Total Season Stats: 69 GP | 4 G | 11 A | 15 PTS
Contract Status: Signed through 2020-21 ($925,000)
When some Sabres fans (and to be fair, some Blackhawks fans) think about Henri Jokiharju, they’ll instantly think of Alexander Nylander. After all, the two players were traded for one another last July, as Chicago sent their 2017 first-round draft pick east. Some will ask “who won the trade,” but honestly, that’s not important.
Before he even came to Buffalo, Jokiharju was a proven winner. Last May, he became one of just eight players in IIHF history to win gold at the U18s, World Juniors and World Championships, alongside Kaapo Kakko. Not bad for a kid who can’t even legally drink in the United States.
Jokiharju had a decent first season with the Sabres, his first full season in the NHL (or as full as you can call it, given the current circumstances.) Prior to the NHL’s pause, Jokiharju appeared in all 69 games with the Sabres. He contributed four goal and 11 assists for 15 points, a career-high, and added 32 penalty minutes.
(Now is a good time to interject this and say: it’s hard to say any of the Sabres players had a “good” season given the overall state of the team. “Good” is a relative term, folks.)
Jokiharju averaged 17:13 of playing time per game this season, while playing with a number of different partners. He played the most with Jake McCabe; the duo played 331:10 over the course of 66 games, with 51.24 CF and 48.61 xGF%. Jokiharju also played a decent amount alongside Marco Scandella (325:33) before the trade, but also saw time alongside Brandon Montour (109:13), Colin Miller (111:16) and Rasmus Dahlin (102:57).
He barely played with Lawrence Pilut (37:45) or John Gilmour (6:22) and saw limited time with Rasmus Ristolainen (41:34) and Zach Bogosian (10:12). It’s a small sample size, but Bogosian and Jokiharju actually had a combined Corsi-for of 70.59%.
Did he have some rough nights? Of course. On a team that’s 25th in the league, it’s safe to say pretty much every player on the team had a couple of rough nights.
But overall, Jokiharju appears to be a young, fresh defensemen who didn’t make a lot of bad mistakes this season, and his future with the Sabres seems pretty certain, at least for the time being. Depending on what moves Jason Botterill makes this offseason, Jokiharju is likely to be a big piece of the Sabres’ blue line next season.
Amid a crowded blueline, Jokiharju managed to find himself in the lineup every game. He was one of ten defensemen to appear in at least one game for the Sabres this season, but only he and Ristolainen appeared in all 69 games without suffering from injury or being sidelined as a healthy scratch.
Looking back, I’m not quite sure why Stan Bowman decided to trade Henri Jokiharju, but I’m glad he did. I liked what I saw from him so far, and he’s fitting in nicely with the Sabres in what has been a shortened season. The 20-year-old appears to have a bright future ahead with the organization.
Season Grade: B+