2022 Player Report Card: Henri Jokiharju
There is still room for growth after a somewhat forgettable season for the young defenseman
Our 2022 Buffalo Sabres player report cards wind down as we focus on Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju.
Total Season Stats: 60 GP | 3 G | 16 A | 19 PTS
Contract Status: $2.5 million/season; RFA at the end of 2023-24 season
I may be alone in this thought, but I feel like Jokiharju has been on the Sabres for...forever. Is it because the last few seasons have dragged? Probably. It also feels like we said farewell to that sad-excuse-for-a-captain Jack Eichel eons ago, but I digress. I mention this simply because while he was a bit disappointing this past season, it is worth noting that Jokiharju is only 23 years old, we have him for at least two more seasons, and he can still turn things around like many of his teammates did during the 2021-2022 season.
To rewind a few years, the Finnish defenseman began his professional career with the Blackhawks when he was drafted in 2017. As we all know, his tenure did not last long there and he has been with Buffalo since the Alexander Nylander trade in 2019. In his first season with the Sabres - though it was cut short by COVID - he tallied four goals and 11 assists. During the following year - and perhaps his most disappointing - the right-handed defenseman earned just eight points in what was a short season for him: 46 games.
Even though his numbers improved with a career-high 19 total points this past season, his presence on the ice was pretty forgettable, especially since other defensemen on the team (Rasmus Dahlin, specifically) found their stride and really improved under the direction of head coach Don Granato. However, it is also worth mentioning that after the Sabres traded away Rasmus Ristolainen, Jokiharju was facing tougher opponents on the ice as his average ice time increased to 21:53 from 18:23 the previous season. Is he terrible? No. His passing ability is actually pretty good - especially in the neutral zone - and the kid can score.
Is there a ton of room for improvement, though? Absolutely. Though he had a career-high in points this past season, he also had a career-high in giveaways at 36 - three of which occurred on the power play. Clean that up while being a bit more physical, and you have a much better defenseman on the ice.
It will be interesting to see if he stays in the top four defensive pairings if Buffalo adds any other more veteran right handers (cough, P.K. Subban) during this off-season. With the addition of Owen Power, too, the top four may certainly have a bit of a shakeup in a good way. Time will tell, but it is not time to panic yet as Henri Jokiharju has time on his side to develop more.
Season Grade: C+
Grade Henri Jokiharju on his 2021-22 season.
|A - excelled above expectation||2|
|B - did better than expectation||42|
|C - met expectation||116|
|D - did worse than expectation||44|
|F - did much worse than expectation||2|