The Vancouver Canucks have promising prospects on the blue line such as Quinn Hughes and Jett Woo, however we should not sleep on the fifth overall selection back in 2016.
However, the No. 5 selection from the 2016 NHL draft — Olli Juolevi — had a decent season with the Utica Comets before being sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
The 2016 draft was a controversial one for the Canucks. Many anticipated the Canucks would draft Matthew Tkachuk or Mikhail Sergachev at fifth overall, however, the Canucks thought otherwise and selected Juolevi. While some believed initially this was a big miss by the Canucks, others looked at the pick as a smart positional move by the Canucks.
Being at the draft party, there were mixed opinions. At the time, the Canucks had zero high-end defensive prospects in the pool, and the last defenceman they drafted in the first round was the late Luc Bourdon back in 2005.
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Juolevi was coming off of a 42 point campaign in 57 games with the London Knights of the OHL and proceeded to post another 42 points in 58 games in the next season with the Knights, which left many fans concerned with the lack of improvement.
One issue that I have been noticing recently is that fans and media alike may take early success by recent young players for granted.
There seems to be much greater pressure on young payers to succeed and become regulars in the NHL at younger ages.
An argument against such thought is the early success from Tkachuk and Sergachev. While it is valid to make such an argument, Juolevi made a very impressive response back in September.
"“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about who gets the the NHL the fastest. It’s about who plays longest and who has the best career. I’m really excited to start my NHL career now.”"
Juolevi was then loaned to TPS Turku of the Finnish league Liiga, where he had 19 points over 38 games. This season, Juolevi played in Utica, posting 13 points in 18 games. He started the season producing very well at the AHL level, however suffered a tear in his meniscus and required surgery. His NHLe for his short season in Utica provides he scores 28 points over 82 games in the NHL, which is very solid.
While he did produce well offensively, he did however possess a minus-12 rating. Plus/minus does not have the best track record for being a reliable source of player scouting, but it is notable to his stats.
When the Canucks drafted Juolevi at fifthoverall, there was hope he could become a solid top pairing defenceman, While there is no ruling out that it could still happen, it is more likely that he becomes a top four defenceman, and that is still a win.
Over the past few years, Juolevi has been maturing his body, and has been focusing on rounding out his game. He plays a very quiet but efficient game, reminiscent of Alexander Edler. Juolevi is a all around defenceman, one who is responsible in his own end, while showing poise with and without the puck, being a puck moving defender.
In today’s NHL, contending teams need many solid defenceman, and with a prospect pool of Hughes, Juolevi, and Woo, the Canucks have the potential to have some great defencemen in this new era.
Ever since his injury, it seems that Juolevi has been forgotten about as a prospect, and how his future could greatly impact the Canucks. Personally I see Juolevi panning out to be a number three defenceman, one who leads the second pair and can be useful in all situations, which is extremely valuable to any team. Let me know what you think in the comments below.