Henri Jokiharju put together a solid 2019-20 season for the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL. The 20-year-old defenseman made an immediate impact with his new team after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 2019.
Jokiharju impressed in the early stages of the season on the third defensive pairing. He played alongside Marco Scandella for a large portion of the season, until the latter was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in January. Their chemistry was noticeable right from the first few games and they complemented each other’s skill sets very well.
Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger talks about Jokiharju in the video from early on in the season. Krueger mentions that he “has been good at solving pressure which is something quite impressive at his age”.
I think one of Jokiharju’s strengths is his puck management. He shows good poise and confidence as he can hold on to the puck really well and utilize his strong passing skills. He moves the puck into good spots and keeps his play simple enough. Furthermore, he can give accurate long-range passes to the tape. Here is an example of that as he sets up Casey Mittelstadt for a breakaway opportunity.
Jokiharju had seven points in his first 18 games in mid-November, meaning that he was on pace for 31 points. Although his point production slowed down towards the end of the season, he still managed to score four goals and 11 assists in 69 games.
Overall, I thought he played at a good level throughout the campaign, especially when you consider it was his first full season in the NHL. Admittedly, there were times when he lacked consistency, but that is definitely not uncommon for a young player like him.
The Sabres should be very pleased with the way the Finnish puck mover performed this past season. He fit in very well and played to his strengths. It has been fun to watch Jokiharju grow as a player. With continued development, he has a chance to become a top-four NHL defenseman for years to come.
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