In the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Blackhawks decided to trade down during the first round to acquire more draft picks. As a result, they traded the 26th overall pick to the Dallas Stars for the 29th overall pick and the 70th overall pick. With the 29th overall pick, the Blackhawks selected Finish defenseman Henri Jokiharju.
Jokiharju had put up 48 points in 71 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL when he was drafted in 2017. The season following his selection, he scored an even more impressive 71 points in 63 games with the Winterhawks. On top of his fantastic point totals, Jokiharju also ended the season with a plus/minus of 47. He was brought up to the Blackhawks and scored 12 points in 38 games in his first season. Clearly, Jokiharju was on target to be a promising young defenseman.
Jokiharju may have been looking promising, but the Blackhawks as a whole were not. The team was struggling to put pucks in the back of the net. Then, Bowman noticed a struggling Alex Nylander on the Buffalo Sabres and decided to make a one-for-one trade to acquire him. Unfortunately, the price for Nylander was none other than Jokiharju, ending his time with the Blackhawks only one year into his professional career.
The Sabres have been a rollercoaster of emotions. They sold off the majority of their talent to try and rebuild a second time amid their first rebuild. Jokiharju has been one of the only players to survive the onslaught. While he has never reached the numbers he scored in juniors, he is still a player in the NHL, which is something the Blackhawks can not say about Nylander. To make matters worse, the first-round pick the Blackhawks traded away in 2017 became Jake Oettinger, who is panning out to be the starting goaltender for the Dallas Stars. Unlike the first-round pick fiascos of 2015 and 2016, this trade aged horribly.
Jokiharju’s best year was the 2019-20 season, where he scored 15 points in 69 games with the Sabres.