In 2022-23, we weren’t sure what to make of Buffalo Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju, but so far in the 2023 preseason, the blueliner has stepped up.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju looked like one of the potential odd men out when the Blue and Gold signed Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton. When I was designing lineups at the time, it wasn’t uncommon for me to, at best, slate Jokiharju in as the seventh defenseman.
And while this was the case in my What the Sabres Final Lineup Should Look Like article I wrote a couple of days back, it was by no means a knock on Jokiharju. Instead, Jokiharju was listed as the seventh blueliner who would see regular ice time as part of a bottom-pairing rotation as opposed to getting into the occasional game if Johnson or Stillman needed a breather.
Something I didn’t discuss in that piece is that Jokiharju would also get the nod if the Sabres needed someone with more of a two-way game that neither Johnson nor Stillman would offer. Therefore, despite his listing as the seventh man, I did so with Jokiharju slated to play in quite a few games.
Buffalo Sabres blueliner has stepped it up so far in preseason
The Sabres still have a pair of preseason games to go, but Jokiharju has looked good so far in preseason action. In yesterday’s win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hockey Stat Cards gave Jokiharju a game score of 1.25, which fell into the “Good Game” category.
When compared against other members of the Sabres, Jokiharju scored lower than only Kyle Okposo, who generated a 2.59, or a “Great Game.” He also showed plenty of endurance, as his 23:03 of ice time paced the Buffalo Sabres skaters.
Jokiharju even logged his second goal of the preseason to go with a pair of blocks. The only real downer here is that his GA sat at 1.08, significantly higher than his 0.38 xGA. Overall, however, Jokiharju enjoyed a fantastic outing, and I’m expecting him to carry this success over into the regular season.
(Statistics and analytics provided by Hockey Stat Cards)