After posting a .953 save percentage and 1.25 goals against average (GAA), Lehtonen spent the majority of the year in the AHL.
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.
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 Kari signed a five-year deal worth $29.5 million.
Regular season and playoffs
Awards and honours
- 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
- 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).
- While playing for the AHL's Chicago Wolves, the Hamburglar was featured on his 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 Dallas Stars features Chuck Norris.
- His former mask for the Dallas Stars featured characters and scenes from the movie "Tombstone."
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.
Kari's childhood idol was iconic Finnish goaltender Jarmo Myllys.
- "Stars make future plans clear, sign Kari Lehtonen to $10.65 million extension". Dallas Morning News. 2010-05-11. Retrieved 2011-02-27.
- "Thrashers recall Lehtonen". NHL.com. 2010-02-07. Retrieved 2010-02-10.
- Supersize me
- Waiting For Stanley: Kari Lehtonen's mask
- Lehtonen starts again, groin willing
- "Dallas Stars goalie doesn't wear his Chuck Norris mask, it wears him". Yahoo! Sports. 2012-01-02. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
- "Wedding Announcement". St. Augustine Record. 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2011-07-13. Kari and Abbe welcomed their first child, a son, in September 2012.
- Kari Lehtonen's player profile at NHL.com
- Kari Lehtonen's career statistics at The Internet Hockey Database
- Kari Lehtonen on nhlfinns.com
|Winner of the Urpo Ylönen trophy
2001–02 & 2002–03
|Winner of the Jari Kurri trophy
|Winner of the Kalen Kannu
|Atlanta Thrashers first round draft pick