The Buffalo Sabres decided to improve their defensive depth on Tuesday by acquiring defenseman Henri Jokiharju from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forward Alexander Nylander.
Jokiharju was taken 29th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and is developing into an offensive-minded, mobile right-handed blueliner. Following the draft, he put up 71 points in 63 games with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and finished his junior career with 119 points in 134 WHL games before making the jump to the pros last season.
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Following his NHL debut with Chicago during the 2018-19 campaign, he registered 12 assists in 38 games for the Blackhawks. The 20-year-old Finn split last season with the Rockford IceHogs (AHL) and had 17 points in 30 games in the minors, good for 0.57 points per game on average. The 6-0, 192-pound blueliner also impressed on the international stage, winning gold with Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship and men’s world championship.
“Henri is a young, mobile defenseman who has shown he can compete at the NHL level,” Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said in a press release. “His international success last season only furthered his development and we are excited to add him to our current group of defenseman.”
The 20-year-old Finn joins an already-deep Buffalo defense corps, which features Jake McCabe and Rasmus Dahlin on the top-4 right side. With this move, the Sabres are able to bolster their blueline and add more scoring on defense – which could indicate that Rasmus Ristolainen could be on his way out as well.
The Blackhawks will benefit from the addition of Nylander, a promising young forward who went eighth overall in the 2016 draft. The 21-year-old is still working on making the full-time jump to the NHL and had four points in 12 games with Buffalo last season and netted 12 goals and 31 points in 49 games with the Rochester Americans (AHL).
Chicago may have lost a promising defensive prospect, but in return, they get a versatile winger who can play the left or right side and is still developing his all-around game; he is expected to become a secondary scorer with a lot of upside.
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