Not the Finn you want, but still a Finn to consider. London Knights defenceman Olli Juolevi is the feature of today’s First Round Targets post.
Scouts have pretty much reached a consensus about Juolevi: he’s a very calm, mature defender that has shot up the draft rankings thanks to his seamless adaption to the North American game.
This smart, composed two-way blue liner plays the game in a very mature, experience manner. He is calm and focused although sometimes he could play with a tad more urgency in his own zone. He is strong in his one-on one defensive play using his stick and positioning to break-up plays. His passing ability is elite for his age and he is strong at moving the puck. He generates impressive speeds with a strong, balance stride and good agility to keep up to attacking forwards.
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.
Juolevi has had no problem whatsoever adjusting to the North American style of play as he already anchors London’s offensively-charged power play. The Helsinki, Finland native adopts a cool and calm approach to all facets of his play; never panics and is always in astute positions to lead a charge up ice or make a staunch defensive play. Due to his calming style of play, he gives his forwards a considerable amount of confidence as they know he will address the defensive duties allowing them to push up more offensively. A terrific skater with deceptive speed, Juolevi spearheads rushes and is just as prone to carry the puck as he is to deliver a tape-to-tape first pass. Stock continues to soar as his team keeps winning.
Sportsnet even wrote Juolevi a love letter. The hype train will keep rolling.
Juolevi is not as proficient a scorer as either Chychrun or Sergachev, but he still does put up some numbers. Among 2016 draft eligible defencemen, Juolevi was top 12 across the whole CHL for even strength primary points. Considering that his estimated EV TOI was about 14 minutes per game, second worst among the 12, his numbers could be a bit subdued. It’s also significant to note that Juolevi contributed 24 powerplay points, 14 of those primary. Juolevi can certainly be a boost to any team with a struggling powerplay (cough cough).
Based on theprojectionproject’s data, Juolevi’s NHLe is 19, giving him a historical 53% chance of being an NHL player. TPP classified 55% of similar players who made the NHL as either “elite” or “first pairing”. The data, while not certain, do indicate that Juolevi has a very good chance of being a very effective NHLer by a points metric.
Fit with the Flames
Juolevi is certainly a defenceman with a bright future ahead of him, likely to be an enviable talent in the future. The chance of him being available at sixth overall is high, presenting an interesting choice for the Flames.
The popular choice will probably be whatever forward is available. The Flames have plenty of defencemen in their ranks and barely enough forwards who shoot the right way. The first two Flames picks in last year’s draft are both defencemen that could possibly battle for NHL spots next year. Drafting Juolevi would be redundant.
The counter-argument is that drafting Juolevi would be the better option looking long term. Assuming everyone pans out, the Flames could have an unmatched defensive corps all under 30 years old in only a few years’ time. If not everyone pans out, they’ll have insurance on the blueline. Functional forwards are found all around the league at very low prices; defencemen aren’t.
So what’s most likely going to happen?
No surprises, the Flames go with a forward. Juolevi is very talented, but he isn’t what the team needs right now. With healthy defensive prospect depth and a handful of NHL guys on cheap contracts, another defenceman would be excessive.