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Joel Quenneville: ‘It’s possible’ Blackhawks prospect Henri Jokiharju plays next season in NHL

The 18-year-old defenseman has 12 goals and 59 assists in 63 games this season in the WHL.

2017 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville could see the team’s top defensive prospect Henri Jokiharju make the leap to the NHL next season.

Quenneville while speaking with Scott Powers of The Athletic after the team’s practice Tuesday, said “it’s possible. I know that young defensemen, it’s a big step. Juniors to pros — it’s a big hurdle sometimes. But you don’t want to take that away from anybody.”

The Blackhawks traded down three spots in exchange for the Dallas Stars’ pick at No. 29 and an extra third-round selection to select Jokiharju in the first round of last year’s draft.

The 18-year-old Finnish defenseman is one of the top blueliners in the Western Hockey League with 12 goals and 59 assists in 63 games this season for the Portland Winterhawks. He’s added two goals and four assists in six playoff games. Portland plays Game 7 of their first-round series against Spokane on Wednesday.

Jokiharju, a right-handed shot, also shined at the World Junior Championship, with two goals and two assists in five games for Finland.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Jokiharju was ranked No. 7 in SCH’s Top 25 Under 25 series in 2017. He’s the highest ranked defenseman on the list not to see NHL playing time.