Olli Juolevi on his offseason, surgery, training camp and more

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 02: Olli Juolevi #7 of Finland celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal to give Finland a 2-1 lead over the Czech Republic during the second period of play in the IIHF World Junior Championships Quarterfinal game at the KeyBank Center on January 2, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 02: Olli Juolevi #7 of Finland celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal to give Finland a 2-1 lead over the Czech Republic during the second period of play in the IIHF World Junior Championships Quarterfinal game at the KeyBank Center on January 2, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Olli Juolevi was on Sportsnet 650 a couple of days ago to discuss what he’s been up to and how he plans to make the team this fall.

The Vancouver Canucks have a lot of fun news swirling around them right now. With an icon leaving and few answers from the team’s ownership, everything we hear about the situation is getting wilder and wilder. It makes it sound like Game of Thrones in the background, which is just fun to watch.

Amidst the chaos, a pair of Canucks spoke with the crew on the Starting Lineup. I will be talking about Bo Horvat in another article, so I wanted to shift focus to Olli Juolevi. The Finnish defender talked about his injury and how recovery has been going. Of course, you can get the important quotes from the interview at Rick Dhaliwal’s twitter account.

Where is at right now

More from The Canuck Way

What Juolevi said here was rather interesting. He’s still not at 100%, but assures us that he will be more than ready when training camp starts. Obviously, he wants to make the team, but he has one heck of mountain to climb.

That surgery put a real wrench in his offseason plans. For a player who needed to work on his strength and fitness, losing several weeks while recovering did not make things any easier. On top of that, the Canucks already have eight defencemen under contract.

Looking at the left-handed defenders, Juolevi has four in his way and one of them of them has the added benefit of being the coach’s favourite and playing on either side. This camp will be very important. We will see how much his game has improved. Last year, he could not control gaps in the defensive zone and was often chasing the play. I’m sure this year’s camp will be different.

Unfortunately, an improvement like that is not enough. Fitness is so important to Travis Green and it’s how Ben Hutton got in the doghouse last season. This is where starting training well after everyone else makes this much more difficult.

Honestly, I’m not worried about Juolevi passing Hutton and Derrick Pouliot. The real obstacle will be Michael Del Zotto. Although, it won’t be because of his playing ability. Based on how much Green gushed over Del Zotto’s fitness levels, I’m willing to wager that he is the bench mark for Juolevi. That may honestly be the only way Juolevi forces the Canucks to move someone out, especially with Green having this much influence on the roster these days.

The right attitude going in

Another interesting series of points discussed in the interview was the perception of where he was drafted. Juolevi is well aware of it, but won’t let that cloud his focus on training camp. He’s coming in to earn the spot and at the very least, he is saying all the right things. Although, actions speak louder than words.

Speaking of words, it should be no surprise to you that Juolevi is well aware of the kind of pressure that is on him from both fans and media. However, it doesn’t bother him. And it shouldn’t. These new players are not these fragile beings that can’t handle the internet.

They were raised in it and if something like a few mean words was going to hold them back, then I don’t think they ever had what it took to stick in this league. Listen to former players. Juolevi is going to hear a lot worse out on that ice surface and I think he already has in Finland.

Juolevi thought he had a good season and he did. There’s no taking away from that. But the reason we compare him to others in his peer group is because he is not the only defensive prospect that had a good season. It does not detract from Juolevi and only serves to provide context, especially since some of those peers are already full-time NHL players.

The Canuck Way roundtable on Trevor Linden's departure. dark. Next

At the end of it all, I am hopeful for Juolevi this fall (shocking, I know). Keep in mind that he is going to have to go the extra mile to “earn” that spot. He won’t make the squad on merit alone, so Juolevi needs to prove that he is the team’s third best defenceman. No pressure. I can’t see Jim Benning moving one of his vets. But maybe, just maybe the team will make room. I don’t want to see the same defence again, so I do hope Juolevi makes it.