|Born||November 16, 1983 (1983-11-16) (age 26),
|6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 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.
Kari 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 crossing the sea.
During the 2003–04 NHL 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 he 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 center Nathan Horton collided with Lehtonen. 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 NHL 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 NHL 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 playoffs.
On February 9, 2010, Lehtonen was traded to the Dallas Stars for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 4th round draft pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.