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.
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
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
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) April 19, 2017
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).
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.
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.