Overview: Jere Lehtinen was drafted in the 4th round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft (88th overall) by the Minnesota North Stars. Lehtinen would be a star in the SM-Liiga for TPS, wining a championship in 1995 -- as well as that year's World Championship -- before making his NHL debut with the Dallas Stars in 1995. Within three seasons he was one of the best and most complete players on the team, playing with Mike Modano and Brett Hull in the 1999 Stanley Cup Playoffs and becoming a staple on the team's first line. No matter who was the coach, or who was playing next to him, Lehtinen was always a top-line player against the opposition's toughest forwards.
Lehtinen would retire following the 2009-10 season, having played the third-most games by any Stars player (875) in franchise history. Seventh in goals (243) and 9th in points (514), Lehtinen was the third-highest scorer for the Stars since the franchise moved to Dallas. He was more than just offense, a pure defensive-forward, who dwarfs all other franchise players in plus/minus (+176).
Why He's On The List: There seemed to be a lot of debate as to why Lehtinen was No. 2 on our countdown and not Sergei Zubov. When we conducted the poll of our writers, the two were essentially tied for the second spot. Lehtinen got the nod, frankly, because I felt there was no way this team would have been what it was over the past 20 years without him. The same could certainly be said about Zubov but Lehtinen embodied all that the Dallas Stars stood for: hard work, defensive presence, timely scoring and a humble attitude.
Jere Lehtinen struggled with injury issues his final two seasons with the Stars and it comes as no surprise that those seasons marked the beginning of the decline for the franchise. He was a calming influence for Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow on the Stars top line, and became the go-to offensive presence for the Stars in the mid-2000's when he found another dimension to his game.
What stands out the most about Lehtinen is how he was so incredibly dynamic without ever being flashy. He has the fourth-most game-winning goals in franchise history (37) and I challenge you to think of one that stands out in your head without having to turn to YouTube first. He was as complete a hockey player as the Dallas Stars have ever had and yet perhaps the least flashy of them all, both on the ice and off.
It's still tough to think of Lehtinen as a player not on the team, even close to three years later. Just like Modano, Lehtinen was an indelible part of this franchise, a player that automatically comes to the front of your mind when you consider just who the Dallas Stars really are and what they have been. His work ethic, his incredible dedication to fitness and his approach to the game set the example for not only Dallas Stars players present and future, but any player hoping to become something better than they are at any level -- from bantam to the NHL.
Here are a few video highlights of his career accomplishments.