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Drafting Juolevi was a strong move for the Canucks

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Omar Jun 26, 2016 5:46 am

Having a solid NHL defenceman is like owning property in Vancouver.

Put one on the market, you’ll get 10 great offers in a day.

Just think about the interest Travis Hamonic generated when he requested a trade this past season.

Vancouver traded one of their most promising young prospects, Jared McCann, and a second round draft pick for Erik Gudbranson – a second-pair defenceman – a month ago.

And at the trade deadline, Calgary fetched two prospects and a second round draft pick from Dallas for Kris Russell, another second-pair guy with limited offensive upside.

Still, when Vancouver passed on forward Matthew Tkatchuk to select defenceman Olli Juolevi with their fifth overall draft selection Friday, the overwhelming sentiment from fans was anger and disappointment.

Really, they shouldn’t be so upset.

While the Canucks’ asset management has come under heavy fire since the Linden regime took over, they may have got this one right by selecting a more valuable asset than a scoring winger.

The crux of this argument is Vancouver’s belief Juolevi will be a top-pairing defenceman.

“We haven’t drafted a defenceman in the first round in 11 years,” Benning said to TSN 1040 after drafting Juolevi.

“I thought at the World Juniors, for a 17-year-old to be one of the best defencemen in the tournament, I’ve never seen that in all my years of scouting – for a young kid to show so much poise defensively, handling the puck and stuff.”

Earlier, on Canucks TV, Benning said he believes it’s hard to get top-pairing defencemen through trades in today’s NHL. If we’re being honest, it always has been.

On Juolevi’s chances of being as good as the Canucks think he’ll be, he put up 42 points in 57 regular season games and 14 points in 18 playoff games with the Memorial Cup champion London Knights this past season – strong numbers for any defenceman.

More importantly, Benning and others who analyze Juolevi can’t stop talking about how smart he is as a player. Basically, all he needs to do is fill out his 6′-3″ frame – he’s currently at 183 poundsĀ – and he won’t be out of place at training camp, according to Benning.

Still lamenting the decision to take him over Tkatchuk?

Consider Edmonton’s situation – they’ve been drafting young, skilled forwards for years. Now in desperate need of defencemen, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov have been rumoured to be on the market for nearly a year, yet the right offer hasn’t come in.

It’ll take Eberle – a top-line forward – plus high draft picks or quality prospects to fetch a top-2 defenceman.

That’s how the market works, so consider this: if Juolevi drops below potential and becomes a number-three defenceman, he’s still worth more, on the market than a top-6 winger.

Only problem is it’ll take at least two years until he has that value.


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Omar
Sports writer with Daily Hive Vancouver; University of Kings College journalism grad; worked at TSN.ca and 24Hours.

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