Henri Jokiharju has gained plenty of attention since the Chicago Blackhawks selected him in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Although the young defender suffered a knee injury during this week’s World Junior Summer Showcase, the Blackhawks are still very excited to have him in the organization.
Brian Hedger profiled the Blackhawks top pick for NHL.com and he drew some favorable comparisons when speaking to Mark Kelley.
“"He's a very good skater," said Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mark Kelley. "He has great ice awareness. He's very good with the puck and making plays with the puck, but if you look at all the good defensemen, it takes a little longer [to develop] only because there's two elements to it. He's going to be offensive, but at the same time, he's going to have to be defensive, as well."
Kelley isn't big on comparing prospects to NHL players, but there's an obvious one to be made with Jokiharju. His mobility, fluid strides and ability to absorb a lot of ice time are all traits that also belong to Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, a two-time winner of the Norris Trophy and 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient during Chicago's run to the Stanley Cup.
"We would call him an easy skater," Kelley said of Jokiharju. "Easy skaters, especially on defense, go longer. They can play more minutes. [Keith] would probably be at the top of the bar."”
While it way too early to start thinking the Blackhawks have another Duncan Keith in the making, it will be a lot of fun to track his progression. Jokiharju is expected to take part in training camp this September before returning to the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.