Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Demote Henri Jokiharju, Pleased With Progress

By Samuel Boland
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 22: Henri Jokiharju #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Tyson Jost #17 of the Colorado Avalanche get physical in the third period at the United Center on February 22, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 22: Henri Jokiharju #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Tyson Jost #17 of the Colorado Avalanche get physical in the third period at the United Center on February 22, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks recalled 19-year old defensemen Henri Jokiharju yesterday from the AHL. Today, they’ve sent him back.

Chicago Blackhawks fans celebrated the return of Henri Jokiharju last night, but it was shortlived.

The ‘Hawks recalled him ahead of their game against the Colorado Avalanche presumably because of Carl Dahlstrom‘s illness and Brent Seabrook‘s lingering injury. Here’s the official release from the Blackhawks website:

"“The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that they have recalled defenseman Henri Jokiharju (yoh-kee-HAHR-yoo) on an emergency basis from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.”"

Seabrook skated today and as a result Jokiharju is finding himself on a trip back to the Rockford IceHogs.

Jokiharju had 12 assists and 0 goals in 37 NHL games before being sent to Rockford earlier this season to work on his game. His 54.1 CF% is ranked third on the Blackhawks and second for defensemen behind only Slater Koekkoek‘s 54.5.

Over the course of 9 AHL games, Jokiharju has tallied 1 goal and 8 assists while being ranked a +5. Ideally, Jokiharju getting used to producing at the AHL level could help him to produce at the NHL level as well.

Jokiharju has been one of the more consistent defensemen for the Blackhawks this season outside of Connor Murphy.

As a result, his demotion is a bit puzzling. Jokiharju is still young and will make rookie mistakes, but he’s easily a top-4 defender on this team. If the Blackhawks are trying to make a playoff run, why wouldn’t you want a top-4 defender on your team?

Well, the short answer seems to be that the Chicago Blackhawks organization values the development of Henri Jokiharju more than they do the team’s short-term success.

I think that’s a good thing. Here’s coach Jeremy Colliton on Jokiharju:

That said, Colliton believes that Jokiharju’s role in the AHL is what’s best for not only Jokiharju, but also for the team in the present. I’m not sure I agree, but perhaps that’s why I’m not an NHL coach. Clearly, Colliton must be seeing something in Jokiharju that we aren’t.

If I’m being honest, I would much rather have a better, top-pairing Jokiharju next season than I would to see him worse off in the long run but aiding the ‘Hawks in a playoff run. If this is the better long term decision, I’m on board with it.

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The Blackhawks have screwed up the development of defensemen before and I’m glad they’re being careful with Jokiharju.

Let’s just hope this truly is for the best.

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