Jokiharju impresses during Blackhawks scrimmage

Jokiharju impresses during Blackhawks scrimmage

By: John Dietz – Daily Herald

Reading too much into an intrasquad scrimmage is a dangerous proposition, but several players definitely stood out during the Blackhawks’ Training Camp Festival at the United Center on Saturday.

Chief among them were defensemen Henri Jokiharju and Erik Gustafsson, as well as forwards Dylan Sikura and Victor Ejdsell.

Jokiharju, paired with Duncan Keith, looked awfully comfortable during his team’s 4-3 overtime victory. The 19-year-old showed off a quick, accurate shot, proved he can carry the puck with authority in any zone and he isn’t afraid to mix it up in the tough areas where so many games are won and lost.

“He’s quick (to) the loose pucks, he comes out of it in tight areas and there’s a direct play to be made from it,” said coach Joel Quenneville. “That’s a great way to avoid forechecking or getting out of your zone. …

“I like the fact that he wants the puck in some areas where some defensemen don’t want it.”

Jokiharju, drafted 29th overall in 2017, increased his point production with Portland (WHL) from 48 in 71 games in 2016-17 to 71 in 63 games in 2017-18. He clearly has an impressive offensive mind, but making sure he takes care of things in the D zone — especially in the NHL — is a point Quenneville, Keith and others figure to pound home quite often.

“(You’ve got to know), hey, it’s not just one way,” Quenneville said. “If the risk doesn’t outweigh what you’re creating, it’s not a good balance.

“Defensively, I thought he was pretty adequate. He’s playing with Duncs, and he’s certainly helped him in a lot of ways.”

Count Jonathan Toews as one of many who have been impressed after two days of camp.

Said Toews: “He’s smart, he’s skilled. … He’s shown in a lot of ways he’s ready to go and will make a pretty good run at trying to secure a job on our team.”

As for Sikura and Ejdsell, they made all of their noise late as the duo hooked up for Team Red’s final 2 goals. Sikura one-timed a shot home after a perfect pass from Ejdsell with 15.5 seconds remaining to tie the game at 3-3. Sikura then notched the game-winner, again on an assist from Ejdsell, at 3:13 of overtime.

Kevin Lankinen, meanwhile, was awfully impressive in net. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Finnish product, who signed with the Hawks in May, stymied Patrick Kane in OT and made several other amazing stops.

“Unbelievable,” Quenneville said. “Tremendous saves.”

Team Red’s other goals came from Jordan Schroeder and Matthew Highmore. Team White got goals Kane, Gustafsson and David Kampf.