Vancouver Canucks: Olli Juolevi is done for the year and why it matters

LAVAL, QC, CANADA - NOVEMBER 3: Olli Juolevi #48 of the Utica Comets skating up the ice with the puck against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on November 3, 2018 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC, CANADA - NOVEMBER 3: Olli Juolevi #48 of the Utica Comets skating up the ice with the puck against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on November 3, 2018 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images) /

Vancouver Canucks defensive prospect Olli Juolevi had to have knee surgery yesterday. His season is over and will be ready for training camp, but the news could not come at a worse time.

After a spirited second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Vancouver Canucks came together as a team, standing up for a dirty head shot on Troy Stecher. Canucks fans were once again united by a common enemy and finally gave the fans what we wanted in Florida when Elias Pettersson was slammed into the ice.

You would think that would be the biggest story from yesterday, but sadly it was not. Before the game, we learned that Olli Juolevi had to undergo knee surgery, ending his promising season. The Canucks say that Juolevi will recover and rehab in Vancouver and will be ready for training camp next year.

I really do feel for the guy. Two major surgeries in one year. First, his back surgery shaved two and a half months off his summer training, likely putting him a step behind everyone else at camp. He was putting up the points in the AHL. I may have my issues with his even strength play and what he does without the puck, but he was being productive.

He hasn’t had the chance to play an NHL game yet and has to deal with consecutive injuries. It must hurt his confidence as it puts another wrench in his development. If you were watching the Comets this season, his skating wasn’t as good as it needed to be. So, some may attribute that to the required operation on his knee. We’ll have to see after he recovers.

However, we once again saw a communication issue from Jim Benning. He said he would be on top of injuries this year. Well, Jeff Paterson has the timeline of news from Olli Juolevi. You tell me if this sounds like Benning is on top of things.

Let’s not forget when the Canucks put Thatcher Demko on an airplane to Utica when he didn’t feel right with his concussion. They sent him anyway and that made the concussion symptoms worse. Or the fact that players this season have been clearly playing through injuries (Brock Boeser, Chris Tanev, Erik Gudbranson).

It seems no different from last year when Boeser was awkwardly helped off the ice after injuring his back and ending his rookie season. I know it seems easy to blame the medical staff, but I thought about something.

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What if the Canucks are just ignoring the staff and trying to get their players to stay out there for as long as possible? You’re not a hero or a warrior by playing through an injury during the regular season. That makes you a fool because you won’t be playing at your best. All players want to fight through injuries, but if you were legitimately in a playoff hunt, you’re just hurting your own chances in the post-season (pun definitely intended).

That makes sense to me. It hardly seems like players get to properly heal unless things take a turn for the worse. You can’t tell me that Benning has a handle on this when in one month’s time we go from Juolevi had a “knock,” to he’ll be out 2-3 weeks, to he doesn’t need surgery, to his season is done because of surgery.

I used to think the communication issues were largely due to a disconnect between Benning and Trevor Linden. Well, Linden is gone and the communication issues are still here. What does that tell you?

Lastly, this is just a gut punch for Olli Juolevi. There was a lot riding on this season. In his draft+3, Juolevi can see the other players drafted around him succeed and if the injury didn’t happen, he was probably going to be a call up later in the season. But all of that is gone as he has to reset once again and prove next year that he can play at this level. It’s an uphill battle and he had the worst luck, but that’s the hand he’s been dealt.

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He may only be 20 years old, but with injuries like this, it has to affect his mobility in some way. That probably hurts his game in the long run and he hasn’t even been tested in the NHL. You have to wonder since this yet another hurdle in his development. Be as optimistic as you want. However, his development curve is going to take a hit because of the surgery. I don’t doubt he can be an NHL player, but I wouldn’t hold out hope for top pairing upside anymore (assuming you still had it).