Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Winterhawks Select Two in the CHL Import Draft

The Portland Winterhawks selected two players today in the 2016 CHL import draft. First, they selected 1999-born Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju with the 25th overall selection and then took 1998-born Danish winger Joachim Blichfeld with the 85th overall pick.
Henri Jokiharju

Jokiharju is a right shooting d-man, eligible for the 2017 NHL draft, out of Oulu, Finland. He is listed as 5'11" and 165 lbs and has produced offensively at every level he's played at. In 2013/14, for the Jokerit U16 team, he had 23 points in 32 games in the Jr.C SM-sarja league. He was named to the all star team in the league and earned a spot on a national U16 camp roster.

In the 2014/15 season, he had 30 points in 37 games for the Jokerit U18 team in the Jr. B SM-sarja league. He not only made that league's all-star team, he was actually named the best d-man in the league, winning the "Pekka Marjamaki" award.

Last season, during the 2015/16 campaign, Jokiharju was named to the Finnish U-18 squad at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He was one of only four 16-year-olds on the U-18 teams' roster and the only '99 born d-man there. The Finns had a great start to the tourney, winning their first three games, but ended up with a disappointing fourth-place finish. Jokiharju had two assists in the five tournament games. He then had 29 points in 47 games with the Tappara U20 squad, playing with much older players. Surprisingly, Jokiharju was named "Rookie of the Month" for February, 2016 and made the second all star team in Jr.ASM-liga as one of the youngest players in the league. Jokiharju then helped avenge the Ivan Hlinka disaster for the Finns, by helping the U18 team to a gold medal at the World Hockey Championships. He had three assists in the seven tournament games.

Not surprisingly, Jokiharju is already getting buzz as a possible first or second round pick in next June's NHL draft and could use a great season with Portland to help bolster his draft stock. If Portland is able to get him to sign and come over to the U.S., he looks to be a lock for the top-four defensive group and a possible fit as a power play quarterback. Since he is right handed, it looks like he could step in and essentially replace Jack Dougherty in a lot of ways. I am looking forward to seeing him play in August's Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where he, no doubt will take on a much larger role. He could be competing with Cody Glass at the tournament, as Glass is vying for a roster spot on Canada's U-18 team.

Here is a video of Jokiharju quarterbacking a power play for Tappara last year. He gets three shots on net in a matter of a minute and the rebound on one of them leads to a goal. 

With their second pick, Portland took Joachim Blichfeld, who was a seventh round selection (210th overall) in last weekend's NHL draft, by the San Jose Sharks. Blichfeld hails from Frederikshavn, Denmark and is listed as 6'2" and 176 lbs. He is also right handed and, at least form his stats, appears to be a sniper reminiscent of fellow Dane, Oliver Bjorkstrand. It looks like he rose in the ranks quickly on his local team, as a 16-year-old, back in 2013/14, playing first for Frederikshavn's U17 team, where he scored 27 goals and added 25 assists for 52 points in just 20 games and then for the U20 team, where he had 24 goals in 22 games (tops in the league). He also had 14 assists for 34 points overall. That same season, he had a point-a-game for the Danish National U-16 team.

In the 2014/15 season, Blichfeld played in the Swedish leagues for the Malmo Redhawks J18 and J20 teams, totaling 35 points in 39 games. He also competed internationally on the U-17 and U-18 teams that year for Denmark. At the U-18 World Junior Championships (Division 1A), he helped the Danes to a gold medal finish and thus advancement to the main U-18 WJCs.

Last season, he again split time between the Malmo Redhawks J18 and J20 teams, playing the most with the J20 team in Sweden's top U-20 junior league. He had 28 points in 45 games in that league. Blichfeld also added six points in seven games at the main U-18 World Junior Championships, where Denmark ended up getting relegated back to Division 1A, after falling to Latvia in game three of the best-of-three playoff by a 4-3 score. Despite his team's performance, Blichfeld tied for 12th overall in goal scoring in the tourney with four goals.  In this tournament, he played against some of the best international talent taken in last weekend's draft and thus proved he could score against the top players in the world in his age group.

Blichfeld, should he sign and come over to play, should be slotted in as a top-six forward somewhere in Portland's lineup. He could possibly give a great passer like Cody Glass, a sniper to feed. Blichfeld also seems likely to contend for a roster spot on Denmark's U-20 team at the 2017 World Junior Championships.

The Sharks have a nice recent history with international forwards (see Joonas Donskoi, Tomas Hertl, Nikolay Goldobin and Melker Karlsson) and so here's hoping this was yet another great find by them and thus one for the Winterhawks as well.

Historically, the Winterhawks have had success with Danish imports. Previously, they have taken Jannik Hansen, who is now with the Vancouver Canucks and, of course, Bjorkstrand, who will be trying to make the Columbus Blue Jackets out of camp next season. I believe, that Jokiharju is the very first Finnish player to be drafted by Portland in the CHL import draft.

-international stats taken from eliteprospects.com

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