Canucks Army Pre-Season Prospect Profiles #3: Olli Juolevi

The Vancouver Canucks have been trying to find a true, number one defenceman for as long as I’ve followed them. They’ve had their share of 1A or 1B blue liners, but never a Norris calibre blue liner who can dictate play from the moment they fly over the boards to their return trip back to the bench.

They hope to have found that player in London Knights defenceman Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

A year later, doubts abound about the likelihood of Juolevi hitting those lofty heights. Some have even gone so far as to suggest his development has plateaued. Contrary to those suggestions, I think Juolevi’s grown as a player in every sense save poundage.


We’ve changed the qualifications up just a little bit this year. Being under the age of 25 is still mandatory (as of the coming September 15th), but instead of Calder Trophy rules, we’re just requiring players to have played less than 25 games in the NHL (essentially ignoring the Calder Trophy’s rule about playing more than six games in multiple seasons).

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Graduates from this time last year include Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher, and Nikita Tryamkin, while Anton Rodin is simply too old now, and Jake Virtanen is not being considered solely as a result of his games played.

Scouting Report

I get a kick out of the way some of my peers have covered Juolevi this last season. Worse still, how seriously some in this market have taken their hollow criticisms. A year ago, Juolevi was the preeminent offensive defenceman of his class; today it’s more common to hear him described as the exact opposite.

So, what changed? If you were to look at Juolevi’s boxcar metrics alone, you’d posit that nothing changed, and that’s the exact problem. Juolevi matched his offensive outputs (42 points) from a season ago with an extra game to his credit.

This is an instance where surface-level, counting stats scouting really fails the player in question, though. What actually changed was Juolevi’s role.

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Instead of playing in a predominantly offensive role, as he did in his draft season, Juolevi was the Knights shut down defenceman. Knights head coach Dale Hunter called on Juolevi to play with a 17-year-old defenceman as his primary partner, kill penalties on the Knights first unit and defend leads late in games. Juolevi played the ninth-highest estimated QoC (Quality of Competition) at five-on-five in the OHL last season according to www.prospect-stats.com, and in those minutes the Knights controlled 58% of the goals scored.

That Juolevi didn’t show offensive growth in the form of increased scoring totals shouldn’t be a surprise in this context. Not in the slightest. To suggest he hasn’t grown period, though, is patently false.

Most of Juolevi’s growth just wasn’t apparent to the lay observer, which is oddly suiting of the player in question. Almost everything that makes Juolevi an exceptional defenceman and a sound bet to develop into a high-end pro is rooted in nuance.

Juolevi’s a player who knows when to apply pressure in transition. When he’s forced the chip and chase play from his opponents, he always has his head up as he goes back for the puck, checking for outlets. He can identify support before he’s even retrieved the puck and it’s off his stick before the forechecker can get within a yard of him.

It’s a truly mesmerizing feat, to watch a player snuff out an opposition zone entry attempt and transition play in the opposite direction just as quickly. I’ve seen Juolevi do this countless times, without breaking a sweat.

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The way the NHL is evolving, you need defencemen like Juolevi on your team. Right now, though, the odds aren’t as high as one might hope for a fifth-overall pick even getting that far. The pGPS (Prospect Graduation Probabilities System) metric only gives Juolevi a 29.5% chance of making the NHL.

I tend to think pGPS undersells Juolevi’s chances of success. Only time will tell, though.

  • Dirty30

    If he turns out to have the same skill at managing play that Salo did, but without the injuries, the Canucks should be doing back-flips down the ice! If he becomes pre-eye injury Ohlund, that’s fantastic. He might even end up better than both of them with the way the game is transitioning. To have him play and learn from Salo is simply a bonus.

    This team has decent D at this point, and decent goaltending and might have a few guys now who can find the back of the net. Not a contender, but a decent transition team while the future ripens.

    If you’re wanting to plan a parade, it’s a ways off yet. Juolevi will just be coming into his best years at the right time to make a difference. Perfect.

    • Lawd Stanley

      Are you high or just nuts fella? I’m only interested in the playoffs, not all the ifs buts and maybes you are blabbing on about. Decent D and goaltending?? where…

      Message to all of you, how is this pi$$ poor team and this uninspiring list of prospects going to get a playoff spot any time soon ahead of Nashville, Anaheim, Edmonton, Chicago, Minne, St Louis, San Jose and Calgary with Dallas, Winterpeg and LA all back on the rise and knocking on the door?

