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What Jussi Is What You Get

by Steve Werier / Florida Panthers

Newly acquired left wing Jussi Jokinen, known for his brilliant vision, playmaking, creativity and spectacular shootout moves, brings to the Panthers a toolbox of skills that is firmly etched in the upper echelon of talent in the NHL.

A sixth round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2001 NHL Draft held in Sunrise, Jokinen spent four full seasons in Finland’s SM-liiga before joining Dallas prior to the 2005-2006 NHL season. The wait proved well worth it, as the 5-foot-11 winger registered 31 goals and 103 points over the course of his first two seasons with the Stars. He also logged over 350 minutes of power-play ice time as a rookie, a rarity for a freshman and a testament to his prowess on the man advantage (more on that later).

Finnishing Moves

Jokinen found the back of the net 21 times last season as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, which would have been good for a first place tie on the Panthers. Showing he can excel under pressure, Jokinen also fired home seven goals in 10 playoff games. Over the course of his last four full NHL seasons (excluding the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign), Jokinen has scored 82 goals. For those who might think his production was a product of playing on a line with center Evgeni Malkin, it is worth noting that Jokinen’s highest single season goal output (30) occurred in 2009-2010 as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Jokinen has proven himself to be particularly potent when his team has an extra skater on the ice. Since the 2009-2010 season, Jokinen’s 30 power-play goals are good for sixth place among active left wingers age 33 or younger. The only players ranked above him are perennial all-stars and household names: Alex Ovechkin, Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek, James Neal and Daniel Sedin. He sits above the likes of Rick Nash, Max Pacioretty and Milan Lucic, putting him in good company to say the least.

Jokinen doesn’t only improve a power-play. As analyst Mike Colligan has aptly pointed out, he can transform a PP unit altogether.

As Colligan notes, the Penguins, after picking up Jokinen, adopted a power-play formation very similar to that used by the Finnish national team, which Jokinen has been a part of for years. Colligan refers to it as the Finnish Breakout. And while the formation itself requires a few X’s and O’s to explain the evidence of its success is very clear.

Check out Jokinen fly down the wing to bang home a PP marker here:

And see him speed right through the entire New Jersey penalty killing unit to break in and score another beauty here:

With a cadre of Finnish teammates in Florida that include possible power-play running mates Aleksander Barkov and Sean Bergenheim, we could very well be in store for some Finnish Breakout magic next season.  Either way, Jokinen should help revitalize the Cats’ PP.

Suomi Shootouts

Thanks to Jokinen, shootouts in Sunrise next season will be chalk full of fireworks. While Brad Boyes currently wears the crown as the NHL’s shootout king, Jokinen is not far behind. Among all active players who have taken over 50 shootout attempts, Jokinen ranks fourth overall. To say the Panthers will have the best 1-2 shootout punch in the league is not unreasonable. And in an Eastern Conference where fifth and 11th place were separated by just eight points last season (and where the fifth place team, the New York Rangers, would ultimately advance to the Stanley Cup Final) the importance of stacking one’s odds for those skills competitions where an extra point is up for grabs is profound.

Not convinced Jokinen’s shootout success rate is a product of his skills? Watch this:

A Mentor to a Meteoric Talent

Last season was Aleksander Barkov’s first year in North America, and his first playing in the National Hockey League. Though you wouldn’t haven’t known it by watching him play, even the best and most well-adjusted young players need time to adjust to a new language, environment and culture. The addition of Jokinen, a fellow Finn and a seasoned NHL veteran, should help accelerate Barkov’s further acclimatization to the pro ranks. Barkov’s own reaction to the Jokinen signing was evident by his comment that adding Jokinen was “dream come true”.

For a Panthers organization that sees Barkov as a cornerstone center for years to come, surrounding him with players that he is comfortable with and who can help show him the tricks of the trade is a more than worthwhile investment. The investment may very well pay further dividends if the countrymen can work magic together as linemates.

“Everyone saw last season how great player Barkov is and will be,” Jokinen said. “I sat next to him at the Winter Olympics and got to know him little better. I played last year a lot with Malkin and I see lots of similarities with Barkov and Malkin. Hopefully we have chance to play together and produce.”

A Solid Deal

At 31-years old, Jokinen is in the prime of his career. The Panthers were able to sign Jokinen for the next four years, which should be a very sound move given his career output and recent on-ice success. With a Panthers roster littered with young top-six forward caliber talent still on affordable entry level deals (Barkov, Bjugstad, Huberdeau), the Jokinen signing works for the club both on and off the ice, which is a must in today’s NHL.

For Panthers fans excited to watch the team’s flashy Finnish acquisition, October cannot come soon enough. That excitement is reciprocated by Jokinen who has been impressed with Florida’s young talent and the team’s direction.

“I have lots of faith in the new ownership group, Dale Tallon and the coaching staff,” Jokinen said. “I am confident that this team is going to right direction. To have young guys like Barkov, Huberdeau, Ekblad, Gudbranson, Bjugstad and others was a big factor too. They have huge potential to be star players in this league.”

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