Carlton senior Justin Jokinen's play has teams calling
Rick Weegman Duluth News Tribune - 12/20/2007 Justin Jokinen has dreamed about playing NCAA Division I hockey for quite some time, so he even surprised himself when he recently turned down a pair of scholarship offers. Mercyhurst and Alaska-Fairb...
Duluth News Tribune - 12/20/2007
Justin Jokinen has dreamed about playing NCAA Division I hockey for quite some time, so he even surprised himself when he recently turned down a pair of scholarship offers.
Mercyhurst and Alaska-Fairbanks each offered the Carlton senior a scholarship to play college hockey, but he declined with the hopes of landing a spot on a Western Collegiate Hockey Association team.
"I never expected anything like that to happen," Jokinen said. "I thought I would take the first one offered."
Those probably won't be the last offers coming his way. The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton first-line center has six goals and four assists for the Lumberjacks (4-2-1) and is considered a mid-level 2008 NHL Entry Draft prospect by the NHL Central Scouting Service.
CEC coach Dave Esse esti-mates between 30 and 40 NHL scouts have watched the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Jokinen play this year.
"Offensively, he runs our team," Esse said. "Justin is capable of going to a higher level."
He's already proved that, evidenced by the Division I offers. But after sitting down with his parents, he decided he didn't want to head to Mercyhurst's campus in Erie, Pa., or to the far reaches of the Western Hemisphere in Fair-banks. Now he has to decide which other university would be a better fit -- and which path to take. A majority of college recruits play at least a year in the United States Hockey League.
"Personally, I'd like to play one year of juniors in order to develop as a better player in the long run," said Jokinen, whose development has been steady throughout high school. He had 22 goals and 23 assists during the 2006-07 regular season. In his first breakthrough this season, he notched a hat trick in a 4-2 win over Duluth East on Dec. 13.
"Justin was a man amongst boys on my team [in that game]," Esse said.
Jokinen's linemates won't argue with that assessment -- they see what he can do every shift of every game.
"I think he's one of the best players in the state," senior right winger Josh Ermatinger said.
Jokinen's left winger, Ja-mie Godbout, agrees.
"You have someone who can really move the puck," Godbout said. "He's an all-around player and a big kid who is really confident in anything he does."
Jokinen, Ermatinger and Godbout attend Carlton High School, giving the Lumberjacks the rarity of an all-Carlton first line on their three-school cooperative.
"It's pretty sweet," Jokinen said. "We're in a lot of the same classes, and that way we get to talk about the game."
More often than not, the way this season's gone, that talk probably revolves around Jokinen. College and pro scouts already are talking about him.
* Cloquet-Esko-Carlton's game against Buffalo will be televised at 7:15 p.m. today on FSN (Charter cable channel 37). It marks the only appear-ance on FSN this season by a Northland hockey team.
RICK WEEGMAN covers prep boys hockey for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or at firstname.lastname@example.org