Vancouver Canucks: Prospects through two games at the World Juniors

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 28: Elias Pettersson
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 28: Elias Pettersson /
2 of 3

Olli Juolevi

Finland played two games, winning one while losing the first in regulation.  The Finns loaded up with talent this year on both offence and defence with a brand new coaching staff.

Last year, Juolevi was the captain of a squad that was nearly relegated after a disappointing tournament. It appears Finland wanted to forget everything from last year as Jusso Valimaki was made the captain of the team this year.

Canada was their first opponent during this stage of the tournament. On paper, this game was supposed to be a challenge. It did not start out that way. After the first period, Canada was up 3-1 (with the first being a questionable call on the net being dislodged). The Canadians won the game 4-2 in a very sloppy and disorganized game.

Juolevi had no points during that game, but I thought he played a very quiet and effective game. Very few mistakes, especially when comparing him to Miro Heiskanen and Jusso Valimaki. He looked comfortable on the second defensive pair with Henri Jokiharju and did well to maintain control in the Canadian’s zone whenever they had the puck.

Finland had a much better showing against Denmark, picking up a 4-2 win. Once again, Juolevi had a quietly good game. Few mistakes, good positioning and he generated shot attempts despite not producing any points. Darryl Keeping tracked shot attempts and assists down below.

Juolevi played well, but as you can see, Heiskanen, Valimaki and Jokiharju were better. It’s not surprising for the top pairing of the first two since they get the offensive opportunities. But we are seeing that Juolevi is Finland’s fourth best offensive option on the blue line.

Adjust your expectations

All in all, I think Juolevi has been very good so far. It just depends on your expectations. He will never be the “guy” who can put the team on his back. Juolevi plays an understated and rather passive game.

More from The Canuck Way

It may frustrate some fans (and likely Travis Green) that he has this passive body language. You may mistake it for a lack of compete and aggression, but this is how Juolevi is. Even during the OHL playoffs last year, he still plays a passive game. However, he had more of those game-defining moments, especially when his goal eliminated the Windsor Spitfires.

I think he’s tracking well to be a second pairing defenceman in the NHL. Does he have the potential to be on a top pairing? Of course, but I sure hope that his partner is an elite number one defencemen. Otherwise, the Canucks could be in trouble if Juolevi will be relied on for offence from the back end.

Don’t expect Juolevi to lead the tournament in points among defencemen. With Rasmus Dahlin playing, I don’t expect him to be the best defender by the end of the World Juniors. Is that what you want from a 5th overall pick? No, but it does not change the fact that Juolevi will be a decent player. His selection is an issue with Canucks Management and not the player himself.

Will Lockwood

The Americans have a tonne of offensive power at their disposal at forward and defence. However, Will Lockwood did not make the team for his scoring touch. As the 13th forward, Lockwood needs to be physical and play a sound defensive game.

In his first game, defence was not much of a concern. The United States dominated Denmark in a 9-0 thrashing. Lockwood had no points, but he was hitting like a freight train. I thought he played fairly well defensively, but in a game like that, he wasn’t tested very often.

There is one thing I want to address about his hitting. It’s nice to see someone willing to throw their weight around, but Lockwood needs to be careful. In his freshman year in college, he hit anything that moved and injured his should because of it. Lockwood needs to still mature and know the best time to pick his spots if he wants to stick around the NHL for the long term.

I don’t care where your allegiances lie, this is a dirty, blind-side hit. This type of play is what Lockwood needs to remove from his game. It is unnecessary and just dangerous. In a league that is so resistant to admit that hockey causes concussions, he should not add to the problem that affects people after their hockey careers ends.

Moving on to the second game, I’m sure everyone has heard about Slovakia with the 3-2 upset over the US. The Americans played a lazy and uninspired game. Perhaps they were conserving energy for today’s outdoor game, but their efforts were inexcusable on home ice.

Lockwood was invisible and this chippy game was not fun to watch. Too reminiscent of the dead puck era. I’m hoping the loss fires this team enough to make a competitive showing against Team Canada for the top spot in the group.