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Photo Credit: Aaron Bell / OHL Images

What Should the Canucks do With Olli Juolevi Next Season?

On Tuesday night the Erie Otters and the London Knights clashed in Game 7 of their second-round series of the OHL playoffs.

The Otters came away with the victory after Carolina Hurricanes prospect Warren Foegele buried his chance behind Tyler Parsons at 10:40 of the first overtime.

From a Canucks perspective, this puts an end to top prospect Olli Juolevi’s season. Finishing with three goals and five assists in 14 OHL playoff games, Juolevi was a workhorse for the Knights. Canucks general manager Jim Benning stated previously that when Juolevi’s season ended with the Knights, he would not report to the Comets, so that he could get a jump on his offseason. That became a moot point when the Comets failed to make the AHL playoffs.

So with that, we look ahead to next season and the options available to the Canucks 2016 first round pick.

NHL

If the Canucks are fully embracing the rebuild, then having Juolevi make the leap to the NHL next season isn’t out of the question. But two factors will affect that. One being the young Finn’s performance in training camp and what other moves the Canucks make. At the moment, the Canucks would enter camp with the following defencemen:

Alex Edler – Chris Tanev

Ben Hutton – Erik Gudbranson

Luca Sbisa – Troy Stecher

Alex Biega

All the above players are currently signed for next season or are a pending restricted free agent. It’s clear that there are seven spots filled. The Canucks can could see further change to that grouping in a number of different ways.

  • Luca Sbisa is selected in the NHL expansion draft
  • Ben Hutton, rumoured to be shopped, is traded
  • Alex Biega is waived and assigned to Utica

There are other options available, such as moving Chris Tanev, etc. but the three mentioned above are the easiest and most likely ones to happen. Not all three will happen, but if one happens, that opens up another spot for Juolevi in training camp. Even if he isn’t on the opening night roster, as we’ve seen, it’s only a matter of time before injuries happen and Juolevi is playing regularly.

The news of Nikita Tryamkin returning to the KHL next season does help Juolevi cracking the opening night roster. Unless the Canucks obtain another defenceman, there is a spot to be had.

There would be multiple benefits to having Juolevi in the NHL next season, but there would also be fears of strength and rushing him into the league. A lot will depend on the performance of the recent 5th overall pick, but it appears that his goal is to force himself onto the roster next year

CHL

If Juolevi is unable to crack the Canucks roster, the next option is to re-assign him to the London Knights in the OHL.

Due to the CHL/NHL agreement, Juolevi is unable to be assigned to the AHL. The basic premise of the agreement is as follows:

Players drafted and playing for CHL teams are ineligible to play in the professional minor leagues (AHL, ECHL) until they are 20 years old (by December 31st of that year) or have completed four years in major juniors.

Juolevi is old enough to play in the AHL, as their minimum age is 18, but due to this transfer agreement, he would be forced to return to the OHL. If Jokerit, who Juolevi played for before joining London, had loaned him to the Knights, he would be allowed to play in the AHL. Some examples of this occurring are Julius Honka (DAL), Alexander Nylander (BUF) and Nico Hischier (2017 draft eligible).

Like the NHL, there is some benefits and drawbacks to this. If Vancouver reassigns Juolevi to London, he will once again be the workhorse of the backend. There will be some graduation for the Knights, but they are a perennial challenger for the OHL title.

The 6’3″ defenceman would be eligible for the 2018 World Juniors – so that would be a great opportunity for him if he were to find himself back in the OHL.

Loan to Europe

Another option that may present itself if Juolevi fails to make the Canucks out of camp is to loan him to a European team. This option provides multiple benefits for the organization and their prized prospect.

He would be able to play against men, something that he hasn’t done yet, and push himself. Whoever were to take him on loan from the Canucks would also be able to have him attend the WJHC. Furthermore, the European seasons usually end prior to the NHL season, so if the Canucks so choose, they could then recall Juolevi from loan and have him play a few games in the NHL to close out the season.

