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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

An exhaustive analysis (with video) of every shift Olli Juolevi played in his NHL debut

Yes, Olli Juolevi played extremely sheltered minutes in his NHL debut last night against the Minnesota Wild, and yes, his shifts can be summed up as a whole lot of nothing, but it’s been a long timing coming for the Vancouver Canucks’ 2016 first round pick, who they took with the fifth overall selection.

He’s battled a ton of injuries and adversity up to this point, but he finally played. Sure, he played just 6:16 of ice time but he also played nearly a minute on the penalty kill when Tyler Myers was in the box. Perhaps most impressive, Juolevi was not on the ice for a single shot against, and as you’ll see in the clips below — hat tip to Cody Severtson for those by the way — Juolevi didn’t just get gifted a bunch of time in the offensive zone, he was tasked with breaking the puck out and making smart plays under the Wild’s fast and furious forecheck.

Him being in the lineup meant Quinn Hughes was tasked with playing nearly 30 minutes, which just isn’t sustainable going into round one of the playoffs — a seven game series — against either the Dallas Stars or the St. Louis Blues. Because of this, I would suspect Oscar Fantenberg will be in for game one of that series, but nonetheless, you can only be pleased by what you saw from Juolevi in the limited sample size last night.

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Let’s break this down.

First Period

For Juolevi’s first shift as a Canuck, he was on the ice with Troy Stecher, who he played multiple shifts with at scrimmages during the Canucks’ training camp a few weeks back. Matched up against the Alex Galchenyuk line, Juolevi appears to chip the puck out — I say appears to because upon further review it looks like all he does is distract two Wild forecheckers enough for the puck to get far enough for Elias Pettersson to handle — then, (not pictured) Juolevi pinches up and joins the offensive rush, but nothing comes of the play.

Juolevi’s second shift was an offensive zone draw lined up alongside Tyler Myers roughly two minutes after his first shift. The Wild chip the puck past Juolevi and Myers gathers it before trying a backhand pass that’s intercepted by a Wild forward along the wall. This allowed the Wild to get a potential 2-on-1 opportunity but Juolevi is able to get in front of Nico Sturm to disrupt his one-timed attempt.

Ideally, Pettersson — the center on this play — would have this man because Juolevi was guarding the forward along the boards, but because the play happened in the blink of an eye and was the result of a turnover in the defensive zone rather than on the rush, Pettersson isn’t able to get back in time to break up the potential one-timer. Juolevi sees this and turns his attention to clogging the middle of the ice. This is a good read by Juolevi in the defensive end.

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He then stays on his check and is able to clear the puck out of the zone.

On his next shift, Juolevi rings the puck around the boards. When you’re trying to get a gauge for how a young player’s confidence level is on making decisions to get the puck out of the defensive zone, there may not be a better way to do so than putting him against the Wild’s forecheck in a postseason series. Another safe and smart play from Juolevi that results in the Canucks quickly transitioning the other way.

Now here’s where Juolevi thrives, the penalty kill. He was a shot-blocking machine for the Utica Comets this season and was tasked with eating some big minutes when his team was down a man. With Tyler Myers in the box, Juolevi and Stecher were tasked with killing almost a minute of this minor penalty. Juolevi is quick on Luke Kunin, and because of this, is able to knock the puck off his stick before the Wild forward can settle it down:

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Second Period

On this shift, perhaps you’d like to see Juolevi try a shot on goal, but given how far out of his crease Alex Stalock comes to cut down the angle on shooters, a one-timer has a better chance of beating him than a wrister from just outside the circle. Juolevi’s passing, his breakout passes, in particular, were what caught my attention the most at training camp, and although Bo Horvat clearly wasn’t anticipating this pass, it could have been a pretty beautiful one-timer if he was, or if the Wild defender drifted to the middle just a bit more.

Although not pictured, right after this sequence Juolevi had a good keep at the line after that Chris Tanev shot went wide and ringed its way around the boards. Shortly after that, Juolevi stepped up to finish a hard check on Kevin Fiala.

This physical play came as a bit of a surprise to many, including Canucks head coach Travis Green:

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“He played solid. Didn’t seem too nervous, I think the coaches were more nervous than him, we haven’t seen him a lot. He played heavier than we thought he would, moved the puck quick, and has a good release. I’m happy for him, he’s been through a lot.”

Juolevi then spent an extended period of time in the offensive zone on this shift, which he started with a pass to Pettersson. He finished that sequence off by stepping up to try to hit Fiala once again:

Juolevi eventually did try a shot attempt from the left point, which he savagely ripped into Carson Soucy’s chest as my friend Cody so eloquently put it:

Look, when I said at the start of the article that Juolevi’s shifts can be equated to a whole lot of nothing, this is what I meant. Here’s him making a touch pass to Elias Pettersson and letting him do the rest:

Third Period

The third period, quite literally, was a whole lot of nothing for Juolevi as the Canucks zeroed in on completing a valiant comeback and sending this one to overtime. As a result, Juolevi saw just two shifts in the third period, the last of which came with 12 minutes remaining in the final frame of regulation. Here are those shifts, which consist of a whole lot of nothing:

All in all, Juolevi didn’t seem out of place at any point during his 9 shifts, which can only be a good sign when it comes to his chances of earning a roster spot next season.

Especially when you consider that he did all of this during a postseason contest, when the competition is tougher and room for error is paper-thin.