Over the next six weeks or so, we'll be counting down the Top 20 prospects in the Dallas Stars system -- leading up the NHL Entry Draft.
Defenseman / Ilves - SM-Liiga
August 20, 1991
Hometown: Tampere, Finland
Drafted: 7th Round, 195th overall, 2011
|2009-10 - Ilves U20 - Jr. A SM Liiga||38||3||12||15||--||77|
|2010-11 - Ilves - SM Liiga||48||1||8||9||+5||18|
|2011-12 - Ilves - SM Liiga||52||9||8||17||-4||18|
Last summer the Dallas Stars made some noise in the NHL Entry Draft when they selected mammoth defenseman Jamie Oleksiak in the first round. In the fifth round the Stars drafted another big defenseman, Troy Vance, and it was clear the Stars were looking to retool their blueline corps with big, mobile defensemen that could offset some of the smaller guys the team had been targeting for the few years prior. This was after taking Patrik Nemeth in the 2010 draft as well.
As the Stars approached the seventh round in 2011, they decided to use their final pick on a European player that had gotten some pre-draft consideration from scouts yet had fallen all the way to the seventh round. Jyrki Jokipakka, a skilled defenseman out of Finland, represented a player with the potential to become a decent all-around blueliner with good upside - especially for a seventh round pick.
Besides having the best name of all Stars prospects, Jokipakka is exactly the type of low-risk, high-reward players that teams covet in the later rounds. After another full season in Finland, it's seems the scouts may have found another gem.
More after the jump..
Jokipakka was one of the older players drafted in 2011 (he's 21 already), so while he's following the development curve of most prospects that are drafted he's going to be older than most at his level. Jokipakka had played at various levels of the Finnish juniors before heading full time to the top league in Finland in 2010 to play for Ilves, a team that has struggled the past few years.
In 2010-11, Jokipakka enjoyed an increased role on his team and by the midpoint of the season was averaging the most ice time of any defenseman despite playing on the second pairing. While he finished the season with just 17 points, it's important to remember that Ilves did not have a good team this season (last in SM-Liiga) and despite the low total, he was the leading defenseman on the team.
What stands out about Jokipakka is his intelligence, positioning and awareness on the ice. He rarely makes mistakes and took just nine penalties all season long, despite playing significant time on special teams and his minus-4 rating at even strength was the best on his team among defensemen. He's not just defensively sound as he possesses a hard shot that he's not afraid to unleash, averaging nearly three shots per game this past season.
Before the 2011-12 season, the knock on Jokipakka was that he didn't have enough offense to his game -- especially considering he's likely to be more of a "defensive" defenseman in North America. Yet he took a good step this year in showing he at least has the skill to move the puck, as he garnered high praise for his ability to get the puck out of the zone as well as being able to move the puck effectively on the power play. He's not a physical player, by most counts, instead relying on his supreme hockey sense and positioning to do the work for him.
Jokipakka has played for Finland in the Junior World Championships last year, and there was some thought that he could be invited to play at the World Championships this summer as well. Despite the strong season, Finland chose to not invite the young defenseman. The Stars could elect to allow him to continue to get valuable minutes in Finland next year, but it will be interesting to see how quickly he makes the jump to North American hockey.
Patrick Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak are both expected to be in the AHL next season but Jokipakka has not been mentioned. Philip Larsen, after being drafted in 2008, played two full seasons in the SEL before making the jump to North American hockey. Perhaps one more season will be good for the youngster and with the Stars having at least a few promising young blueliners moving up, there's no need to rush him.
At the very least, Jokipakka seems to be a player who can develop into a solid defenseman at the AHL level who won't make many mistakes and will contribute offensively when needed.