Chicago Blackhawks' coach Colliton wasn't down on Jokiharju

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Defenseman Henri Jokiharju, who was traded by the Blackhawks to Buffalo last week, still drew praise from Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton on Wednesday.

    Defenseman Henri Jokiharju, who was traded by the Blackhawks to Buffalo last week, still drew praise from Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton on Wednesday. ASSOCIATES PRESS

 
 
Updated 7/17/2019 9:47 PM

Despite what some might see as evidence to the contrary, coach Jeremy Colliton said he isn't -- and wasn't -- down on former Blackhawks defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

"Not at all," Colliton said before the Hawks opened Day 3 of their development camp at Fifth Third Arena on Wednesday. "I mean he played half a season as a teenager in the NHL."

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True. But Jokiharju, drafted 29th overall by GM Stan Bowman in 2017 and traded to Buffalo last week, began last season playing 20-25 minutes a night with Duncan Keith and then saw his ice time plummet almost immediately after Colliton was named head coach on Nov. 6.

He was then loaned to Team Finland for the IIHF World Juniors in December and eventually demoted to Rockford on Jan. 31.

Jokiharju ended up playing 38 games for the Blackhawks and 30 for the IceHogs.

Echoing Bowman's thoughts in April, Colliton said Jokiharju may not have been on the Hawks in the first place if not for injuries to Connor Murphy and Gustav Forsling.

Said Colliton: "Probably in a perfect world we wouldn't have had to put him in that position, where he could have been in Rockford and able to really be playing the role that hopefully he can play down the road as being a top-pair D. … There's no reason he can't be an excellent player."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Colliton said he offered input on the trade that brought forward Alex Nylander to the Hawks, but that ultimately Bowman made the final call.

"I'm excited to get a chance to work with Alex," Colliton said of the No. 8 pick of the 2016 draft. "Seems like a great kid. He's played three years pro already and he's just barely in his 20s. Lot of offensive ability and upside. He's got a great shot."

What's the Delia?

Heading into this off-season, it looked like Collin Delia would back up Corey Crawford in 2019-20. But the free-agent signing of Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5 million contract means Delia, who signed a three-year deal late last season, will be back in Rockford.

"We think the world of him that he's going to be an excellent goalie," said Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton. "But we had an opportunity to add a guy like Robin (and) he's going to make the team better. He can carry a load. He's going to add competition to that spot.

"In the end it's all about winning, and I think everybody understands that."

In 14 games with the Hawks, Delia went 6-4-3 with a .908 save percentage and 3.61 goals-against average.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Understandable:

The Blackhawks believe Ian Mitchell is ready to face pro competition right now.

The 20-year-old defenseman, however, is not going to sign with the Hawks just yet and will return to the University of Denver for his junior season.

GM Stan Bowman said he respects the decision, calling Mitchell "an impressive kid."

The Hawks are short on right-shot defensemen, so Mitchell could have helped in that regard. But Bowman didn't want to pressure the former second-round pick if he wasn't ready.

"He has to believe in what he's doing and it's not for us to try to talk him in and out of things," Bowman said. "Wherever he is, we're going to support him. But he's ready to be a pro right now. With a year in college as a dominant player, he'll be even more ready to be a pro."

Getting closer?

With the Hawks having cleared $1.3 million in cap space after dealing Artem Anisimov to Ottawa for Zack Smith on Tuesday, GM Stan Bowman said he expects negotiations with restricted free agent Brendan Perlini "to pick up." Perlini, acquired along with Dylan Strome last season in the Nick Schmaltz trade with Arizona, had 12 goals and 3 assists in 46 games with the Hawks.

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