In June 2000, the New York Islanders traded Olli Kokinen along with goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Florida Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha. Jokinen would define his career as a Panther and set a new standard for the future. After seven seasons, he left his mark in South Florida as one of the greatest to ever don the Panther jersey.
Drafted third overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1997 NHL Draft, Jokinen played there for only two seasons before he was traded to the Islanders. Like in LA, his time on Long Island was short-lived, and he was traded to the Panthers after just one season.
He struggled in his first two seasons in South Florida, only notching 37 points (15 goals, 30 assists) in 158 games. However, he blossomed in his third season. In 2002-03, he scored 65 points (36 goals, 29 assists) through 81 games and was named Florida’s representative at the 2003 All-Star Game. He was named captain the following season, the fifth in Panthers history.
In the 2006-07 season, he reached his highest point total to date with 91 (39 goals, 52 assists) through a full 82-game schedule, which ranked fourth in goals and points in a single season in franchise history. He was not as successful the following season with 71 points (34 goals, 37 points) through another full campaign. Unfortunately, that was his last in a Panther uniform as he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2008 NHL Draft for Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton, and a second-round selection in that same draft.
He left Florida with the most goals in franchise history at 188, the most game-winning goals with 36, fifth in games played with 567, fourth in assists with 231, second in power-play goals with 65, and tied for fourth in shorthanded goals with eight.
After small stints with the Coyotes, Calgary Flames, New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and St. Louis Blues, he returned home to retire a Panther. He finished his NHL career with 750 points (321 goals, 429 assists) through 1,231 games. This also includes five points (two goals, three assists) in five postseason games with the Flames. Given his talent, it’s a shame he did not see as much playoff action as his career deserved.
Today, he still has an impact on the hockey community with the South Florida Hockey Academy, a hockey clinic he started to help grow the sport in what is considered a small market. He is also a coach for Liiga’s Jukurit, the Finnish league where he started his career in 1995.
Jokinen made his mark by setting franchise records and having some of the best seasons of his career. While he was placed in the Den of Honor in the BB&T Center, he should have his number raised to the rafters along with Luongo. He loved being a Panther and wanted to make an impact on the sport in South Florida.
“My heart has always been with the Panthers organization and now I feel like my career has come full circle,” Jokinen said. “I am extremely grateful that I had the chance to play hockey in South Florida and help the sport grow.”Olli Jokinen after announcing his retirement
While other players have since broken his records, such as the team’s current Finnish captain, Aleksander Barkov, Jokinen built the foundation that has helped players succeed within the organization and in the NHL. While his history with the club may be short, he deserves to be on the Mount Rushmore of Panther legends.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!