The Helsinki, Finland product was at the top of the Canucks’ draft board when it came time to make their pick. He was their top-rated defenceman in the draft. They got their guy.
Juolevi is a well-rounded defenceman. He can chip in offensively, while also keeping things under control in his own end. He’s coming off a Memorial Cup winning season with the OHL’s London Knights, where he registered 42 points (9-33-42) in 57 regular season games.
“I think I’m an offensive defenseman,” said Juolevi. “But there is the two-way game, so I can play all situations, penalty kill and power play, but my offensive assets are my strength, and it helps.”
Juolevi has shown he can be a big game player, stepping up his play on the big stage. He added seven points in four games at the Memorial Cup. Earlier in the season, he was a stud at the World Juniors, finishing in a tie for most points among defenceman with nine (0-9-9), a record for 17-year-olds at the World Juniors, as he helped Finland win gold. That is where the Canucks really started to take notice.
“Coming out of the World Juniors, we thought he had an exceptional tournament,” said Canucks general manager Jim Benning. “He is a high hockey-sense guy. His ability to defend and his defensive awareness, using his hockey sense to get sticks in lanes to break up plays, and then when he gets the puck on his stick, he moves it up to the forwards fast.”
Juolevi is confident, but not cocky. He believes in his abilities and rightfully so. Like any young prospect, he will work on adding strength to his 6-foot-2 frame, with the hopes of cracking the Canucks lineup in October.
“That’s my goal,” said Juolevi. “I think everybody who’s going top 10 or so, they have to work so hard this summer, and that’s my attitude this summer. I want to play in the NHL next year, and I want to come to training camp and show what I’ve got.”
Benning agrees that if he adds some strength, it’s not out of the question.
“He has the hockey sense to step in and play,” said Benning. “The pace of the NHL game is not going to affect him. He needs to get physically stronger. He is almost 6-foot-3 and 182-pounds right now. If he has a good summer and adds strength to his frame, he is the type of guy, because he is so smart and reads the play so well, he could come in and not look out of place.”
However, going back to London, one of the best junior hockey development programs in all of Canada, wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.
“I think if he was to play another year of junior, it’s not going to hurt him,” said Benning. “He had a real good year this year and he will just get better next year. Adding strength will serve him well. He is going to a great program in London with great coaches.”
As for the near future, Juolevi will most likely make his way to Vancouver for the Canucks Prospects Camp in Shawnigan Lake July 4-7. It won’t be his first trip to Vancouver. He was here in January for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
“I was so pleased to go to Vancouver,” he said. “I saw how great the city is and how much they love hockey. It’s awesome.”