The Chicago Blackhawks traded back three spots in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night, but they still got their man as they selected Henri Jokiharju with the 29th overall pick.
Jokiharju, who scored nine goals and dished out 39 assists in 71 games with the Portland Winterhawks, had his name announced by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as the United Center crowd roared, and it was a moment the Finnish defenseman will never forget.
“It was an amazing feeling to hear them call my name,” he said. “There can’t be a better feeling than that.”
The defenseman, a right-handed shot, joins a Blackhawks system that is trying to load up on righties as G.M. Stan Bowman reshapes the roster. Jokiharju describes himself as a “good skater,” and he also feels like his other skills will help him make his way to the NHL at some point in his career.
“I’m a really good skater. I play with confidence, and I’m a good puck moving defenseman,” he said. “I make simple passes, and I like playing on the power play and penalty kill as well.”
Even though Jokiharju is the first Blackhawks first round draft pick since 2014, he won’t be rushed into the NHL by the team, according to G.M. Stan Bowman.
“I try not to put a timeline on it in terms of when he’ll be ready,” he said. “He can make things happen with the puck on the blue line. It’s hard to predict when he’s going to be ready for the NHL, but we’re not going to rush him. We’ll let him develop at his own rate, because I think he has a bright future.”
That bright future is still at least a few years away, but he’ll never forget his first taste of the big time.
“All I heard was Henri and I was like ‘yeah!,’” he said of the big moment.