Blackhawks

Blackhawks trade back, select Henri Jokiharju at No. 29

Blackhawks trade back, select Henri Jokiharju at No. 29

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."

How Blackhawks can beat Oilers with 'wealth of success' in qualifying round

How Blackhawks can beat Oilers with 'wealth of success' in qualifying round

Training camp is set to begin on Monday, and before long, the Blackhawks will be heading to Edmonton to take on the Oilers in a best-of-five play-in series beginning Aug. 1 under the NHL's 24-team playoff format.

NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes helps us break down the matchup.

"One thing that's important for the Hawks, they've got superheroes in their group," Weekes told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone. "Obviously in (Leon) Draisaitl and Connor (McDavid) those guys are superhero players. ... Let's be clear, those guys have two Hart trophy candidates on their team, the Oilers. And they've really improved as a team. They're a more complete team, their special teams are both in the Top 5: power play, penalty kill. (Head coach) Dave Tippett's done a masterful job. 

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

"I had a chance to speak to them when they were here at Madison Square Garden playing the Rangers, they've got a lot more experience: James Neal coming there, Mike Smith coming there, guys that know Dave Tippett (and) played for him in Dallas. You know the Great 99, Wayne Gretzky, I spoke with him numerous times about their team. He's excited about their team, literally gitty based on how much of a team they are. Let's say that, I'm just going to position their team and give them their due. 

(And now the fun part.)

"With that being said, the Chicago Blackhawks have future Hall of Famers in their group and I always said, 'It's hard for me to justify betting against superheroes.' And that being (Patrick) Kane, who's going to go down as the best American-born player ever, passes 1,000 points, three-time Cup champ. I can go on and on about Kaner and then same thing for Jonathan Toews. Duncs (Duncan Keith) can still play at a high level and still play in the first pair and (Brent) Seabrook is close to returning I understand from three surgeries, which is wild, which is a huge testament to him, who he is as a person and his determination and his professionalism. 

Related: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook practices for first time since surgeries

"When you have those guys that have seen that and have experienced that and have been through that and all the international success that they have, that's a wealth of success that those guys have to their credit, same thing for Corey Crawford. So knowing how to navigate a Stanley Cup playoff and not being fazed by the big stage... As I asked Jonathan Toews, I had him on my Instagram probably a month ago, I asked Tazer, 'What is it about winning?' Honestly, he wins at walking down the street, he's won at every level, every single level. 

"So there's something to be said for that swag, that belief, that experience and he's unlocked the code. They have guys in their group that have unlocked the code numerous times. So that to me, is helpful. And especially when you're playing remotely and you don't have the benefit of the great crowd at the United Center, you don't have that 22,000 and the thunderous roars in your building, which is a huge advantage. 

Related: How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

"But, to be fair, Edmonton won't have their crowd either. They'll have their rink, they'll be in their home city, but they won't have their crowd physically in their building. Although, it's a newer building so I think that kind of neutralizes things a bit in terms of a home ice advantage so to speak."

Podcast: Former Blackhawk Doug Wilson didn't expect to be in the Hall of Fame

Podcast: Former Blackhawk Doug Wilson didn't expect to be in the Hall of Fame

On this episode of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle is joined by former Blackhawk and now Hall of Famer Doug Wilson as they discuss Wilson's surprise at being inducted, his experience with Blackhawk great Stan Mikita when he was a rookie, and was he prepared to give up hope on making it into the Hall of Fame?

(1:32) - Doug on being shocked he made the Hall of Fame

(5:40) - Was Doug ready to give up on making the Hall of Fame?

(6:56) - Doug on his strong relationship with Stan Mikita

(13:16) - Was it tough not getting to a championship with Wayne Gretzky in the way?

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