First thing’s first — what a day yesterday was for the Chicago Blackhawks. Two blockbuster trades that are hard to swallow, but are probably best for the future, overshadowed the ‘Hawks making a great trade down and still getting their man early in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Henri Jokiharju.
The Chicago Blackhawks held pick No. 26 in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, which opened Friday at the United Center. But they traded down three spots with the Dallas Stars at the last moment to gain another pick, and they still got their man.
Leading up to the draft, I had my eyes on defenseman Henri Jokiharju, and when the ‘Hawks traded down while he was available, I was ready to quit on Blackhawks life (just for the day of course). But then they got him at 29, and I was ecstatic.
I’m a sucker for the fan-to-player story, and Jokiharju fits that mold. He hopped on the Blackhawks bandwagon after the 2010 Stanley Cup championship. Lucky for him he was a good enough player whose style of play is exactly what coach Joel Quenneville covets in his blueliners.
The Blackhawks have made it a habit of late to pick either local kids or kids who grew up being fans of the team in the first round — see Ryan Hartman (local) and Nick Schmaltz (fan abroad). And Jokiharju seems to be a diehard already.
This pick not only rocks because of the player the team got, but general manager Stan Bowman’s ability to nab another pick later in the draft was the icing on the cake. For a team in a retooling stage, any pick you can get your hands on is welcome.
The Blackhawks’ first round wasn’t flashy (other than the appearance by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews), and no one will say they outright won the day, but Blackhawks fans can be happy with this selection.
Projections for Jokiharju’s future
I may be just looking for something to hold on to during a trying postseason and offseason, but I really think Jokiharju could develop into a top-two or even No. 1 defenseman on this team. He’s a mix of Nick Leddy and Duncan Keith who can move the puck and be steady in his own zone.
Jokiharju is a fluid skater who moves the puck very well. He’s a little undersized, but size concerns are becoming less and less of an issue in today’s NHL. He comes from a Portland Winterhawks organization that has a penchant for producing high quality NHL defensemen.
He’ll be back with the Winterhawks this season, but I don’t think it’ll be very long before we see him manning the Blackhawks blueline, as he may already be the ‘Hawks’ top defensive prospect.
This kid will be a big part of bringing the Blackhawks back to perennial contention. Breathe easy, ‘Hawks fans, as the end of the world is not nigh.