There is no secret that the New York Rangers may be looking to bolster their defensive pipeline in the upcoming entry draft. Fortunately, there appear to be a number of prospects that will be available at 21st overall. Today, we take a look at one of them in Henri Jokiharju.
Like the most of the New York Rangers’ pipeline, the cupboard is fairly thin on defense.
Currently, the Rangers’ top prospects on defense are Ryan Graves and Sean Day. However, General Manager Jeff Gorton has bolstered the group somewhat with the additions of Alexei Bereglazov and Neal Pionk.
There appear to be a number of defensemen available to the Rangers when they pick 21st overall, should they choose to select one. Conor Timmins, Erik Brannstrom, Nicholas Hague and Henri Jokiharju are projected to be chosen near the bottom of the first round.
We’re going to take a further look at Finnish born defenseman Henri Jokiharju.
Who is Henri Jokiharju?
Henri Jokiharju is a right-shot defenseman from Finland, listed at 6’0” and 170 -180 lbs. He is billed as a decisive, puck moving defenseman with good skating abilities.
One of his best traits is transitioning from defense to offense. He is capable of making that crisp, hard, first pass out of his end to start a rush or simply lugging the puck from his defensive end into the offensive zone. One example of him generating a chance off the rush is an assist he had against the Tri-City Americans earlier this season.
Jokiharju is also a jack of all trades type defenseman who plays on the powerplay and penalty kill. For reference, four of his nine goals on the season came on the powerplay.
His deficiencies are the lack of strength on his shot and lack of an NHL frame. However, if he continues to grow, both issues may be mitigated by the time he is ready to take the ice as an NHL defender.
Jokiharju has experience being a first round pick, having been taken 25th overall in the WHL draft by the Portland Winterhawks in 2016. He spent his 2016-2017 season with the Winterhawks, his first in North America.
Jokiharju made the trip across the Atlantic and played his first full season in North America for the Portland Winterhawks.
He had a successful campaign for the Winterhawks, scoring nine goals along with 39 assists in 71 games. His 48 points were good for 16th overall among WHL defensemen and 1st among rookie defensemen.
He was overshawdowed on the blueline by Caleb Jones, brother of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones. However, when Jones was called away to report to Team USA for the World Junior Championship, Jokiharju stepped up.
"With Portland’s top defenseman, Caleb Jones, away winning the world junior gold medal with the United States, Jokiharju was given increased playing time and responsibility. […]Jokiharu’s minutes went from about 15 minutes per game up to 25-30. In those six games that Jones was missing, Jokiharju had six points, four of which were on the power play."
Jokiharju was fairly consistent as well throughout the season. His longest scoring drought of the season was five games. He never lit up the score sheet on a given night but had three games where he posted three points.
However, he did not have much success in the postseason, only posting three assists in 11 games.
Jokiharju has represented his native Finland on multiple occasions already. He played in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in 2015 as well as the U17 and U18 World Championships in 2016. Team Finland captured the gold in that U18 tournament. Jokiharju posted three assists, playing in all seven games.
Jokiharju expected to represent his country once again in the U20 World Junior Championship this season. However, he was left off the final roster despite attending camp with the team in August. He will be eligible for the for the WJC in the coming years as he turns 18 this June.
At 21st overall, The Rangers will not be looking for a player they can plug into their lineup and look to make an immediate impact. They should be focusing on replenishing their pipeline with promising players that need a few years to grow and mature.
Jokiharju fits the bill as the type of player they would be looking for, as a right-shot, transition minded defenseman. He will also likely play 2 or 3 more seasons of junior hockey. This will give him time to hopefully grow into an NHL frame, while refining his game.