      Speak up y’all, the silence is deafening.

          • Canuck4Life20

            The comments on here are becoming unreadable. I have the same suspicions that you do but I can’t understand why anyone would want their website to be like this.

          • I’m not sure if the person using multiple accounts to accuse a bunch of unique posters of being multiple accounts is ironic, or just a sign of mental illness.

            I mean, I’m pretty sure Locust, backup bob, and crofton were posting here before Bud Poile ever showed up.

            I’m going to DM JD about this nonsense and see if he can’t be cajoled into doing a bit of cleanup around here.

          • Canuck4Life20

            A thumbs up only 1 minute after posting? Impressive. And how exactly would you know that traffic is growing by the day? Sadly Locust, I think you are right.

          • Canuck4Life20

            Unfortunately, this user is rolling their IP address and creating burner email addresses which makes it much more difficult to block them out but we will get it. For us, it becomes difficult when someone is this dedicated to being annoying. As you can imagine, there is nothing we can do to prevent someone from starting new email addresses and finding a VPN to roll their IP. That said, we have a few more options that we can always try.

            Thanks again. Your feedback does not go unnoticed.

          • Canuck4Life20

            They claim to be doing something. But for some reason most of the insulting comments stay up while the comment where he brought up page hits increasing by the day is taken down almost immediately.

  • Burnabybob

    Juolevi is the only defenseman in the Canucks top 8 prospects, top 10 in most lists I’ve read. That needs to change.

    Benning should prioritize defensemen in the 2018 draft. It’s still early, but unless they wind up picking #2 and Svechnikov falls into their laps, they should probably target one of McIsaac, Smith, Merkley or Hughes. Needless to say, if they somehow pick first overall, Dahlin is a no-brainer.

    • RandomScrub

      Fingers crossed this is the year the Canucks finally manage a draft lottery win. I think they either need to “careen for Dahlin”, or perhaps be “fallin’ (in the standings) for Dahlin”? I’m not sure which is the correct pronunciation, so…

    • Waffles

      I think there is a good chance we will be getting some great defensemen next year. Rumours are the draft is very deep defensively next year, which is why people were hoping to get a solid forward at the high of the draft this year.

    • The draft rankings for this year were heavily weighted towards centres while next year is heavily weighted towards defencemen. Heavily weighted meaning that about half of the players ranked in the Top 30 played that position. Check the EliteProspects draft rankings. Benning made the right (albeit default) choice in drafting a centre in Pettersson this year. Next year, the odds say the best player available should be a defenceman which should fit with the defensive priority you’ve identified.

    • Foximus

      Totally agree. 2018 has a very strong d draft coming and the Canucks will make the best of it. Hopefully Dahlin but lots of other great prospects to choose from. Also agree that Svechnikov is the only forward in the top 5, if not top 10

  • Killer Marmot

    I am hoping both Boeser and Juolevi are on the starting roster this season. The Canucks have a considerable reservoir of talented prospects, and we need to get the pipeline into the NHL flowing. The minors are not the place for players who show such maturity in their game.

    • Bud Poile

      No need rushing 19 y.o. Olli with the now veteran-laden blueline.
      Unless there’s a deal in the works to trade Hutton or Guddy give him 9 NHL games and then allow Sami one year of mentoring him.
      The young man would benefit immensely by playing against men at home with Salo.

        • Canuck4Life20

          Whether you agree with Bud Poile or not, anyone with even a basic grasp of the English language can see that he has a writing style all his own (poor grammar, inappropriate use of punctuation, fragmented sentences). If you’re dumb enough to believe that everyone on here is Bud Poile then I suppose that you’re dumb enough to think that anyone on here is falling for your act with your new accounts being created on a daily basis.

        • confused canuck

          I’m confused. Why would we send our number one defensive prospect to an inferior European league half way across the planet when he should surely be learning from and playing for the Vancouver Canucks, as is befitting for a top five draft pick and top pairing D man two years removed from draft-day? Is he not good enough…

          • bobdaley44

            Sending him to Europe would be good for his game if he can’t get minutes with the Canucks. If he has a great camp and can play a prominent role he should stay but if he’s in and out of the lineup send him overseas and have Salo mentor him for a year. Better playing top four minutes against men then either sent back to junior or watching from the press box.

