At the beginning of his tenure in the NHL, Olli Jokinen was a tremendously talented offensive prospect. Now in the twilight of his career, he’s nothing more than a journeyman.
Selected by Los Angeles with the third overall pick in the 1997 draft, Jokinen was viewed as a can’t-miss center who was expected to be the cornerstone of the franchise for many years to come. Fortunately for the Kings, they realized early on that the assessment of the youngster was well off the mark.
After a little more than one season, Los Angeles was fortunate enough to find a taker for Jokinen, who on June 20, 1999 was shipped clear across the country to the New York Islanders in a package that brought back a group of players that included Ziggy Palffy. New York took even less time to figure things out, dealing Jokinen — as well as Roberto Luongo — to the Florida Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha nearly a year to the day it acquired him.
Jokinen recorded only 11 goals and 21 points in 82 games with the Islanders and produced even less in his first season in Florida, registering a mere six tallies and 10 assists in 78 contests. He was slightly better in 2001-02, notching nine goals and 29 points in 80 games.
To many’s surprise, Jokinen then began to turn his career around. He broke out for 36 goals and 29 assists in 2002-03 and finished with 58 points the following season after being named team captain.
The transformation took place after the Panthers brought in Mike Keenan to replace Terry Murray, who was critical of Jokinen during his time as coach. The native of Kuopio, Finland had three more productive campaigns with Florida, scoring 34 or more goals in each — including a career-high 39 in 2006-07.
Despite increasing his offensive numbers, Jokinen continued to fail to live up to expectations regarding leadership, as the Panthers missed the playoffs each of his seven seasons with the club. Although he was the franchise leader in goals, assists and points at the time, Jokinen again was traded — this time to the then Phoenix Coyotes.
He lasted only 57 games into the 2008-09 season in the desert before being dealt to the Calgary Flames, with whom he made the first, and only, postseason appearance of his career. Jokinen recorded 15 points in 19 contests with the Flames and added five in six playoff games before the shine faded from his star, as he began to return to his unproductive ways in 2009-10.
After being dealt to the New York Rangers later that campaign, Jokinen returned to Calgary as a free agent. He registered his final 20-goal season in 2011-12, scoring 23 to be exact, before spending the next two campaigns with the Winnipeg Jets.
The 2014-15 season was somewhat comical for Jokinen, as he had three goals and three assists in 48 games with the Nashville Predators before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who turned around and sent him to the St. Louis Blues after only six contests.
The 36-year-old finished the regular season with four goals and 10 points in 62 games and did not appear in a playoff contest for the Blues. It’s highly doubtful another NHL team will take a chance on the aging veteran, who — despite compiling 750 points in 1,231 career games – unfortunately was unable to fulfill his enormous potential.