We are obviously not privy to who or where would be interested in adding Juolevi, but it’s a fair assumption that a team in Finland (Liiga) would be interested in adding a young Finnish star. If not, then the SHL or NLA (Switzerland) are other great options.

Like the CHL, once Juolevi goes there, he is likely gone until the conclusion of the European teams season.

Other players who have done this Nicklas Jensen (VAN at the time) and Nikolay Goldobin (SJS at the time).

Contract Ramifications

Olli Juolevi was signed to an Entry Level contract by the Canucks on August 5th, 2016. As per section 9.2 of the NHL/NHLPA CBA, he was ’18 years old’:

This resulted in the contract sliding for this season, as he failed to play in 9 NHL games. The NHL explains this in section 9.1d (i)

The key here is because Juolevi signed his ELC when he was 18 years old, and the contract has already slid; it can slide again for his 19-year-old season. So, if Juolevi is assigned to the CHL or loaned to a team in Europe, the ELC will slide for another year – giving the Canucks three years of the contract starting in 2018-19.

If Juolevi does appear in 10 NHL games this upcoming season, the ELC burns.

One important note is that if Juolevi is assigned to the CHL or loaned to Europe before playing his nine games, his contract will not count towards the 50 contract limit. If he were to come back at the conclusion of a European season, as long as he doesn’t appear in 10 contests, the contract still doesn’t count towards the 50.

Conclusion

The CHL/NHL transfer agreement throws a wrench into the whole situation as players like Juolevi likely don’t have too much more to prove at that level. Juolevi helped guide London to a Memorial Cup championship in 2016 and had a very strong showing this year in the OHL playoffs.

Ideally, if Juolevi were unable to crack the opening night roster, the Canucks would be able to assign him to the AHL until injuries hit and then recall him once there was a semi-consistent spot in the lineup. But alas, that isn’t an option.

It’s fair to believe that the Canucks will give Juolevi every chance to make their NHL squad out of camp. The loss of Tryamkin for next season (at least) does open the door here. However, if Canucks management feels he isn’t quite ready, then loaning him to a team in the SHL or Liiga is probably the other best course of action.

He would still be able to play a significant role for Finland at the World Juniors and challenge himself against men.

  • Steamer

    Isn’t it performance that determines placement? Since training camp is 5 months away, such musings are but empty conjecture at this point. September will reveal Juolevi’s readiness – or lack thereof. Pretty difficult league to crack as a 19 year old D. More to the point, how does BFG’s departure impact Sbisa’s status? Really think best move for Canucks is to cut bait with BFG, move his rights for pick(s)/prospect(s). Upside? Dahlin in 2018:)

  • Steamer

    Further: the trickle-down…BFG’s flight back to the G(ulag)HL will certainly impact decision process on whether to sign Carl Neill, Tate Olson, Darren Raddysh.

  • Carl Jung

    This “full rebuild” stuff is merely a fanbase mantra.

    The Blue Jackets made a significant trade (Johansen for Jones), coaching change and had a young defenseman (Werenski) emerge.

    NOBODY thought they would be a decent team.

    Were the Jackets rebuilding or “going for it”?

    Dylan Strome did not make a “rebuilding” Coyotes team.

    Juolevi’s play will determine whether he makes the NHL team next season and sticks on it for the whole year.

      • Carl Jung

        Most other “models” that people tend to advocate require a lot of draft luck.

        Both in terms of getting lucky at the lottery and also getting lucky in the right lottery.

        And even that “luck” tends to follow a long period of losing.

        With the way the lottery is currently set up, it’s a poor gamble to make.

  • Freud

    The Hockey News recently polled a number of NHL scouts and pieced together a re-draft on the 2016 class. Juolevi was redrafted 13th and fell the most of any first rounder.

    With that being said, Juolevi should be kept far away from this Canuck mess next season.

    • Bud Poile

      Olli led his team-the Knights-in scoring for D men during the playoffs.
      Olli led the D in scoring last year – both reg season and playoffs.
      He wanted to make the NHL last season and has nothing to prove at the jr. level.
      He’s a leftie so if Sbisa goes to Vegas or Hutton is traded they could ease him into the lineup.

