Henri Jokiharju has had it tough over the past year, and he is now a fringe member of the third pairing in the Buffalo Sabres defensive rotation.
Henri Jokiharju showed us last season that he was more than capable of logging second pairing minutes with the Buffalo Sabres, but he was average, at best, on a good day. Besides Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, and Owen Power, the Blue and Gold’s defensive rotation was rather dysfunctional, and Jokiharju was often the definition of that dysfunction, namely in the number of times he allowed forwards to slip through when he was on the ice.
Jokiharju finished the season at -12 in the plus-minus, with a very average Corsi For Percentage of 50.0% and 50.6% at even strength and 5-on-5, and a Fenwick For of 48.6% and 49.2% in those same categories. Because of Jokiharju’s ineffectiveness, he, along with Jacob Bryson, is one of several blueliners who will be fighting for a spot in the lineup once training camp begins roughly two months from today.
Will Henri Jokiharju stick around with the Buffalo Sabres?
Despite Jokiharju’s poor showing last season, he has some upside, namely in his age (24), and this may not just entice the Sabres to keep him around. But if it doesn’t, he could interest some teams looking to take a chance to further develop his game. It also helps that he has played first and second pairing minutes, making him a viable insurance policy in the event of injury for both the Sabres and/or anyone looking to acquire his services.
Further, Jokiharju also has more experience in Don Granato’s system than Riley Stillman and Ilya Lyubushkin, which is another plus. And since Lyubushkin and Stillman are hitters more than anything else, there is a strong likelihood the Sabres only keep one of them who plays that style, most likely Lyubushkin, thanks to Stillman’s $1.350 million contract, which they would have no problem paying should they put the latter on waivers and he ends up in Rochester.
Further, Jokiharju has also outplayed Jacob Bryson, who should be on his way out barring any unforeseen turnaround in camp. Therefore, as it stands, I can see Jokiharju sticking around with the Buffalo Sabres as either the sixth man or as the extra skater.
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference, salary information provided by Cap-Friendly)