Sabres pick Carlton's Jokinen
By: Rick Weegman , Duluth News Tribune
Justin Jokinen’s first encounter with the Buffalo Sabres was a little scary.
When the Carlton senior traveled to Toronto for an NHL combine May 27, he met with several pro hockey teams, including the Sabres, who interviewed him in a get-to-know-you-better session.
“When I first walked in the room with Buffalo, I was a little nervous,” Jokinen recalled Saturday after being selected by the Sabres in the fourth round of the NHL Entry Draft. “There were 11 guys in there with laptops and cameras.”
The interview apparently went fine, however, as the Sabres selected the 6-foot-3, 185-pound right winger with the 101st overall pick.
“I felt comfortable with them and they felt the same about me,” he said.
Jokinen watched the entire draft from the Cloquet home of former Cloquet-Esko-Carlton teammate Reid Ellingson, who has the NHL Network on a satellite service. Jokinen said a Sabres team official called him shortly before he saw his name announced on TV.
Jokinen said Buffalo wanted him to attend an eight-day rookie minicamp starting Tuesday, but since that would interfere with his graduation party he’ll miss the camp with the Sabres’ blessing.
He scored 21 goals and totaled 43 points his senior season, statistics falling slightly below those of his junior year. Despite that, the Lumberjacks reached the Minnesota Class AA high school state tournament and Jokinen was a Mr. Hockey finalist. Coach Dave Esse says Jokinen played a big role in that success.
“If we don’t have Justin, it’s a whole ’nother dimension on our team,” he said.
Esse believes Jokinen, who signed a scholarship tender with Minnesota State-Mankato and will play for the Mavericks this fall, will fit in nicely when he eventually joins the Sabres organization.
“Just to be drafted is an honor, and I wish him the best,” Esse said. “The ball — or the puck I guess you could say — is in his court. He can go as far as he wants to take it.”
Dallas Stars scout Bob Gernander, who lives in Bovey, watched Jokinen play on numerous occasions and came away impressed.
“He has a lot assets you need, such as speed and size, and he’s very good with his hands,” Gernander said. “I think he will be a skilled player and have a good future.
“They got a guy with a lot more potential than a lot of people think.”
* Roseau defenseman Aaron Ness was taken 40th overall with the New York Islanders’ second pick of the second round. He was the second Minnesotan taken, following Minnetonka defenseman Jake Gardiner’s first-round selection Friday by the Anaheim Ducks.
* Other Minnesota high school players drafted Saturday were: Corey Fienhage, an Eastview defenseman, taken 81st by Buffalo; Brainerd defenseman Drew Olson, taken 118th by Columbus; and Edina defenseman Joe Gleason, taken 192nd by Chicago.
RICK WEEGMAN covers prep hockey for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.