Vancouver Canucks Still Considering Olli Juolevi for 5th Pick


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There have been talks about the Vancouver Canucks picking Olli Juolevi fifth overall for a long time, and there is still reason to believe it could happen.

In a Sportsnet interview before the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery, Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning stated that “in the top six there’ll be one defenseman that we have our eye on; and if he’s there, we’ll take him.” Benning continued saying that even at No. 5, they would pick that defenseman: “we’ve done our homework on this and we feel in the top six there is a defenseman and if we pick five or six, we’ll look to pick that defenseman.”

However, Benning seemingly changed his mind after the lottery, perhaps after talks with his amateur scouting staff. On TSN 1040 radio, Benning let fans know he does not think there is a No. 1 defenseman in this year’s draft and that picking a forward “sounds more realistic.”

Now, more than a month after that, Benning gave more insight into his plans in an interview with TSN’s Farhan Lalji: “we really like six players, so we’re going to get one of those players we like, whether it’s a top-line forward or a top-pairing defenseman.” Benning did not state which of the defensemen he was referring to, but it was always believed to be Olli Juolevi.

It certainly makes sense to assume Olli is still an option for the Canucks, even at No. 5.

Read: Olli Juolevi 2016 NHL Draft Profile

As Benning told Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Sun, he would consider trading down “if we can move down and get a top-six player and a second-round pick.” Chances are, the Canucks could get a top-six player in the eight to 10 range. Forwards like Logan Brown, Clayton Keller, Micheal McLeod and Tyson Jost all project to be top-six players.

But what if he can’t get that deal done? What if he has to make a pick at No. 5, but his favorite forward was drafted at four? Will he consider picking Juolevi?

In regard to the reports we have gotten over the past months, Benning’s short list for No. 5 could actually look something like this:

  1. Auston Matthews
  2. Patrik Laine
  3. Jesse Puljujarvi
  4. Pierre-Luc Dubois
  5. Olli Juolevi
  6. Logan Brown
  7. Matthew Tkachuk

The top three is obvious and likely looks the same for at least 29 teams — though it wouldn’t surprise me if Vancouver was the one team that thinks differently. Behind that, Benning said he wants a future No. 1 center, which he could get in Pierre-Luc Dubois. If Dubois is off the board at four, Olli Juolevi could be up next. He is a future top-pairing defenseman, even if he does not become a “true No. 1”, whatever the definition of that even is.

C Pierre-Luc Dubois — Draft Profile Faceoff — C Logan Brown

I extended the list past No. 5 because things could get interesting with a trade down as well. If Benning has set center and defense as his priorities, he might actually prefer center Logan Brown over winger Matthew Tkachuk. But, with Dubois and Juolevi at four and five, respectively, Brown would not become a Canuck without a trade down.

All that said, however, Kuzma also mentioned Benning’s statement on Tkachuk, who “was really impressive in his interview with the Canucks.” That may or may not be enough to push Tkachuk back into the No. 5 slot which is, by the way, the pick I made in my final 2016 NHL Mock Draft. Benning also talked about Tkachuk in the TSN interview, though he made no statement that could hint at whether he likes Tkachuk more than Brown.

Next: Canucks Pick Tkachuk in Final Mock Draft

Juolevi would definitely not be a reach at No. 5. Sure, there might be five or six (or even seven or eight) forwards who seem to have more potential, but with the current supply of top-four defensemen in this league, how is picking one at five not justifiable?

Olli Juolevi can shut down the opposing team’s top lines and he is outstanding on offense as well. He is an all-around defenseman who stands out in all three zones. I, for one, would be excited to see Juolevi put on a Canucks jersey on June 24th — even at No. 5.