        • Bud Poile

          The kid just turned 19.
          With Pedan,Hutton,Edler, Wiercioch,Holm and DZ all as LD-men surely mgmt. would do the club a favor by playing- and trading- one of these six lefties before throwing a kid in?

          • Killer Marmot

            Yep, there’s a logjam of players that might prevent both defense and forward prospects from advancing.

            I’m hoping Benning is not going to allow that. If a prospect deserves a place on the roster, then some of these vets need to be healthy scratches, or traded, or even placed on waivers. Don’t subordinate merit and development to asset management.

      • truthseeker

        No need to not rush him if he’s capable. No point in over babying prospects either. If the kid looks like he can keep up then throw him in there and get him going.

      • Goalie Graveyard

        Hypocrite much…

        ” The Canucks need players that can contribute out of the gate, particularly on D. I would take Liljegren or Heiskanen. Hopefully it’s a player that is close to NHL ready come September” – Bud Poile

        let yourself out…

    • Rodeobill

      exactly. I want the rest of the prospects to see that at least there is some graduation system in place and play towards that. If Boeser and Juolevi are ready, then find a way or waive someone. Both these guys are also good two way options compared to the influx of some of our other choices. Also hope rodin gets show up this year too. People talk about him as an afterthought, but if he’s recovered he could be this year’s Grandlund or Baerschi and suprise.

      • Killer Marmot

        That’s my thinking as well. Moving to the NHL shouldn’t look impossible to the players. Seeing their team mates advance to the big show whets their appetite and drives them to work harder.

  • jaybird43

    Juolevi is a great prospect. However, drafting a X-Men, except for the car elite, is like drafting a forward at age 16. You can’t be sure how it will work out. Defensemen usually need at least 2 more years than a forward to be NHL ready. And there’s few 18 or even 19 year old forwards in the league. Caution is best as you can really ruin a blue chip d-prospect. Virtanen, who plays a much easier position, is a cautionary tale. Vancluver apparentmy nearly pried Paul Coffee away from the Oilers early in his career as they were apparently thinking he was a bust. And Listrom, the most decorated d-man since Orr, played elsewhere until age 21. Patience and caution, and gradually increased competition are the way to go … not having Connor McDavid school and embarrass “a kid”. I’m a fan, but he needs at least one and probably two more years of competition against non-NHL men …

    • truthseeker

      He needs whatever he is capable of.

      If he comes in and tears the roof off of camp….looks better than stetcher and tanev etc….you really think he shouldn’t get his shot just because we’re supposed to think that prospects must need extra time at lower levels?

      That’s just being over protective. To cautious. Some kids can make the NHL at 19. Maybe he’s one of them.

      I’m not sure why so many of you feel the need to put “rules” down on these topics. It’s not black and white. If he’s good enough he SHOULD make it. If he’s not he shouldn’t. Why is that so hard for people to grasp?

      • Bud Poile

        The club will not jettison a top-six vet for Olli.
        The club needs to maximize these assets in trade not relegate them to a total loss on waivers.
        Very,very rarely does a kid that just turned 19 makes the NHL.
        There’s no need to rush him on to this club this year.

        • truthseeker

          Again….you’re not listening. Nobody is saying “rush” him. You’re making that up in your own head.

          Just answer a simple question. Yes or No is all you have to reply with.

          If Juolevi out plays all the D men on the team in camp and in preseason, do you think he should be on the team?

  • Draft_Day_Dave

    Is this kid even making the team this season?

    This has bust written all over it and it speaks volumes that fans here, myself included, are salivating over grabbing another Defenceman in the next draft.

    I’m afraid Juolevi isn’t the elite offensive D man we thought we had, otherwise he would’ve dominated in the OHL and be in the show already like Tkachuk, Chychrun and Sergachev. He has achieved neither.

    • Killer Marmot

      So you figure that if a player doesn’t make the team in his first year then he’s a bust, do you?

      On the day he was drafted, everyone knew Juolevi would spend the next year in the minors due to his weight. It’s a little early to panic.

      • truthseeker

        Just self loathing canuck “fans”. Pay them no mind.

        They can go watch the flames and cheer on their hero, the greatest player of all time in Tkachuk. They can enjoy his 20 goal seasons, cheap shots and mediocre playoff performances. But hey! He’s got that GRIT!


