Bombers’ Jokila Chasing NHL Dream

By Marc Katz
Dayton Daily News

FAIRBORN, Ohio – Two years ago, when he was playing for Lukko Rauma in the Finnish Elite League, then 19-year-old Janne Jokila was strictly a fourth-line player who appeared in 40 games, scoring a single goal and three total points.

He was coming off a broken ankle and he was a younger player on an older team in his native land.

“It’s like any league where they want to win,” Dayton Bombers coach Jamie Ling said. “They put the older guys in. And, they figured if they developed Janne, he’d leave anyway.”

Jokila said as much. His goal has been to play in the National Hockey League, and he figured the best route to that goal was to play in North America. That’s why he’s with the ECHL Bombers.

“I want to play here (in the National Hockey League) in the future,” Jokila said following a practice this week. “I thought it would be better to play here. I got used to it last year in the United States Hockey League (a junior league) when I played in Omaha, Neb.”

Jokila caught on quickly. He scored 16 goals and 38 points in 52 games with River City (in Omaha) and, as a 2000 round 7 draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, was invited to their training camp this year.

He did well enough, but needed more experience. Sent to Syracuse of the American Hockey League, he was also impressive, but the Blue Jackets decided they wanted to see him play a regular shift in the ECHL first.

In Dayton’s opening game, Jokila assisted on all three goals in the Bombers’ 5-3 loss.

“If I can play here a lot, I can play better,” Jokila said. “It’s always good when you get a lot of ice time. I was on a good line my first game. I feel bad we lost, but we’ve got a lot of games left.”

Ling has only praise for the 5-foot-10, 174-pounder.

“He’s really shined offensively,” Ling said. “He’s real skilled and a good skater. He said to me, ‘Hey, if you see something (I can improve), let me know.’ “He could have gone back to Finland and made more money, but he figures the best way to the NHL is playing over here.”

It’s also the best way to help the Bombers.