PENTICTON, BC -- Olli Juolevi hasn’t swapped text messages with Matthew Tkachuk since arriving in Penticton for the Young Stars Classic.
But he certainly expects to swap a few shots with his London Knights teammate when they cross paths in the tournament finale Monday.
It’s no secret, after all, that it’s Tkachuk’s particular brand of hockey.
“He plays so hard,” said Juolevi, who was selected fifth overall -- one spot ahead of Tkachuk -- by the Canucks at the 2016 NHL Draft. “He’s a tough guy and he uses his big body out there. He’s not a fun guy to play against.
“It’s not fun.”
Juolevi would know. The pair spent nine months together, capturing the J. Ross Robertson Cup as Ontario Hockey League champions, and the Memorial Cup as major junior's top team.
He’s not surprised that Tkachuk’s line at the Young Stars Classic reads as it does.
An elbowing minor.
A cross-checking minor.
A high-sticking minor.
A spearing double-minor.
And a 10-minute misconduct.
One-hundred percent accurate, suggested Juolevi.
“That’s classic,” he said. “Of course, you like when he’s playing on your team. Sometimes when you’re a player like that it goes over the line and you take penalties. That’s hockey. It’s his game.”
The praise runs both ways with teammates.
“He’s a very smooth defenceman,” Tkachuk said. “He’s such a smart player. He has a really good stick and his gaps are really good. You can’t gain speed. The lower he gets, he’ll stand inches away from you. He’s really smart with the puck and he quarterbacked our play in London, which was awesome. He’s a really smooth puck mover and has a great shot. He has a lot of everything.
“As the levels get higher he just becomes a better player."
Tkachuk netted 80 minutes in penalties to compliment a 30-goal, 107-point regular season with London. The 18-year-old sprinkled in an additional 42 minutes, with 20 goals and 20 assists, in the 18 games it took to net an OHL title. He had four minutes in penalties, and eight points -- including the OT winner in the final -- to earn the CHL title.
Juolevi had nine goals and 42 points in 57 regular season games, and 11 assists and 14 points in the playoffs, and seven points -- all assists -- at the Memorial Cup. He was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team and OHL Third All-Star Team honours.
Tyler Parsons, also nabbed by the Flames in 2016 backstopped them both.
Parsons stopped 21 of 22 shots against the Edmonton Oilers in just over 30 minutes of action against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, and could see some relief duty against Juolevi and the Canucks.
“He never gives up,” Juolevi said. “He tries so hard and battles so hard. He’s so fast in the crease. That’s all you can ask for from your goalie. He has good confidence right now.
“He’s a good goalie.”
But, should he play, hopefully not on Monday, Juolevi suggested.
Tkachuk can have an off-night, too.
“There are no friends when you are on the ice,” Juolevi said.
“[But] it’s nice to see that those guys are also here. They’re good players. It’s kind of weird when you play with those guys, and now you have to play against them and hit them and do everything. It’s pretty cool.”