The NHL draft is now less than 24 hours away with the first round set for Friday night. Our look at the top prospects continues with London defenceman Olli Juolevi.
Birthdate: May 5, 1998
Hometown: Helsinki, Finland
Weight: 182 lbs
Juolevi completed his first year in North America this past season after the Knights selected him in the first round of the CHL Import Draft. He made an immediate impact and it wasn’t long before he became their go-to player in all situations. He wound up leading all London blueliners in points, finishing tied for 13th overall among all OHL defenders.
Like several top prospects in this class, Juolevi suited up at the World Juniors for his native Finland, tying for the tournament lead in points by a defenseman while playing as their #1 rearguard. He was also named to the tournament All-Star team.
As a result of the Knights winning the OHL title, Juolevi also suited up in the Memorial Cup where his team took home the title. Similar to the WJC’s, he also led all defensemen in scoring in that tournament as well while being named to that tournament All-Star team.
OHL: 57 GP, 9 goals, 33 assists, 42 points, 16 PIMS, +38 rating
WJC: 7 GP, 0 goals, 9 assists, 9 points, 4 PIMS, +6 rating
Memorial Cup: 4 GP, 0 goals, 7 assists, 7 points, 4 PIMS, +6 rating
There’s a strong case to be made that Juolevi is the most well-rounded blueliner in the draft. He’s not elite at any particular skill but there are next to no holes in his game either.
Offensively, he is a playmaker first and foremost. He sees the ice extremely well and does a fine job at getting the puck to the right place at the right time. His shot isn’t the most powerful but is effective due to its accuracy. Juolevi is also a very strong skater and uses that to help kick start a rush or to skate himself out of trouble effectively.
On the defensive side of things, Juolevi made big strides compared to the beginning of the season but his decision making and positioning are areas that still need to improve. He also isn’t the strongest of players which doesn’t help in his own zone. He isn’t a big risk taker which helps mitigates some of his weaknesses but safe and smart decision making is something that’s always an asset to NHL GM’s.
Projected Future Role
If his defensive game improves as expected, Juolevi should be a top pairing defenseman down the road.
Some of the players in this draft are NHL ready or close to it but Juolevi isn’t one of those players. He needs to bulk up and continue to hone his in-zone play. He’s likely at least two years away from stepping in; three would seem most likely as not many blueliners step into an NHL lineup straight out of junior.