The next player we are going to look at his Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi. Juolevi has a pretty impressive resume for a young player. He was the best defenseman on a very stacked London Knights team, and was able to play with players like Mitch Marner and Matthew Tkachuk. Juolevi is one of the top defensemen in this years draft, with some saying he’s the best one. Let’s take a deeper look at Juolevi.
From: Helsinki, FIN
Weight: 183 lbs
The rankings provided are the most recent rankings at the time of this writing.
ISS Hockey: 11th
Craig Button: 7th
The Draft Analyst: 9th
Future Considerations: 12th
Bob McKenzie: 7th
Draft Buzz: 8th
McKeen’s Hockey: 5th
NHL Central Scouting: 5th (NA Skaters)
As it’s been with some of the prospects we’ve profiled, Juolevi’s rankings are somewhat different. He’s ranked as low as 12th by Future Considerations, and as high as 5th by McKeen’s hockey. He is also ranked 5th by the NHL Central Scouting, but that is for North American Skaters, which don’t include the top 3 of Matthews, Laine, and Puljujärvi. Factor that in, and Juolevi is 8th for them. It doesn’t look like Juolevi will be available at 11, though. He could fall, as the rankings show he doesn’t have one universally set spot.
Just like Sergachyov, this was Juolevi’s first season in North America. He spent three years playing in the Jokerit system for the U16, U18, and U20 teams. He put up good numbers, scoring 34 points in 34 games during his time with the U16 team. His 29 points in 33 games for the U18 team, which was good for a 0.88 PPG clip. His full season with the U20 team saw him put up 32 points in 44 games, a solid 0.73 PPG pace. He also lead the team’s defense in scoring. Juolevi made the jump to North America this year, playing with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. His first year in the OHL was a good one, putting up 42 points in 57 games. That translates to a 0.74 PPG average. He was 10th in rookie scoring, and 3rd in rookie scoring for defensemen. Juolevi also lead all Knights defensemen in scoring.
It was a very good year for Juolevi in London. On top of all his points and accomplishments, he helped the Knights win the Robertson Cup, punching their ticket to the Memorial Cup in Red Deer. His 14 points in 18 games lead all Knights defensemen in the playoffs, which was good for 3rd for OHL defensemen and 1st for rookies in the OHL. He did play more games than most players, but that’s still very impressive.
Juolevi has some great international experience. He’s represented Finland at the U16, U17, U18, and U20 levels. The thing to look at is that Juolevi has put up points at each of these levels, and has played solid defense for the Finnish team. He’s played at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, putting up 1 assist in 4 games. Spread across other International Jr tournaments, he’s put up 15 points in 30 games. A 0.50 PPG clip isn’t bad for a young defenseman. His best tournament was the 2016 World Junior Championship, where he helped Finland win gold for the second time in three years. His 9 points in 7 games was good for a 1.29 PPG average. He was a top 10 scorer in the tournament, tied with Zach Werenski and Denis Malgin. Juolevi tied Werenski for the top scoring defensemen in the tournament, and had the most assists by any defenseman.
We’re going to look at a quote from Elite Prospects to start off. You can see the quote below.
“Very sturdily built D-man that leans into his hits, competes hard, and possesses elite-level vision and hockey sense. Looks stronger game-by-game and adapts very quickly to his surroundings and situations. Scouts liken Olli Juolevi to Olli Maatta of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both are fluid skaters and have deep-rooted understandings of their position. Both have tremendous skill and talent, and both will go far in their careers.”
“Possesses elite-level vision and hockey sense” is the one thing that really stands out to me. Juolevi sees the ice well and knows how to play the game, which is something that we don’t think about often. It’s easy to see how many points someone scores, or how hard they shoot, but we don’t normally think about someone’s hockey sense. I also like that he’s only gotten better as the season’s progressed. If he turns out to be the type of player that Maatta is, he will be a very good player for the team that drafts him.
Some more quotes from Elite Prospects, this time from Curtis Joe.
“A competitive spark-plug, Olli Juolevi is a complete, all-around defenceman that 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”
Complete, all-around defenseman who is a strong skater and use his size and playmaking/puck possession skills sounds like someone I’d want on my team.
See what Craig Button had to say about Juolevi in March below:
“Olli Juolevi (#7) of the London Knights is an incredibly competent player who makes the game look easy in all areas. He makes the essential and key plays at every turn. He shows mastery of his position under the most challenging of circumstances, and his poise, calm and assuredness are the stuff of pillar-type defencemen.”
And what Steve from The Draft Analyst had to say here:
“Juolevi is a tremendous, powerful skater who makes carrying the puck up the ice seem effortless. What really stands out is his agility and quickness moving both laterally and backwards. You can classify him as your atypical offensive-minded defenseman who always looks to make a play or expand on one that has already developed. Transitioning from blue line to blue line is his bread and butter, and he expands his options not only from his mobility, but from his exceptional passing prowess and vision. Juolevi’s passes are hard and on the tape, and the acumen he provides while doing so is why he’s so highly regarded. He owns a very hard, accurate shot and uses it with authority on a power play chock full of snipers.”
One thing that really excites me is how well he transitions from blue line to blue line. That’s something that is so helpful, and frankly it’s something that the Devils could use. While Steve praises Juolevi here, he points out some faults, saying,
“The problem is that his vast arsenal of contributions begins and ends on the offensive side of the red line, as we’ve seen him struggle in corners and dealing with the OHL’s more zealous power forwards.”
This seems to be the only downside to his game, at least from quotes I’ve seen. But it’s also something that can come when Juolevi gets older and stronger. It seems to contradict what others have said about his two-way game, but if he has problems in his corners he’ll need to improve.
Scoring Line’s Opinion
I would be more than happy to have a prospect like Olli Juolevi on the Devils. The team lacks a defenseman that can skate the puck out of the zone and make contributions in the offensive zone. He might have his shortcomings, but his overall game seems good enough where it won’t be too much of a bad thing. I’m a big believer in thinking that offense doesn’t need to come from a forward. Someone like Juolevi could have a big impact on a team that needs offense. I don’t see him sliding down to 11, but if he’s there, I would be ecstatic with the pick.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)