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Blackhawks Rebuild Report: 2017 Draft Takes Jokiharju



The Chicago Blackhawks 2017 Draft netted them a couple good players in terms of potential. But one wouldn’t make it a full season and the other is now on the bubble.

Chicago Hockey Now continues the Rebuild Report series with the 2017 Draft, looking at how the foundation was either helped or hampered by the lack of draft choices making it to the big club.

To set the stage, the graph below comes from the well written Dobber Prospects piece  that focuses on the success of draft picks by round in the draft.  This is where our story starts.

Photo from Dobber Prospects – 5/16/20 article by Jokke Nevalainen

One change–as we draw closer to the present season, a number of the players will either still be in the system, potentially not even signed to an entry-level deal yet. As you’ll see with the 2017 draft, there are some still in the system. Now, the focus changes slightly into a where are they now or did they even make it to the big club? Beyond that, we’ll still look at the numbers in lieu of what the percentages usually bear out.

Chicago Blackhawks 2017 Draft Primer

2017 would be the final season the Blackhawks made the playoffs as a contender, and beyond that, they would only make the playoffs one more time in the next six seasons. But the interesting thing is that out of all the players taken in the 2017 Draft, only Ian Mitchell and Jakub Galvas remain in the system. Not even Jokiharu, Chicago’s only first-round pick in the prior three seasons stayed with the team for very long. In fact, they only snagged a first-round pick because the Draft was in Chicago that year and they brought out Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to make the selection.

Unfortunately for Chicago, the excitement and anticipation would begin and end there. As written about with the look back to the 2016-17 season in the previous series, it truly was the marker of when things started to get away from Chicago’s front office.

29th overall pick (1st round) – Henri Jokiharju (D)
Where is he now? Buffalo via trade

Jokiharju was supposed to be an upgrade and another in a line of defensemen who would step in and take over for the aging Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Even better, he could be brought along and mentored by them. It never had a chance to come to fruition. After a terrific 2017-18 season in Portland, Jokiharju started with the big club in 2018. He was in Rockford for almost the majority of the second half of the season.  By July 2019, he was traded to Buffalo for Alex Nylander.

He hasn’t exactly set the world afire in Buffalo. Injuries have limited him to a career high of only 69 games in a single season. Many of the same frustrations that bubbled up in Chicago have been voiced in Buffalo. Though a late first round pick, Jokiharju was projected by many to be a top four pairing as he progressed. It hasn’t happened. So it’s not as if they gave up too early on him. But the Nylander deal never worked out and it’s likely that Jokiharju is a third pairing defenseman wherever he goes.

57th overall pick (2nd round) – Ian Mitchell (D)
Where is he now? Chicago

Already profiled at CHN, Mitchell is the guy who many have given up on amongst pundits and fans. Once the promising defenseman they hoped would be a staple of the blue line, Mitchell’s future with the organization is in question.

70th overall pick (3rd round) – Andrei Altybarmakyan (RW)
Where is he now? The KHL

94 games in Rockford but Altybarmakyan headed to the KHL for 2022-23.

90th overall pick (3rd round) – Evan Barratt (C)
Where is he now? Philadelphia organization – ECHL

Bounced around with Rockford for 92 games–ended up being traded to Phladelphia this year and finished the year with Reading of the ECHL.

112th overall pick (4th round) – Tim Soderlund (C/LW)
Where is he now? Czech League

Played 52 games for Rockford before being sent over to Edmonton in the Duncan Keith trade. For that, he was brought in some value but it isn’t as if it was a major game changer. He did, however, help bring Caleb Jones in which helped Chicago secure Seth Jones’ services via trade.

119th overall pick (4th round) – Roope Laavainen (D)
Where is he now? Sweden

Never made it to North America.

144th overall pick (5th round) – Parker Foo (LW)
Where is he now? KHL

Foo never made it to the Blackhawks system, going right from college to the KHL.

150th overall pick (6th round) – Jakub Galvas (D)
Where is he now? Rockford

Six games with Blackhawks in 2021-22, and spent the last two seasons with Rockford. Currently an RFA with arbitration rights.

215th overall pick (7th round) – Josh Ess (D)
Where is he now? Out of Hockey

Ess played at the University of Wisconsin for five seasons but concluded his hockey career there.

2016 Draft By The Numbers and Final Thoughts

  • Hit Percentage (out of 8 picks with at least 99 NHL games): 12.5%
  • Number of total NHL games played with Chicago: 38 (Jokiharju); 82 (Mitchell); 6 (Galvis)
  • Number of total NHL games excluding Chicago: 235 (Jokiharju)
  • Total Cumulative NHL games: 361

So for those keeping score at home, the breakdown so far of cumulative NHL games beyond 99 is this:

  • 2015 – 48
  • 2016 – 514 (DeBrincat being 87.5% of those games)
  • 2017 – 361

Alex DeBrincat, a second round pick, has been the only true win for Chicago in three seasons of profiling drafts right now. 48.7% of the cumulative games played by Chicago picks in the NHL are DeBrincat’s.

Some of this has to do with where they picked in the draft. But some of it also has to do with the selections that then general manager Stan Bowman was making. The hit rate of guys playing over 99 games in the NHL will rise as the selections creep higher on the draft board. But there’s the rub–it only increases as the team gets worse. In theory, of course. Mitchell is close enough to bump up that hit percentage but he’s still 18 games short of the metric.

Something to watch as the Davidson era really takes hold–how well will his picks do across the board? There’s a lot of hope, but sometimes prospects are overvalued just a bit much.

2018 will bring a couple who get over the 99 games mark. But interestingly again, their 2018 first-round pick will be dealt to acquire another former first-round pick before he can even get fully settled in Chicago.

Previous Rebuild Report Draft Pick Series: 2015 Draft – Swing and a Miss | 2016 Draft – Delightfully Drafting DeBrincat