AHL assignment the latest move for Henri Jokiharju in his rookie year with the Blackhawks

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NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 17: Henri Jokiharju #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2019 in New York City. The New York Rangers won 4-3. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – When the season started, he was viewed as one of the players who could enjoy a breakout first season in the National Hockey League.

But a coaching change, a trip to the Junior National Championship, and some first year struggles have now led to a step that Henri Jokiharju may not have seen coming back in October: Some time in the American Hockey League instead of the NHL.

That’s where the defenseman is heading after the team sent him to Rockford on Thursday, completing an unusual two months between the Blackhawks, the Finnish National Team, and now the IceHogs.

The team’s first round draft pick in 2017 was playing heavier minutes in the first 15 games when Joel Qunneville was still the head coach. At the end of October, he was +4 with seven assists, but when Jeremy Colliton took over, Jokiharju’s minutes started to fall.

He failed to play in more than 20 minutes in his final seven games before being loaned to the Finland National team for the Junior World Championship. He helped the team to a Gold Medal victory, then returned to the Blackhawks on January 9th.

Jokiharju played under 17 minutes in the next five games with a -4 rating with one assist before being sent down. With a number of other defensemen earning more time, the decision was made to send him to Rockford, continuing an unusual year for the promising rookie defenseman.

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