Jussi Jokinen was a quiet, yet consistent performer during his first season with the Panthers. In this player spotlight, we’ll take a look at how the veteran Finnish forward helped boost the Panthers into playoff contention this past season.
The Panthers acquired Jussi Jokinen when the free-agency signing period began on July 1st, 2014 after he played 91 regular season games with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jokinen started the season on the Panthers’ top line with 19-year-old Aleksander Barkov and 21-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau. However, after the line produced a total of just 1 point (a goal by Huberdeau) over the Panthers’ first three games, Huberdeau was moved to the 2nd line in favor of Jimmy Hayes. Jokinen, Barkov, and Hayes played on the top line for the next two games but still failed to produce a point. Jokinen was then moved down to the 2nd line for the Panthers’ game against Colorado with Brandon Pirri and Tomas Fleischmann. It was that night when Jokinen tallied his first two points as a Panthers, with the first being a feed to Pirri in the slot and the second being a secondary assist on the overtime winner. He would go on to play most of the season with Nick Bjugstad and Jimmy Hayes.
Jokinen would score his first goal of the season four games later on the last night of a 5-game point streak, and it came against Boston on a one-timer from the slot, giving the Panthers the lead. Jokinen had a four-game point streak from November 11th to November 18th during which he picked up a goal and 5 assists with 4 of those assists coming as pairs in back-to-back games. He went pointless in the following 4 games before being forced to miss a game for the first and only time this season due to an illness. Seven games later, Jokinen scored his 3rd goal of the season once again on a one-timer from a great cross-ice feed by Dave Bolland. One of the more memorable moments of Jokinen’s season came on December 16th when he scored an incredible goal in the record-setting 20-round shootout against the Capitals. After Alex Ovechkin scored for the Capitals in the 4th round, Jokinen kept the Panthers alive in the shootout with a one-handed goal as he fell over goaltender Brayden Holtby.
Jokinen tied the game with a goal against his former team on December 28th when Pittsburgh came to town and would have a season high 30 shifts and 21:18 minutes of ice-time that night. He would go on to have his 4th two-assist game of the season the following game against Toronto and had yet another one 7 games later against Edmonton. After scoring his 4th goal on December 22nd, Jokinen scored his 5th on February 17th against Toronto on another one-timer thanks to a Brad Boyes pass. Boyes also assisted on Jokinen’s 6th goal of the season three games later against Chicago with an incredible no-look cross-ice pass which Jokinen was able to slide past Scott Darling. He also had his first and only three-point night when he notched three assists in the Panthers’ 5-3 win over the Sabres on February 28th. He had his 2nd four-game point streak of the season from March 5th to March 14th, and his 8th goal of the season gave the Panthers a huge two-goal lead in a pivotal game against the Senators on March 29th.
Jokinen closed out the season with 3 points (all assists) in his last five games giving him a total of 8 goals and 36 assists in 81 games played which was good for 2nd on the Panthers in points (44). The Panthers signed Jokinen with the hope that he’d infuse some offense into the team, and it’s pretty safe to say he got the job done for the most part. Since he’s not a prolific goal scorer and with the Panthers not being an offensive juggernaut, it wasn’t likely that he’d get too close to the 21 goal mark which he reached with the Penguins last season or the 30 goal mark he reached with the Hurricanes during the 2009-10 season. However, what he was able to do was to generate offense which is evidenced by the fact that he was 2nd on the team, behind Jonathan Huberdeau, with 18 primary assists and also 2nd on the team, behind Ekblad, with 16 secondary assists. For the most part, Jokinen is a pass-first player, although he is able to shoot the puck well when he has the opportunity to do so. He had several chances this season where he should’ve taken a shot but decided to pass instead, so that would be one improvement he could look to make going into next season. Jokinen was expected to shine in the shootout as he’s been above average throughout his career in those situations, however he had just 2 shootout goals in 12 opportunities with his first coming in San Jose on November 20th and his second coming in the 20-rounder.
Overall, if there were two words to describe Jokinen in his first season as a Panthers, they would be “consistent” and “reliable.” He played in every situation for the Panthers and performed well in all of them. He won’t blow by you with speed or score with a fancy move every time, but he’ll quietly go about his business and get the job done.