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Red Wings Notebook: Lethemon Heading to Europe

Former Detroit defenseman Hagg heading back to Sweden?

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John Lethemon, Red Wings prospect
Red Wings farmhand John Lethemon is leaving the ECHL Toledo Walleye for Finland.

In a goaltending crunch during the second half of the 2022-23 NHL season, the Detroit Red Wings were making the decision to sign John Lethemon to an NHL contract. Although he never played in Detroit, Lethemon did see some AHL action with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

However, Lethemon wound up spending much of the past two seasons with the ECHL Toledo Walleye. That situation is changing. though.

Lethemon, 27, is opting for Europe. He’s signed a contract with Lukko Rauma of Finland’s SM-liiga.

Last season, sharing Walleye netminding duties with 2020 first-round draftee Sebastian Cossa, Lethemon was sensational. He went 18-1-3 with a 1.99 GAA and .930 save percentage. That performance was earning him ECHL goaltender of the year recognition.

The past season wasn’t as productive for the former Michigan State Spartan. Lethemon would post a 2.90 GAA and .892 save percentage for Toledo while going 26-7-3.

Lethemon also saw duty in 10 games for the Griffins over the past two campaigns. He played one AHL game in 2023-24. In 28 minutes of work with Grand Rapids, Lethemon showed a 2.14 GAA and .923 save percentage.

Sawchuk Also Going Finnish

Another player who split the past season between the Griffins and Walleye is also opting to pursue his hockey career in Finland. Center Riley Sawchuk is joining KooKoo.

Under an AHL contract, Sawchuk sepnt 12 games with Grand Rapids, scoring one goal. He would compile 27 goals and 52 points in 50 games for Toledo. During the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs, Sawchuk was Toledo’s leading scorer with 10-8-18 totals.

Former Red Wings D Weighing Options

Having spent the entire 2022-23 NHL season with the Red Wings, the 2023-24 campaign was disappointing for defenseman Robert Hagg. The 29-year-old rearguard saw action in just five NHL games for the Anaheim Ducks. He spent the majority of the season in the AHL with the San Diego Gulls.

Amidst rumors that he’ll be returning to his native Sweden to play for MoDo, Hagg is only admitting that he is weighing his options in terms of a hockey future.

“I have not yet decided where I will play next season,” Hagg told Swedish website Expressen.se. “Ideally, I want to stay in the NHL.

“We’ll see how it turns out. A decision will be made in June.”

Olkinuora On Move Again

Finnish netminder Jussi Olkinuora, whose midseason depature from Grand Rapids in January of 2023 would create the aformentioned Red Wings goalie crisis, is changing clubs yet again. He’s leaving Switzerland’s Servette Geneva to join Germany’s Lowen Frankfurt. They will be Olkinuora’s fifth team in three seasons.

Defenseman Xavier Ouellet, who played 141 NHL games for the Red Wings from 2013-18, is also bound for Europe. He’s leaving the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to sign with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.

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Tom Rady

I dont blame Lethemon and Sawchuk. If you dont think your going to get a fair shot at the American League with Detroit there is no reason to stay. Try Europe which is way more money and try a diff NHL organization next year. Also enjoy Europe, see the world and get paid very well. Nothing romantic about buses and the minor leagues in North America. If they have good seasons in Europe, NHL scouts will be watching and they will get chances with other organizations.