The Vancouver Canucks have chosen defenceman Olli Juolevi with the 5th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) June 24, 2016
Juolevi is a 6’2″, 183-pound defenceman from Finland. He starred for the Memorial Cup champion London Knights last season, scoring 42 points (9-33-42) in 57 games. The puck-moving d-man put up another 14 points (3-11-14) in 18 OHL playoff games and 7 points (0-7-7) in 4 games in the Memorial Cup.
The Canucks appeared to have their eye on centre Pierre-Luc Dubois, who was a surprise selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets at 3rd overall. Winger Jesse Puljujärvi slipped to 4th overall, leaving the Canucks with a choice between a pair of London Knights: Juolevi and winger Matthew Tkachuk. Vancouver chose Juolevi, which serves a positional need.
“We love his hockey sense, his ability to read the play defensively, his ability to handle the puck and get it up ice fast,” Benning told Sportsnet following the selection. “His ability to figure out the play defensively, use his stick , use good positioning… His ability to get the puck and move it up ice to the forwards fast, I think he’ll fit in to what we’re trying to do in Vancouver.”
Here’s the scouting report from Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects:
A competitive spark-plug, Olli Juolevi is a complete, all-around defenceman who can hem the opposition in their own end or make things difficult for the opposition at home; either way, he puts the pressure on and lays it on thick. A strong and balanced skater, he can rush the puck through the neutral zone with ease or backcheck with haste. Uses his size to his advantage, but knows his physical limits and plays within them. Instead of playing overly physical, he makes his presence felt by exhibiting his high-end playmaking ability and puck possession play. All-in-all, a well-rounded blueliner who thrives under pressure and can be trusted in all situations.
Juolevi is the type of defenceman that the Canucks can certainly use, although he is not projected to be a cornerstone, #1 defenceman. It’s likely too much to expect him to make the jump to the NHL next season, so it’s probable that he’ll get another year to develop in London.