The Blackhawks continue to find value late in the first round with the addition of Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju
There’s something unique about watching the Chicago Blackhawks draft their future. Even with Stan Bowman’s annual monotonous selection at the mic or how fans generally don’t know anything about who the ‘Hawks have selected, fans get a glimpse of what success will hopefully look like in a few years.
We can’t really say the same for some of the other teams in town. I’m not going to name names but when a certain football team makes a selection, we often tend to disagree.
The draft is a crapshoot for every team yet some seem to be better at it than others. And the ones who are better at drafting know that home-grown teams are built for longevity.
At first, I wasn’t thrilled with the Henri Jokiharju pick. Nicolas Hague, a 6’6 physical defenseman, was still on the board and I was certain the ‘Hawks would pick him. Or maybe they would go with a better skater in Connor Timmins. But the Blackhawks took Jokiharju. Being at the draft, I wasn’t able to hear the analysts talk about him, but Blackhawks fans gave him a warm welcome. And he, in exchange, returned a huge smile center stage at the United Center.
In case you missed it, here is Jokijarju getting drafted:
What we should be excited about
When I got home from the draft, I immediately called a friend who works for the Portland Winterhawks, Jokiharju’s WHL team. He told me that “Joki” was a great selection for the Blackhawks, even though he definitely needs to fill out some. The Winterhawks had four players selected in this years draft, a lot due to their head coach Mike Johnston who was the WHL coach of the year.
Jokiharju has already had some success at the junior level winning gold at the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championships. He also earned Player of the game at the CHL Prospect game this year.
After watching some tape on Jokiharju, I can see why the Blackhawks took him.
- He has the stretch pass of Brent Seabrook
- He has the offensive mind of Duncan Keith
- He has the defensive reliability of Nik Hjalmarsson
What else could you ask for?
Yes, these skills are premature and he has a lot to learn, but the building blocks are there.
See for yourself:
In an article with the Portland Winterhawks earlier this month, Jokiharju had this to say about his game:
"“I want to be a top-two or top-four ‘D’ in the NHL,” Jokiharju said. “I need to improve my shot so it will be more dangerous… That way I’ll be able to make good passes because guys will be thinking more about my shot. That’s one of the biggest things I want to get better at and improve upon all the time.”"
Maybe it’s possible that Jokiharju has been on the ‘Hawks radar for a while now, giving even more reason for the Hawks to not trade their 1st round pick at the draft in Chicago. Even better news, Bowman was smart enough to trade down knowing his guy would still be there and acquire another pick.
It’s clear that times are changing, but it’s about time we start implementing new talent into the lineup. And what better way to start by drafting a smart, confident defenseman who is ready to contribute.