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Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks: Henri Jokiharju Will Make Opening NHL Roster

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EVERETT, WA - APRIL 13: Portland Winterhawks defenseman Henri Jokiharju (16) fires a pass up ice during the second period in Game 5 of the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs between the Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks on Friday, April 13, 2018 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA. The Everett Silvertips won the game by a final score of 4-0. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
EVERETT, WA - APRIL 13: Portland Winterhawks defenseman Henri Jokiharju (16) fires a pass up ice during the second period in Game 5 of the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs between the Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks on Friday, April 13, 2018 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA. The Everett Silvertips won the game by a final score of 4-0. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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While the Chicago Blackhawks organization hasn’t blatantly came out and said this, Jokiharju’s play in tandem with the team’s current situation makes him look like a lock to crack the opening night roster.

The blue line has been a problem for the Chicago Blackhawks for some time now. For the vast majority of last year fans and writers alike spent a lot of the year speculating over whether or not Henri Jokiharju would be able to make the team this year.

It’s hard to make the NHL straight out of juniors, however it’s significantly more difficult to do it as a defenseman.

That said, it’s more than possible as Charlie McAvoy did it with the Boston Bruins only last season.

Following last year, the general mood around the Chicago Blackhawks organization was that regardless of whether or not he was actually ready, he’d be thrown into the NHL roster.

The good news is, it looks like he just might be ready.

Last night Jokiharju made a lot of smart plays defensively and demonstrated a good stick throughout. Coach Joel Quenneville got a long look at Jokiharju last night as he played him a game-high 23:03 minutes. Here’s Joel on Jokiharju.

"“I thought he was very good,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a lot of poise for a young defenseman (and) he’s got a lot of confidence with the puck. He’s got high-end play recognition. He’s got a tremendous shot. And all that other stuff as far as learning how you play certain situations and how to play against bigger guys or in tighter areas, and knowing how to defend in those types of situations, it’s all a work in progress. But in a one-game audition, it was excellent.”"

Coach Q saying a player is “adequate” comes as a big compliment. Excellent? Well that’s almost unheard of in Q’s language.

Incase you missed the game, here’s a clip of Henri Jokiharju going one-on-one against Victor Ejdsell.

Ejdsell is significantly bigger than Jokiharju, however Jokes doesn’t let Ejdsell gain an inch in this drill – dominating throughout.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this kid is the real deal.

People are starting to realize it, too.

Chicago Blackhawks newly signed veteran goaltender Cam Ward chimed on the Jokiharju.

"“He’s got a lot of poise and confidence,” Ward said. “He’s showing a little swagger and I’m really impressed with the way he thinks the game, too.”"

Based on his play alone you’d think Jokiharju would make the roster. Then, considering the fact that Connor Murphy’s back injury has him out 12 weeks as opposed to eight, Jokiharju looks like an absolute lock.

The plan was for him to play alongside Duncan Keith, however Q is putting Brent Seabrook next to Duncs for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t seem to harm Jokiharju’s chances however as he played well with every defenseman he skated with during the preseason game on Tuesday.

“Young guy, (but) I think he’s capable of playing with anybody,” Quenneville said. Jokiharju looked especially good playing alongside Erik Gustafsson and Carl Dahlstrom. With Gustafsson, the two were able to put together a very strong shift for the Blackhawks generating multiple scoring chances.

That said, while skating with Dahlstrom Jokiharju posted a rock solid 53.33 percent Corsi. “I think that’s the plan with him right now, to play him, and maybe he plays with some different guys.”

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Only one game into the preseason and the conversation has shifted from if Jokiharju should make the NHL to who should play alongside him when he does. The season is rapidly approaching and Jokiharju is definitely one guy to keep your eyes on during preseason and, apparently, during the regular season as well.

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