      • Braindead Benning

        You talk like OJ is your seconding coming of a son like that idiot Sutter…
        Man you are higher than an kite huffing the jock straps of you favorite losers
        lol… as long as JB and TL are
        Part of the future of the Canucks then we have another 47 years of………………………..

      • Freud

        What does this have to do with what I posted? A consensus of a number of NHL employed scouts believe 12 players drafted the same year had better seasons. That’s not the best news. So, let’s keep Juolevi away from the NHL and give him another year.

    • Neil B

      Because the best time to judge the worth of a draft is in draft year +1. In 1999-2000, the Sedins were in Sweden, and Stefan had 25 NHL points. In 2000-2001, Stefan had nearly outscored both Sedins in total NHL performance, 56 to 63.

    • Dan B

      No, I don’t think you read the article.

      “The biggest drops within the first round were Juolevi (from 5th to 13th), Bean (from 13th to 22nd), Bellows (from 19th to 29th) and Stanley (from 18th to 30th).”

      “So actual first-rounders from 2016 who wouldn’t go in the first round if it were re-held today are: 27. Brett Howden, C, Tampa Bay; 28. Lucas Johansen, D, Washington; and 29. Trent Frederic, C, Boston. ”

      (these 30 players didn’t make the top 40 and therefore fell at least 10 spots.)

      So while I agree, and ATM Juolevi doesn’t look like a great pick, he didn’t fall the most out of any first rounder.

  • wojohowitz

    Playing defense in the NHL is a really difficult job. Edler has played 11 seasons and only once did he play all 82 games. Tanev has played 7 seasons and not once did he play all 82 games. Salo played for 15 seasons and not once 82 games. If Juolevi is not physically ready then putting him in the lineup could be a career ending injury waiting to happen. He should be 2 or 3 years away.

  • Foximus

    Based on what was said above I agree that sending him to Europe to play a season against men is the best development decision. If he shows he’s ready for the NHL in training camp- give it a shot. But I would prefer to have him develop and not be wrecked by forcing him into the line up. Canucks will be bad again next year.

    • BBoone

      Exactly . Zero point in rushing him to next years losing season . I’m hoping the new coach will
      Be allowed to have a losing season so ” the kids ” can be in junior , AHL or Europe ” Canucks have made very poor decisions with 4 or 5 of their better prospects by rushing them to a losing NHL rather than develop in jr or AHL

  • Naslund

    This kid will be an excellent NHL hockey player. Rushing to judgement on him because the Flamers picked Keith “me first” Tkachuk’s kid is a bit premature to say the least. Five years from now, Juolevi will look like a very astute pick indeed.

  • DJ_44

    His play at training camp/pre-season will be the deciding factor, but I do think he can make the jump to the NHL next season. The major weakness identified last year was his size and strength, which is understandable for a young 18 year old. He has the skills and smarts to jump in. If his strength is where it has to be, welcome aboard.

  • If Juolevi can’t make the NHL roster, the next step depends on the European teams available – are they a better development environment compared to the London Knights? The Knights lacked quality players and the coach played Juolevi like a 2nd tier defenceman. If Juolevi plays in Europe, the Canucks need to find a good organization that would be receptive to giving him the right amount of minutes and have the skilled players that he needs to be around.

  • I am Ted

    If he can’t make the Canucks then loan him to a European team. That will allow him to develop and play in a men’s league. OHL may not be as beneficial.

    • Neil B

      Totally agree with you, UKC, and Foximus (among others). If he cannot play against men in the AHL this season (and he’s not yet ready physically for the NHL) , let him do so against men in Europe. It might mean he needs a warm-up on North American attack angles in the AHL the year following, but that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

  • UKCanuck

    Jokerit was his Finnish junior team and they now play in the KHL so a season playing at home for a KHL team is probably the best place for his development at this point.