      • Doodly Doot

        I tend to agree. This kid is years away from playing in the NHL. He’s a very nice defensive prospect… that’s years away from playing in the NHL. I’m in Pen and will watch a few games, and I’m curious to see a sample of how he matches up with other prospects, but I’m just as interested in the other defensive prospects like Brisebois, Chatfield and Candella. Olli’s not making the big club. Doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try to be the best guy at camp.

        • Everyone I’ve read who has actually seen Juolevi play seems to think he’s ready for the NHL. The only thing that’s going to keep him off the big club are this summer’s signings.

          I think it’s unlikely that he’s going to be that elite game-controlling defenceman some overly optimistic fans seem to think, but if he doesn’t make the team this year, it’s an almost-certainty he’ll make it next year, and there’s no reason to suspect he’s going to be a bust.

          • Doodly Doot

            He probably is top-4 ‘talent’ right now. I’m worried that he’s going to get hurt. Period. If Aaron Ekblad has had the troubles he’s had AND being a physical stud, what could plausibly happen to this skinny kid. Let the ‘kid’ become a man AND learn to play against men in the feeder leagues. I hope he goes back to Finland and gets coached by Salo! A year or two of that kind of experience (along with cabbage rolls and a pound of makkara and smoked herring a day!) would let him become physically stronger and seems like an excellent next step. Want to let Olli develop into a superior pick over Matthew Tkachuck? Don’t wreck this ‘kid’. Let him become a physical stud.

          • truthseeker

            You can’t judge size like that. Look at Mario. Guy was an egg shell and he was huge. Gretzky was pretty small and had a pretty much an injury free career aside from a bit at the end.

            Sure D is different. But the idea is the same. Maybe Ekblad is an egg shell. A big guy who’s size reeks havok on his own body.

            And get off Tkachuk. So far he’s not even that good. A cheap shot artist who scored 14 goals and disappeared in the playoffs where all that ‘energy’ and ‘grit’ were supposed to be his strength. Guy was invisible and a huge reason why the Flames flamed out like weak sauce.

            Juolevi even at this point is more valuable than Tkachuk. Wingers have no virtually no value unless they are Liane. And Tkachuk ain’t no Liane. Not even close. No GM in the league would trade a D prospect like Juolevi for a 14 goal rookie winger.

            Only weirdly fixated self loathing canuck “fans” think that kind of stuff.

          • Doodly Doot

            Then Killer Marmot, Young Stars and training camp will be very interesting. I think myself and all Canucks fans are up for some pleasant surprises this fall. Maybe I will catch the game tomorrow.

          • Doodly Doot

            One more thing. Nightmare scenario… OJ is with the big club this year. Canucks vs. Flames. Tkachuk destroys Juolevi with a nasty hit behind the net. Injury (physical and mental) sets him back a year or two in development. Dream scenario… two years from now. Canucks vs. Flames. Olli destroys Tkachuk with a huge check behind the net, takes the puck and bombs a 3-zone stretch pass to Boeser for the snipe.

          • Bud Poile

            Actually,Olli has the same style of game as Salo (minus the booming slapper}.
            Excellent transition game,super solid defensive specialist and offensively capable.
            Gudbranson is none of that,all of which is why you’re just a troll.

          • Doodly Doot

            Nobody knows what we have. We don’t actually know what we have yet with Gudbranson until we see what Greene can get out of him. Olli is 6 years younger than EG and 8 years younger than EK. ‘Let’s face it’, nobody knows what we’re getting. Yet.

          • Draft_Day_Dave

            Reading through the posts it appears you are both hypocritical and a bit thick. I wasn’t talking about style of game, I was talking about talent level and expectation from a top five pick ie: We thought we were getting ‘ERIK’ Karlsson level talent and potential but it’s closer to ERIK Gudbranson level ie: not good enough for a top 5 pick! Get it?

            Anyway, as has been amusingly quoted from you above, can you explain why you insist we need players ”ready to contribute out of the gate”, “especially on D” meaning NHL ready from the draft and hopefully “ready to go in Sept”, – all your words not mine. Yet you are also happy to let our top Defensive prospect develop and babysit him indefinately until he is ready? Complete double talk and totally bizarre. I think it’s you who is the troll here…

          • confused canuck

            I’m confused. Why would you call for your best D prospect Olli Juolevi to be wrapped in cotton and given untold years in order to become NHL ready and then in the next breath demand an instant impact on D, straight from the draft? That’s like seeing your kid accepted for Harvard and deciding to hold him back indefinitely for extra schooling. Is this what is termed as trolling Bud Poile?