Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks: A Look at Henri Jokiharju’s Surprising Start

By Samuel Boland
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 23: Henri Jokiharju #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks waits for the face-off against the Anaheim Ducks in the second period at the United Center on October 23, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 23: Henri Jokiharju #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks waits for the face-off against the Anaheim Ducks in the second period at the United Center on October 23, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-1. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Chicago Blackhawks‘ defenseman Henri Jokiharju has been a bright spot on a team largely without one, especially in the past five games. Jokiharju’s consistency makes him especially easy to take for granted, so I’m writing in hopes of preventing that.

It’s no secret: the Chicago Blackhawks defensemen are not very good. Hell, through fifteen games only two of them are still positive in +/-. As a result, I always thought whether he was ready or not, Henri Jokiharju would be playing in the NHL this year.

Incase you were wondering who the two defensemen with positive plus/minus’s currently are, Jokiharju sits at +1 while Duncan Keith is at a solid +3. Everyone else, though, remains in the negatives including newly-signed free agent Brandon Manning with a team worst -7.

Keith posted a less-than-desirable -29 last season, but it’s no surprise that he’s having more success to start this year — he’s playing alongside a quicker partner and in front of a healthy Corey Crawford. What is surprising, however, is the extent to which Jokiharju has been successful.

Coming into the NHL as a teenager is tough. Coming in straight from juniors? Tougher.

But, trying to do both of these as a defenseman? Good luck.

Jokiharju’s success is undoubtedly surprising, but what really shocks me is just how unsurprised everyone seems to about it.

Jokijharju’s Rise

Currently, there are only 14 teenagers playing in the NHL. Of them, only four are defensemen. They are as follows: Buffalo Sabres’ no. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin (18 years old), the Dallas Stars’ Miro Heiskanen (19), Edmonton Oilers’ Evan Bouchard (19) and the Chicago Blackhawks’ own Henri Jokiharju (19).

For reference, let’s see how Jokiharju stacks up against these other four players in the major statistical categories.

Goals

  1. Heiskanen, 2
  2. Dahlin, 2
  3. Bouchard, 1
  4. Jokiharju, 0

Not a great start, but there is more than one way to help get the puck in the net.

More from Blackhawk Up

Assists

  1. Jokiharju, 8
  2. Dahlin, 4
  3. Heiskanen, 2
  4. Bouchard, 0

Combining the two to tally points, Jokiharju leads the pack again.

Points

  1. Jokiharju, 8
  2. Dahlin, 5
  3. Heiskanen, 4
  4. Bouchard, 1

Additionally, Jokiharju is the only one to be positive in +/- thus far.

Plus/Minus

  1. Jokiharju (+1)
  2. Heiskanen (0)
  3. Dahlin (-1)
  4. Bouchard (-5)

While +/- is useful, this stat becomes a bit more impressive given the amount of ice time some of these guys are using up.

Jokiharju and Heiskanen are the only one’s to break 20 minutes of ATOI (21:34 and 21:53, respectively) while Dahlin (18:09) follows close behind, leaving Bouchard (12:21) in the rear view mirror.

Both Jokes and Heiskanen are playing top pairing minutes to start the season, meaning they’re facing some of the oppositions best offensive lines. Because of that, the fact that one is positive and the other is even is tremendously impressive given their age.

While Jokiharju is the only of the bunch without a goal, a look into his tape in the WHL should convince you that his first in the NHL should be right around the corner.

All in all, offensive production from defensemen is great and it’s fantastic to see Jokiharju leading the vast majority of the leaderboards.

Jokes wasn’t expected to start the season on an NHL roster and the fact that he’s leading the NHL’s young defensemen in so many categories is huge. That said, rookies are rookies for a reason, so let’s take a look at how Henri Jokiharju looks in comparison to the Chicago Blackhawks current defensemen.

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