Mikko Lehtonen and Wacey Rabbit come from different backgrounds, but the Providence Bruins wingers have at least two things in common. Not only are they among the top players on a team battling for the Calder Cup: they are as fun-loving and charismatic as they are talented. Rabbit, a 22-year-old native of Alberta, potted 16 goals in his third AHL season. Lehtonen, a 22-year-old native of Finland, put 28 pucks in the net and earned a call-up to Boston in the final days of the regular season. Rabbit and Lehtonen shared some of their good-natured wisdom, in a three-way conversation, as the AHL playoffs were getting underway.
David Laurila: Letís start with scouting reports. Wacey, how would you describe Mikko on the ice?
Wacey Rabbit: Mikko is a big guy who uses his size to his advantage. He has really, really good hands and a great shot. He has good speed outside and I think he has a good nose for the net.
DL: Mikko, how would you describe Wacey?
Mikko Lehtonen: Well, I think that Waceyís best part is the Mohawk right now. No, Wacey is one of the best penalty killers in the whole league and heís actually a surprisingly good scorer, too. Just joking! Heís a skilled guy who can play on the power play, equally.
DL: Wacey, what is the story behind your Mohawk?
Rabbit: Well, I did it last year and pretty much every year that I played junior. I did the Mohawk thing and Iíve just kind of kept it going for myself.
DL: Could you imagine a Mohawk on Mikko?
Rabbit: That would be pretty tough, so I donít know. Yeah, he could pull it off.
DL: Mikko is from Espoo, Finland. What do you know about Espoo?
Rabbit: I donít really know a lot. I know they have the Blues there. Right? [Editorís note: The Espoo Blues play in the Finnish Elite League.] How far is it from Helsinki?
Lehtonen: About a 10-minute drive.
Rabbit: Okay. I imagine that Espoo is basically like your suburbs in a major city!
DL: Mikko, what do you think Waceyís hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta is like?
Lehtonen: Well, Iíve never been there, but I would think itís really nice. Is it a small town?
Rabbit: There are about 100,000 people.
Lehtonen: I wish I could go there sometimes.
DL: What do you think the people are like? Do you think they are at all like Finns?
Lehtonen: Like Finnish people? Well, yeah. Theyíre nice! Like Wacey.
DL: Wacey, you grew up on a reservation. Can you talk a little about your background?
Rabbit: Yeah, I grew up on a reserve until I was 13 and then we moved off. Not too many people know about reserves. I wouldnít say thereís anything wrong with them, but there isnít very good job opportunity and the lifestyle might not be what you imagine: itís more like a third-world country in a first-class country like Canada. There are about 10,000 people on the reserve and probably only about four or five thousand of them work. But itís fun. There are a lot of families there and itís the biggest reserve in Canada. There are over 500 square miles there.
DL: Is hockey played on the reserve?
Rabbit: It is. We have from tyke all the way up to senior teams. Our reserve is pretty much like a small city, so we have a high population of kids that play hockey.
DL: Mikko, how would you describe the people in Finland? Are they quiet, as they are often portrayed?
Lehtonen: Maybe if they donít know the people around them, but with friends theyíre not quiet. Finnish people are pretty much like Canadians, crazy about hockey. Itís almost like a religion in Finland. What can I say?
DL: Who do Finnish people like better, Canadians or Swedes?
Lehtonen: Oh, thatís a tough one! We have, like a hate-love relationship with the Swedish; itís like a rivalry every time we play against them in hockey. So, I donít know. Itís hard to answer that one.
DL: Wacey, I assume youíve played against Finnish teams in amateur competitions?
Rabbit: Yes, we actually beat Finland, in Under-18s. We beat them in overtime.
DL: How do Finnish teams play?
Rabbit: Theyíre actuallyÖsurprisingly theyíre very physical for a skilled country. For the size of their country, they have a lot of good hockey players; they produce a lot of good players. Itís exciting to play Finland every time.
DL: What do not a lot of people know about Mikko, but maybe should?
Lehtonen: Be careful now!
Rabbit: He has a really dry sense of humor.
DL: Mikko, can you give us an example?
Lehtonen: Of my humor? Thatís a tough one. No, not right now. Later, maybe.
DL: What do a lot of people not know about Wacey?
Lehtonen: I donít know if a lot of people know that Wacey is an amazing singer. Heís done some singing in the locker room that is actually really good. Heís more like a rap artist, but really good.
DL: Being Canadian, he doesnít do any Neil Young songs?
Rabbit: No, Iím more like an Usher or a Chris Brown.
Lehtonen: Yeah, heís more like an African-American singer.
DL: Mikko, you made your NHL debut at the end of the regular season. What was that experience like?
Lehtonen: Of course, it was really nice. Hopefully Iíll get a couple more games in the future.
DL: Wacey, youíre still waiting for your first opportunity. When you do get up there, will you ask Mikko for any advice?
Rabbit: Yeah, I think Iíll ask Mikko to string me along. Hopefully he can come through with a couple of tips.
Lehtonen: I will. DonĎt worry.