The Blackhawks assigned rookie defenseman Henri Jokiharju to the AHL on Thursday morning.
Jokiharju, 19, has no goals, 12 assists and a team-high 54.1 Corsi For percentage in 37 NHL games this season. He also had two goals and three assists in seven games during the Finnish men’s national team’s gold-medal run at the World Junior Championship earlier this month.
Since returning for the World Juniors tournament, Jokiharju has one assist in five games and has only played more than 16 minutes once. He skated 16 minutes and 45 seconds in his first game back on Jan. 9, when Chicago fell 7-3 at home to the Sharks.
Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton also deployed him on his off side to see if that could help shake out the blue line give the group some more versatility going forward. The blue liner was a healthy scratch against the Capitals on Jan. 20 in Chicago’s second to last game before the All-Star break.
Fellow Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling is nearing his return from an upper-torso injury, which has sidelined him since Jan. 9. The 22-year-old has two goals and six points in 19 games this season. Prior to his injury, he missed time while recovering from an offseason surgery on his right wrist.
Prior to the Blackhawks’ bye week, Colliton told The Athletic that there wasn’t any discussion of sending Jokiharju to the AHL.
Jeremy Colliton said the Blackhawks want Henri Jokiharju playing major minutes in all situations in Rockford. Said he still has trouble physically sometimes as a 19YO. "We don't want him playing just to survive. We want him to excel." Says the team still loves him.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) January 31, 2019
Jokiharju will wear No. 14 with the IceHogs, according to team broadcasting and communications coordinator Joseph Zakrzewski. Rockford returns to practice Thursday afternoon following their AHL All-Star break. Jokiharju, a 2017 first-round draft pick, will be the first Blackhawks first-rounder to skate for the IceHogs since Nick Schmaltz (2014).
The IceHogs host the Chicago Wolves (Golden Knights) on Friday night at BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. The Blackhawks return from their bye week Friday at Buffalo.