The Portland Winterhawks signed 1999 born Finnish prospect Henri Jokiharju for the upcoming WHL season. The 5’10 defenseman had nine goals and 20 assists for Tappara U20 this past season. He also represented Finland at the U18 World Championship tournament in April, registering three assists while winning gold. Here is my scouting report based on the past two seasons he played for Jokerit U18 and Tappara U20.
Henri Jokiharju is a high-end, smooth skating defenseman with great instincts at both ends of the rink. He excels at moving the puck and he also possesses the awareness to be reliable defensively, despite not being the biggest or strongest of defensemen.
He is very smooth with the puck and his puck skills are easily above-average. He quickly identifies his options before making crisp outlet passes that are easy to receive. He sees the ice extremely well. Jokiharju had plenty of ice-time both at even strength and on power play with Tappara U20 and Jokerit U18. On the power play he’s very calm and keeps his head up at all times. He’s highly mobile in all directions and able to create shooting lanes with his lateral movement. He gets quick wrist shots on net through traffic efficiently; however, he hasn’t used his slap shot as much in my viewings.
Jokiharju uses his strong skating and gap control to keep plays alive in the offensive zone. He might not always be very aggressive in the defensive zone, but he’s assertive with his positioning and has an active stick. He gets to loose pucks effectively because of his quick reactions and first steps. However, physically there’s some work to be done, since he can lose some battles due to lack of strength. He thinks the game very well, though. Once he adds more muscle, I think he’ll be able to play even more effectively in his own zone.
For me, there’s no doubt that Jokiharju is one of the top Finnish defensemen for the 2017 NHL Draft. I consider him a possible second rounder at this point in time. It will be very interesting to follow his development in the WHL. The Winterhawks have done a great job of developing NHL prospects.
(Image source: portlandsports.com)