Henri Jokiharju’s No. 1 mission during the offseason was to make the Chicago Blackhawks’ opening-night roster.
The 2017 first-round draft pick will make his NHL debut Thursday when the Blackhawks visit the Ottawa Senators. The 19-year-old told the media after Wednesday’s practice that he’s not nervous heading into the biggest game of his career.
Jokiharju: "I've waited, like, all my childhood to play in the NHL. It's going to be huge, but I'm not going to make it any bigger than what it's gonna be. It's one game for me, but obviously this is the best time of my life. So I'm just going to enjoy it." #Blackhawks— Tracey Myers (@Tramyers_NHL) October 3, 2018
The right-handed defenseman signed a three-year entry-level contract in June after his second North American season with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. He posted 12 goals and 71 points in 63 regular-season games and added eight points (three goals, five assists) in 12 playoff games.
Throughout training camp, Jokiharju has been paired with veteran Duncan Keith on the top line. Jokiharju’s play coupled with Connor Murphy’s back injury has helped the Finnish blue liner land a spot on the roster.
Jokiharju isn’t the only player to make the Hawks’ roster with no NHL experience. Forwards Luke Johnson and Dominik Kahun also made the cut. Chicago drafted Johnson in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL draft, while Kahun signed a two-year deal as an undrafted free agent in May.