If Henri Jokiharju plays his cards right, the young Finn might wear the same logo for his entire tenure in North America.
Jokiharju originally came over from Finland in 2016 as an import for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, a team that sports the exact same crest as the NHL franchise in Chicago that ended up selecting the puck-moving defenseman with the 29th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Jokiharju made the Blackhawks out of training camp this season, and if he were to get reassigned, it would be back to Portland since he’s only 19. Sure, the youngster would prefer to stick in the big leagues, but he does have a lot of fondness for the West-Coast city that first introduced him to life in North America. “Playing in Portland was a huge honor – it was awesome to play there,” he said. “I got to know the city pretty well. It’s the perfect-sized town, not too big, not too small. And we had awesome fans over there.”
As it so happens, Jokiharju has some pretty big fans in Chicago’s organization, too. The blueliner took part in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament again this fall, where the Detroit Red Wings hosted eight NHL teams’ worth of youngsters. Chicago’s entry was helmed by AHL coach Jeremy Colliton, and the young bench boss was impressed with what he saw from Jokiharju. “There’s a lot to like,” Colliton said. “He’s a great skater, very mobile, he sees the ice really well and has a lot of confidence with the puck on his blade. He wants to be the guy to make the play. He has put up a lot of points on the power play, and you want guys who want that responsibility. I think he’s one of those guys.”
In his NHL debut against Ottawa, Jokiharju logged 19 minutes of ice time and wasn’t shielded, playing almost all his shifts with Duncan Keith. In the two games that followed, Jokiharju flashed his offensive upside, racking up five assists. But the kid knows he has a long way to go before he can be considered a trusted regular in Chicago. “I just want to be a complete player,” Jokiharju said. “I want to be a good two-way defenseman all the time and be better all the time.”
This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.