Canucks prospect Olli Juolevi needs to ‘improve defensive awareness’

NHL insider Corey Hirsch discusses his take on the Vancouver Canucks rookie tourney, who's standing out, who's flying under the radar, and who might not be quite ready for the NHL.

Olli Juolevi may be one of the more polarizing prospects in Vancouver’s system. Drafted as a blue chip prospect, his development in the two years since has had its ups and downs.

After the Canucks selected Juolevi fifth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, he was sent back to the OHL’s London Knights for the year and finished 20th in league scoring among defencemen with 42 points in 58 games. The downside to that was it equalled his point totals from the season before instead of building on them.

He also captained the Finnish team at the world juniors, where they just narrowly avoided relegation and Juolevi managed only two points in six games.

As Juolevi’s draft year peers Mikhail Sergachev (ninth overall) and Charlie McAvoy (14th overall) play big minutes and roles in the NHL, the Finn is on the other side of the ocean playing in his country’s top pro league with TPS Turku. He has eight points in 10 games, which is a promising development as he produces against men instead of teenaged juniors.

Rick Dhaliwal of Sportsnet 650 radio in Vancouver recently talked to Sami Salo, who serves as an assistant coach for Turku and was a guest coach for the Canucks at their rookie development camp this past summer. The former Canucks defenceman talked about Juolevi’s development in Finland this season.

“I’m anxious to work with Olli and help him out the best I can,” Salo said about Juolevi this summer.

The 19-year-old Canucks prospect figures to once again be a central figure on Finland’s world juniors team next month, where they’ll look to improve on the miserable result from last season. When he steps back from the pros to play at that event, the Canucks and their fans will be expecting the six-foot-two, 182-pound defender to dominate the competition and boost his confidence.

Salo believes that not only will Juolevi be an NHL defenceman one day, but that he still has the potential to be a top pair guy if he keeps working on and improving his play in the defensive zone.


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