BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Vancouver Canucks chose the first defenceman in the NHL draft Friday night, taking smooth-skating Olli Juolevi of the London Knights fifth overall.
The 18-year-old from Helsinki was delighted at his draft destination.
“It’s awesome to go to Vancouver,” said Juolevi, who visited the city when he played in the Top Prospects game in January.
“I saw how great the city is and how much they love hockey,” he added.
Juolevi, the third Finn to go in the top five, was also happy to end up with a team led by Sweden’s Sedins.
“It’s great to go to such a great organization,” he said.
He’s the first defenceman taken by the Canucks in the first round since 2005 when they chose Luc Bourdon 10th overall.
The six-foot-two 188-pounder likens his style to Coyotes defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and is described by NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr as a graceful skater and puck-mover “with excellent poise and composure.”
Juolevi called himself an offensive defenceman but said he can play in all situations.
Asked if he was ready to contribute right away, Juolevi replied: “That’s my goal … I want to come to training camp and show what I’ve got.”
Being the first defenceman chosen was no pressure, he said.
“I like challenges,” he said. “I’m not going to change anything because I’m the first D. It doesn’t matter to me whether I’m first or second or so. I’m just happy to be a Vancouver Canuck now.”
Juolevi then drew laughs when he added “I’m going to go there and work my …,” pausing before choosing the word “hardest.”
Juolevi (whose full name is pronounced OH-lee yoo-oh-LEH-vee) had nine goals and 33 assists in 57 regular-season games for London in 2015-16. He also helped Finland to gold at the world juniors, leading all defenders with nine assists.
London teammate Matthew Tkachuk went one pick later to Calgary.
The Canucks have five more picks Saturday but four of those are in the fifth round and below.
After the fifth-overall selection, Vancouver picks 64th (in the third round) and then not until No. 140.
The Canucks (31-38-13) finished 12 points out of the playoffs last season