No, you didn’t read the title wrong, the first round pick from the 2016 draft, Olli Juolevi, could play a role in who the Vancouver Canucks decide to select on draft day.
I know a lot of Vancouver Canucks fans are still bitter that the team passed on Matthew Tkachuk in order to draft his London Knights teammate, defenceman Olli Juolevi. The pick is one that is still to this day heavily scrutinized since Tkachuk has been an impact player for the Calgary Flames since his rookie year — while Juolevi has yet to make his NHL debut.
So how on earth could a player who has never even suited up for an NHL game play a role in who the team chooses to draft in June? I’ll tell you how. It all comes down to whether or not the Canucks’ management group still believe that Juolevi has what it takes to be a legitimate NHL defenceman.
Juolevi was looking solid in his time with the Utica Comets this season. He had 13 points in 18 games with the Comets before going down with a leg injury that ended his season. Juolevi’s road to the NHL is one he’s still on, but boy has it ever had its fair share of roadblocks along the way.
Juolevi underwent offseason surgery last year that caused him to miss a considerable amount of valuable workout and training time. He came into camp and didn’t look like he was ready to compete for a roster spot out of camp. But as Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning said at the end of the year, with all the injuries to the Canucks defencemen this year, we likely would have seen Juolevi in a Canucks’ uniform at some point this season.
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So Juolevi missed out on more precious development time, but looked good in the games that he was able to play in. Hopefully, Juolevi has a good offseason and comes into camp ready to earn himself a spot on the team.
The reason Juolevi even plays a role in this is because the Canucks have an interesting decision to make at 10th overall on the draft board. There is some serious offensive talent that could be available at tenth, such as Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach, Peyton Krebs, and Matthew Boldy.
However, there are also some solid defencemen that could be available at tenth overall in the form of two Swedes — right-hander Victor Soderstrom and LHD Philip Broberg. If history repeats itself and the Canucks decide to draft for a positional need rather than the best player available, we could see them pass on the forwards I mentioned to take one of these Swedish defencemen.
If the Canucks’ management group decides that there is still a positional need on defence, then they may draft a defenceman. However, if they believe that Juolevi will soon be ready to make the next step, then they will likely go with one of the skilled forwards I mentioned above — a couple of which may already be NHL ready.
In my opinion, you should always draft the best player available, but at times, that could also mean drafting for a positional need. The Canucks needed a playmaking center at the 2017 draft and went with Elias Pettersson. They needed a defenceman last year and walked away with Quinn Hughes. In both cases, those were also the best players available.
Only time will tell which direction the Canucks take on draft day. What do you think Canucks fans? Draft for positional need, or the best player available? Let me know in the comments section below!