Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks: Analyzing Henri Jokiharju’s Loan for World Juniors

By Samuel Boland
WINNIPEG, MB - DECEMBER 11: Henri Jokiharju #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks keeps an eye on the play during first period action against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell MTS Place on December 11, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Jets defeated the Hawks 6-3. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
WINNIPEG, MB - DECEMBER 11: Henri Jokiharju #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks keeps an eye on the play during first period action against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell MTS Place on December 11, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Jets defeated the Hawks 6-3. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks announced this morning that Henri Jokiharju would be loaned to the Finnish national world junior team. It’s an interesting decision, and I’ll unpack it best I can.

The Chicago Blackhawks are in second-to-last place in the National Hockey League, only one point ahead of the last-place Los Angeles Kings. Their hopes of a turnaround season were slim, but still alive.

However, after Corey Crawford sustained another concussion just two months after returning from his previous head injury which sidelined him for 10 months, this season looks all but lost as far as their playoff hopes are concerned (that said, there is still the chance that Crawford is able to return quickly like Artem Anisimov recently did, but retirement may very well be in his thoughts right now).

Crazier things have happened, but it’s that realistic line of thinking which seems to justify the announcement that was confirmed true this morning: Henri Jokiharju will be loaned to the Finnish national junior team for the upcoming World Junior tournament.

The tournament takes place in Vancouver and runs through Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. Jokiharju officially left the team this morning.

The move seems to make sense, however it might not be as straightforward as it seems. There are really only two sides to take in this situation, for or against it, so let’s dive into both.

“For” Jokiharju to World Juniors

The team is in second to last place, 13 points out of the bottom wild card spot and without a no. 1 goaltender.

Jokiharju, who’s been the Chicago Blackhawks best defensemen this season, still clearly has more untapped potential just waiting to come out. This season he has 11 assists and no goals in 32 games with the Blackhawks.

Let’s be honest, this is a guy who scored 12 goals and dished out a whopping 59 assists last season for the Portland WinterHawks. Obviously, he’s not going to recreate those 71 points in only 63 games, but it’s clear there’s more to Jokiharju than we’re currently seeing on a night-to-night basis.

This isn’t a knock on his season thus far (he’s still been the teams best defensemen), however a brief stint back to playing junior could jumpstart his productivity offensively.

Who knows, 10 days of dominating a blue line and putting himself back on the scoresheet consistently could boost his confidence and jolt him into playing another level of hockey that we have yet to see from him in the NHL.

A trip to World Juniors could function in the same way a trip to the AHL does for other players. It’s an opportunity to further learn how to play his game and gain more confidence in his abilities.

All things considered, that line of thinking certainly makes sense. Additionally, it also gives the Hawks front office some time to figure out what to do with the surplus of defensemen currently on the team.

Alright, let’s flip the switch now.

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