Blackhawks

Blackhawks

The Blackhawks made their third trade of the day Friday night, but this one didn't have the same magnitude as the first two.

Still, history was made in Chicago as the Blackhawks made their selection in front of their hometown fans for the the first time in league history.

Gary Bettman announced the first deal of the NHL Draft involved Chicago, which shipped its No. 26 overall pick (goaltender Jake Oettinger) to Dallas in exchange for the No. 29 overall pick and a third-rounder (No. 70 overall).

When it was the Blackhawks' turn to pick, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were introduced in front of a packed United Center crowd and welcomed their newest teammate by announcing the selection of Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju at No. 29 overall.

"It's an amazing feeling, of course," Jokiharju said after getting drafted. "Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane calling my name, it can't be a better feeling."

Jokiharju, who's 18 years old and comes in at 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, scored nine goals and 39 assists in 71 regular-season games for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, and also tallied three assists in 11 playoff contests. 

He's known to be a puck-mover and carries a right-handed shot a big reason why the Blackhawks had their eye on him all along — and ended up getting a free third-round pick for it as well.

"Henri is a player we've really been high on all year," Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said of Jokiharju. "He's a right-handed shot defensemen, those are a commodity in today's game, it's hard to find them. He plays a modern style of hockey. Great skill set, good skater, can handle the puck, make plays. ... He's a big asset. Just looking around the league, it's really hard to find defensemen, particularly right-handed, so we're really thrilled."

 

Here's Jokiharju's scouting report on himself, which is along the lines of defensemen Adam Larsson, Kris Letang and Sami Vatanen who he models his game after:

"I'm a really good skater," he said. "I play with confidence. I'm a puck-moving D, making good passes, simple passes, whatever helps our other players. I love playing power play and PK too, so I want to be a big part of the team, of course."

But the Blackhawks won't rush him to the professional level. Developing young defensemen takes time, and patience will certainly be preached.

"I try not to put a timeline on it in terms of when he'll be ready," Bowman said. "But he certainly had an impressive season, we like his skill set. He's got that combination of skill, skating, passing, he can defend but he can also get up the ice and join the rush and make things happen with the puck on the blue line. He can move around, play on the power play, so I like that part of his game.

"It's hard to predict when he's going to be ready for the NHL, but we're not going to rush him. We're gonna let him develop at his own rate and I think he's got a bright future."

Jokiharju said he's watched a lot of the Blackhawks, who have won three Stanley Cups led by the two players that called his name. And he wants to be a part of the winning culture.

"I hear stories about Duncan Keith, the passion, how hard he trains and practices, and [Brent] Seabrook of course he's a great leader," Jokiharju said. "Kane and Toews, I'm watching those players a lot and how they lead their team under pressure. I want to be like those two guys."