Olli Juolevi has come a long way in his draft season.
Both literally and figuratively.
The 18-year-old jumped from his native Helsinki to join the London Knights, a 6740 km change, to chase down his hockey dream.
It hasn’t disappointed.
“I’m super happy for my decision to come here,” said Juolevi, who was drafted 45th overall in the 2015 CHL Import Draft last June by the Knights. “It’s been a great year. Also, off ice things … I know more about the North American culture right now. The language is much easier. All those things.
“I think it makes it easier to break into the NHL. You already know the North American game. Especially our team, we have (coach Dale Hunter) and those guys that have been in the NHL, and they know how things go there. They’re preparing us for those things. I think it’s a really big help for me, especially me coming from Europe.
“Just learning the difference between European and North American hockey. I can make faster decisions on the ice and am stronger in battles. I still have to work on my strength and the battles that come from the corners and things like that.
"But I think I’ve been improving at that all year.”
Improving his draft stock, too.
To suggest the move helped Juolevi is an understatement, both in development and draft status.
Among those in conversation for first round contention last summer, the rearguard has heightened the expectation to conversation about being amongst the first blueliner off the board when the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft rolls around on June 24th at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY.
It’s a significant jump.
But not one that is necessarily of great concern to Juolevi.
“It’s more important that the team actually wants you and they think you’re a good player and they need you and you’re going to be a big part of their organization in the future,” he said. “I don’t think being the first defenceman is that big of a deal.”
His resume has jumped Juolevi up the charts, though.
World Junior gold with Finland in January, where he was named to the tournament's all-star team after leading all defencemen with nine assists in seven games.
Thirty-three assists and 42 points in 59 games en route to being named to the second all-rookie team and third all-star team in the Ontario Hockey League.
A J. Ross Robertson Cup win as Ontario Hockey League champions with the Knights in early May, where Juolevi posted 11 assists and 14 points in 18 games.
A Memorial Cup title weeks later, where Juolevi paced all defencemen with seven points -- all assists -- to net his third championship in five months.
That success isn’t an accident.
“He’s a really good defenceman,” said London teammate and fellow draft eligible Max Jones. “He’s a great guy too. I always find myself hanging out with him this year. He’s always at my house or we’re always going to do something. He’s a really good guy. That’s the most important part, is his character. Besides that fact, he’s a great player too. He won the World Juniors. He put up a lot of points there. He’s a good player. He shows it when he plays. He’s a good teammate, easy to be around.”
It’s not a one-off, either.
He’s been gathering it all season.
After coming a long way.