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Cloquet-Esko-Carlton forward Jokinen commits to Mankato

Justin Jokinen of Carlton has days circled on his calendar in May and June, which probably will lead to being taken in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but making a commitment Tuesday to play hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato was also a highlight.

Justin Jokinen of Carlton has days circled on his calendar in May and June, which probably will lead to being taken in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but making a commitment Tuesday to play hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato was also a highlight.

The senior forward with Cloquet-Esko-Carlton the past three seasons expects to play with the Mavericks this fall.

"Mankato has a style that's fast and creative, and I thought it was a great fit for me," Jokinen said Wednesday. "I was expecting to play a year of junior hockey, but Mankato has a couple of forward spots open and wants me to come straight from high school, and I think I can handle that."

Jokinen, 18, was ratedNo. 60 among North American skaters in the Central Scouting Service Mid-Term Rankings. He may be among the invitees to the NHL's annual scouting combine in May in Toronto, and then could be selected as high as the second round in the Entry Draft on June 20-21 in Ottawa, Ontario.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Jokinen led CEC in scoring the past two seasons -- with51 points as a junior right winger and 43 points (22 goals and 21 assists) as a senior center.

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"He has tremendous talent, especially his skating and shooting, and a fluid stride, and he's going to just keep getting better," CEC coach Dave Esse said. "Just in three high school seasons he's gotten better, and better, and better, and he has so much potential."

Jokinen was contacted by a number of Division I colleges, including Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and Wisconsin, but talked most seriously with Mankato, Alaska Fairbanks and Mercyhurst. He didn't make any official recruiting visits.

He's believed to be the third student in Carlton High School history to earn a Division I athletic scholarship, following in the footsteps of Clay Wilson (a defenseman, who played at Michigan Tech from 2001-05), and Liz Palkie (a forward at Minnesota from 2004-06, and now a junior distance runner at UMD).

Jokinen has a 3.5 grade-point average and ranks in the top 10 scholastically in Carlton's senior class of 60. He was named to the 2008 News Tribune All-Area second team and was a Minnesota Mr. Hockey top-10 finalist.

Mankato lost junior left winger Jon Kalinski last month when he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. Jokinen expects to play right wing for the Mavericks.

"Actually, I was pretty excited for [Mankato's] team next year," Kalinski told the Mankato Free Press. "Obviously, it's a big dream of mine to go to the NHL. When I got the offer, I had to take it."

Mankato finished 19-16-4 this season, fourth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and just missed making the NCAA tournament.

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