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Photo Credit: Twitter Via @Jonijurmo

Joni Jurmo could be the Canucks’ next Scandinavian defenceman: CanucksArmy Prospect Rankings #9

Arriving in the ninth position on our CanucksArmy prospect rankings is Finnish defender Joni Jurmo who was selected in the third round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 198 lbs

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Age: 19

Position: D

Handedness: L

2021-22 Team: Jokerit (Liiga),

With limited draft capital over the past two years, there has been added pressure on the Canucks to uncover some gems in the middle and late rounds. During the 2020 NHL Draft, the Canucks didn’t pick until the third round when they selected a tall defender from Finland. With a history of Scandinavian defencemen that have patrolled the Canucks’ blueline for many years, could this lanky kid be the next to continue that tradition?

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Joni Jurmo is the defender in question with the lanky frame. Born in Espoo, Finland, Jurmo played in the junior Finnish leagues prior to being drafted. Last season he has moved up the ranks and played 20 games in the top Finnish men’s league before being loaned out to a team in the second division. This year he is with a new team in Jokerit back in the top division once again.

Strengths

Jurmo has a skill set that is easily projectible for NHL success as his strengths translate well. He’s an excellent skater, a skill that many scouts pointed out prior to the NHL draft. Many feel as if his ability to skate the puck up the ice makes him a candidate to be a great transition player in the NHL.

His skating is especially impressive considering his size. While in the past a player of Jurmo’s stature may have been able to survive in the NHL due to their large frame, those days are long gone. The modern NHL requires everyone on the ice to be able to skate proficiently. In fact, skating is arguably the most important skill in the NHL today. The fact that it’s one of Jurmo’s largest strengths is very encouraging.

Besides his skating, one aspect of Jurmo’s game that is often singled out is his passing and decision-making. As a defender that often carries the puck up the ice, he is often in a position where he is forced to make the first pass. More often than not, he makes the right decision and has the ability to deliver a clean, strong pass.

Areas for Improvement

While Jurmo is the type of player that can jumpstart an offensive attack by wheeling the puck up ice, he’s not one that’s super creative offensively or that will be showing up on the scoresheet a lot.

He played 20 games last year in Liiga the top men’s league in Finland for JYP, a team that was near the bottom of the standings. During those games, he failed to register a point and had a plus/minus of -11 while also recording 39 penalty minutes.

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While he’s still just a teenager and Liiga is one of the top leagues in the world, it would have been nice to see a little bit of production from Jurmo during those games. It’s tough playing against men as a teenager. The good news is that he did score recently in the preseason for this upcoming year.

While he still does impact the offensive side of the game in a positive manner even when not scoring points, defence is an area where Jurmo could still use some work. He suffers from a few of the same issues that are very common with young defenders, namely the fact that he has a tendency to get caught out of position. With experience, these issues will hopefully start to figure themselves out a bit.

Last but not least, Jurmo has been criticized for the fact that he can sometimes get too determined to carry the puck and have a few bad turnovers. Canucks fans will be familiar with this downside to mobile defenders after watching Quinn Hughes.

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Where does he fit in the Canucks’ plans?

The Canucks’ defence is currently their weakest position group and with cap space looking tight over the next few years, a few prospects like Jurmo panning out would be huge. He is left-handed and plays the left side where the Canucks have Hughes and Oliver Ekman-Larsson entrenched in their top-four. However, give it a few years and Jurmo could slide into the lineup behind Hughes as he works on his defensive game.

When you look at Jurmo, Hughes, Jack Rathbone, or even Jett Woo, it becomes clear that the Canucks have placed a focus on acquiring defencemen that are adept at skating and moving the puck. These players thrive in the modern game and even if general manager Jim Benning seems determined to place them beside big, lumbering defencemen at the moment, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Canucks’ defence core.