The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 485 fans that ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 10, 2021. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.
Our T25U25 continues on strong with one of the Buffalo Sabres young, promising defensemen, Henri Jokiharju.
Jokiharju, 22 years old, saw his offensive output drop in his second season with the Buffalo Sabres but his role on the defensive side continued to increase throughout the bulk of the regular season.
According to HockeyViz.com, Jokiharju’s Isolated 5v5 Impact xGA was at a +0.3% in the 2019-20 season, with a nice red blotch right in front of the goaltender.
In 2020-21, Jokiharju’s Isolated 5v5 Impact xGA was down to -2.6%, with a larger blue area in front of the goaltender.
For those who do not subscribe to analytics, this can be broken down quite simply. Red in front of your team’s goaltender is bad. Blue in front of your team’s goaltender is good.
HockeyViz also points out that Jokiharju started the season with third-pairing icetime and suffered a little bit of a rocky start under then-head coach Ralph Krueger. By the time Jokiharju’s season ended, his ice time ended up settling comfortably in a second-pairing with Rasmus Dahlin.
“When I got together with Rasmus, it’s so much easier to play,” Jokiharju told media members last April. “We read off each other, so I think both of us can play better hockey. That’s helped me a lot, because I can have the puck a little bit more and we’re making good plays out there and having fun.”
Jokiharju’s play also improved under then-interim head coach Don Granato. Some have attributed the improvement in play to Jokiharju’s previous relationship with Granato in Chicago but it certainly also seems like Granato’s defensive stylings fit Jokiharju’s game better.
If Jokiharju can continue his slow burn into an important part of this young Buffalo Sabres defense, the dark days of hockey in Buffalo might quickly brighten again.
#25 Casey Fitzgerald
#24 Aaron Huglen
#23 Linus Weissbach
#22 Aleksandr Kisakov
#21 Albert Lyckåsen
#20 Erik Portillo
#19 Devon Levi
#18 Matej Pekar
#17 Oskari Laaksonen
#16 Isak Rosen
#15 Jacob Bryson
#14 Ryan Johnson
#13 Mattias Samuelsson
#12 Tage Thompson
#11 Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen
#10 JJ Peterka
#9 Jack Quinn
#8 Rasmus Asplund
#7 Arttu Ruotsalainen