This morning, I saw this column by Daily Herald Blackhawks’ beat writer, John Dietz, and it really got me thinking. What are the Blackhawks doing with Henri Jokiharju?

One thing that has really been bothering me for a while is the fact that the Blackhawks will not recall defenseman Henri Jokiharju from the Rockford IceHogs, in the midst of a playoff push. Although he has been playing well for the IceHogs, it makes no sense to keep him there for a few reasons that I will elaborate on.

The Blackhawks Are Dropping the Ball With Henri Jokiharju

StanBo & Co. are actually hurting Henri Jokiharju’s development by keeping him in Rockford during a last-ditch playoff push by the Blackhawks. He is missing out on invaluable experience in a playoff atmosphere. Plus, it really makes no sense to keep one of your best defensemen off of your NHL roster when your team still has a shot at the playoffs.

The Blackhawks currently have one of the worst goal differentials in the league (-21). Henri Jokiharju is an upgrade on the backend for the Blackhawks, especially with playoffs on the line. I would much rather see Henri Jokiharju in the starting lineup instead of underachieving defensemen like Gustav Forsling and Slater Koekkoek, and a future 7th defenseman like Carl Dahlstrom.

Henri Jokiharju is playing really well for the IceHogs right now, but it is just the AHL. The talent level is subpar compared to the NHL, where Jokiharju would be regularly exposed to some of the most elite hockey talent in the world.

Playing with the Blackhawks would force Jokiharju to improve and adapt, which is exactly what you want to see from a key piece of your future defensemen core.

Where Would Henri Jokiharju Fit In?

Yes, Erik Gustafsson has had an amazing breakout season, but he is not a top pairing defenseman. Gustafsson’s lack of defense will prevent him from ever being a Top 2 guy on any team. Henri Jokiharju would bring stability to the top line with Duncan Keith, and also, be an upgrade over Gustafsson defensively. Being paired up with Keith is not out of the question, especially since Jokiharju has had success there earlier this season and spent the most time together.

Jeremy Colliton may not want to put Henri Jokiharju on the top line and that’s okay. I have another potential pairing in mind. Jokiharju is a young right-handed defenseman, so ideally, you would like to keep him on the right side. A pairing of Connor Murphy and Henri Jokiharju on the 2nd or 3rd defensive unit makes sense. Although Murphy is also right-handed, he has played on the left side this season and has proved himself capable of playing there. Murphy has been one of the Blackhawks’ best defenseman this season and would undoubtedly be able to help mold Jokiharju into a better defender.

                            Scor Scor        Scor  Ice                  Ice
Season    Age    Tm  Lg  GP    G    A PTS +/- PIM  TOI  ATOI BLK HIT TK  GV
2013-14    20   PHX NHL  30    1    7   8   5  10  539 17:59  38  44 13  13
2014-15    21   ARI NHL  73    4    3   7 -27  42 1226 16:48 142 137  8  25
2015-16    22   ARI NHL  78    6   11  17   5  48 1599 20:30 139 175 21  29
2016-17    23   ARI NHL  77    2   15  17 -13  45 1477 19:11 119 201 13  31
2017-18    24   CHI NHL  76    2   12  14  -3  34 1244 16:22 101 138 15  33
2018-19    25   CHI NHL  40    3    8  11  14  38  784 19:37  65  88 13  39
3 yrs           ARI NHL 228   12   29  41 -35 135 4302 18:52 400 513 42  85
2 yrs           CHI NHL 116    5   20  25  11  72 2029 17:29 166 226 28  72
1 yr            PHX NHL  30    1    7   8   5  10  539 17:59  38  44 13  13
Career        6 yrs NHL 374   18   56  74 -19 217 6871 18:22 604 783 83 170

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

What’s Next for the Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks are currently on the outside of the Western Conference Wild Card race looking in, but that can all change in a hurry. The Blackhawks are on a 4 game winning streak and coming off a win over a team who is basically a lock for the playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Right now, the Blackhawks are 6 points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the 2nd Wild Card spot.

Provided by NHL.com

Corey Crawford has returned and finally knocked the rust off, gotten his legs back under him and has his head on straight again. The Blackhawks will likely ride Crawford hard during these remaining 12 games and he should be pretty fresh since he has missed so much hockey recently. There’s a trend going on lately that has become extremely apparent. The team usually rides or dies with Crawford, so he will be huge down the stretch for the Blackhawks. The 4 game winning streak can be largely attributed to his strong performances.

                                                                   Goal
Rk         Date  G    Age    Tm    Opp DEC   GA SA SV  SV% SO PIM   TOI
24   2019-02-27 24 34-058   CHI ANA  W   W    3 32 29 .906  0   0 60:00
25   2019-03-02 25 34-061   CHI LAK  L   L    6 25 19 .760  0   0 59:52
26   2019-03-07 26 34-066   CHI BUF  W   W    4 39 35 .897  0   0 64:30
27   2019-03-09 27 34-068   CHI DAL  W   W    1 27 26 .963  0   0 60:00
28   2019-03-11 28 34-070   CHI ARI  W   W    1 25 24 .960  0   0 60:00
29   2019-03-13 29 34-072   CHI TOR  W   W    1 18 17 .944  0   0 40:00

Provided by Hockey-Reference.com: View Original Table

The time to call up Henri Jokiharju from Rockford is now. I really hope StanBo realizes this and brings him up during this last-ditch playoff push. Expose the kid to a playoff atmosphere and help his development. It’s time to see what Jokiharju is made of and see if he has the focus and determination to really take his game to the next level. Plus, Corey Crawford could always use a little more help out in front of him. I’m sure Crawford wouldn’t object and neither should anyone else.

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