Vancouver Canucks: Don’t Be Mad if Olli Juolevi Gets Picked at 5


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The Vancouver Canucks have about six players they can logically target for the No. 5 pick, and defensemen should be among that group.

For most Vancouver Canucks fans, there is little question about whom they should select in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft: forward Pierre-Luc Dubois. If Dubois gets picked up before that, Matthew Tkachuk is the obvious choice. Since the search for a Henrik Sedin successor is also a very real factor, center Logan Brown could also be a dark horse candidate. However, defenseman Olli Juolevi might just be the best choice.

Many fans seem scared that defensemen picked in the first round often don’t become the star players they are said to be. The reason for that are examples like Cam Barker (3rd overall 2004), Brian Lee (9th overall 2005), Thomas Hickey (4th overall 2007) or Keaton Ellerby (10th overall 2007). All four of those players were top-10 picks but not one of them is a true No. 1 defenseman.

But should that be a reason for concern? Of course not.

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First of all, there are examples for top-10 picks that worked out as well. Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo were picks two to four in 2008. Victor Hedman (2nd overall 2009) and Oliver Ekman Larsson (6th overall 2009) are great examples as well. It always depends on the individual player and nothing can be generalized.

The same can be said about forwards. Phil Kessel was drafted fifth overall in 2006, Derick Brassard was the sixth-overall pick in the same year, and Ryan Johansen was picked fourth overall in 2010. But, there is at least an equal number of players picked in Vancouver’s No. 5 range that didn’t turn into star players. Gilbert Brule at No. 6 in 2005; then there was Nikita Filatov at six in 2008, and Brayden Schenn was the fifth pick in 2009.

Related: Olli Juolevi Could Be a No. 1 Defenseman

Now, Brayden Schenn is a good middle-six forward today, but he is still a great example for how top-five picks don’t necessarily become star players. The draft is a lottery, it’s that simple.

So, saying the Vancouver Canucks should not use their No. 5 pick on Olli Juolevi because he won’t be a true No. 1 defenseman is simply a crazy statement. It sounds as though all forwards were locks for NHL top lines. They are not.

Matthew Tkachuk and Alex Nylander could become as great as his fathers, Logan Brown could be the next Joe Thornton, and Clayton Keller could end up being the best offensive forward of the entire draft. But, Olli Juolevi could become the next Victor Hedman or Oliver Ekman Larsson — who knows.

Juolevi took a huge leap in his development in the 2015-16 season, highlighted by a gold medal at the World Junior Championship with Team Finland, the OHL Championship, and a Memorial Cup victory. He was able to show what he can do against the world’s best junior players, even if he might have gotten sheltered minutes in the OHL every once in a while.

Olli Juolevi is a well-rounded defenseman who excels in all three zones. He is a great skater with outstanding defensive awareness and stick work. He is not the most physical player, but he uses his size to his advantage. In the neutral zone and on offense, he likes to pinch in and function as a fourth forward on the attack and distribute the puck to his teammates. Unlike a guy like Jake Bean, Juolevi knows how to make safe plays and be a consistent force, which should translate very well to the NHL.

Next: Final 2016 3-Round Mock Draft

It is true, Juolevi might not become a true No. 1 defenseman. But he sure as hell has the potential to be a top-line player.

If there is something you don’t like about Juolevi, okay. If you simply like Tkachuk or Dubois better than Juolevi and have valid reasons to think they will have better NHL careers, okay. But don’t go to sleep in fury after the Canucks pick him fifth, simply because he’s a defenseman.