Prospect Watch: Henri Jokiharju

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Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Henri Jokiharju, of Finland, carries the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during a preseason NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

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by Scott King

Blackhawks defensive prospect Henri Jokiharju has high expectations surrounding him in his second development camp with the team. Chicago selected Jokiharju in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft at number 29 overall.

The 19-year-old Oulu, Finland native stood out last year tallying 71 points in 63 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

Jokiharju will either start the season with the Rockford IceHogs, the Hawks’ AHL affiliate, or in the show with the Blackhawks. His goal is to start the upcoming season in the NHL with Chicago.

“You want to set the bar high,” Jokiharju said. “You don’t want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that’s the dream.”

The second go-round is already easier mentally than the first for the Finnish d-man. “Nothing’s like new for you,” Jokiharju said. “So you can give one hundred percent. You don’t have to think all the time, ‘Am I doing it right or wrong?'”

Jokiharju knows if he wants to skate at the top level this year there are elements of his game he needs to improve upon, but he also doesn’t want to change the type of player he is.

“Of course physical game (needs improvement),” Jokiharju said. “But I’m not that kind of guy, like I hit hard and stuff like that. I just want to be hard in the battles and that way physical.”

“He’s an impressive all-around type player,” said Blackhawks vice president and general manager of Jokiharju’s ability. “I think the one thing he did last year, offensively he had a great season, he really learned how to be a two-way defenseman.
“The biggest jump for him is ‘are you going to be able to defend?’ I think his offensive skills are elite. I was really impressed when I saw him for the first time [this camp]. He really trained hard. He looks like an NHL-type body right now. He’s always been a fit kid, but he really did work hard on that. So I was impressed with the way he came into camp in great condition. You can tell he’s trained hard.”

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