That’s Olli Folks: Was the Juolevi Trade a Smart Move

By: Brayden Fengler / October 13, 2021  

It’s only just been finalized in a move this week, but Olli Juolevi’s time with the Canucks has been all but over for a while now. His draft position and his less than great, but better than horrible abilities have kept him afloat for longer than he probably should have been.

The signs were there before Jack Rathbone took the ice for the Canucks last season, but Jack more than anything really put the writing on the wall, and he continued to do so this pre-season. 

No team likes the optics of giving up on a top 5 draft pick, it’s an admission of failure to some degree. It stings even worse to give up on Olli and lose Jonah Gadjovich to waivers in the same week. Two notable prospects for this club that are now no more.

Like Gadjovich, waivers were likely the next stop for Olli as well, so the fact that the team got anything in exchange for the underperforming prospect is a cause for celebration. This is not to say that Olli is a terrible player, far from it, he wouldn’t be in any NHL system today if that was the case. But this organization outgrew him, and it hasn’t been hard for fans or media to see that.

Not Happening Kid

Olli was in the Canucks system for quite a few years. He was drafted 5th overall in the 2016 entry draft, and no we will not be going over who was drafted after him. We need not go down that path here. (Google it if you want a bit of a cry).

Despite Olli being a member of the Canucks organization for 5 years, he only played one playoff game with the club in the bubble season, and 23 games with the team in their condensed 2021 season. In these games, Olli had very little to show for his outings, ending his time in an orca jersey with just 3 points, and a well below 50 corsi at 43%. 

Olli was initially thought to be a strong part of this team’s future defence core by GM Jim Benning, but he never quite developed into that type of NHL player for the Canucks. Is Juolevi an NHL player at all? Maybe there is still a chance that this could be the case, but he almost certainly will not live up to the hopes and dreams that Jim and this fanbase had for him.

His numbers in Utica weren’t unimpressive and he never completely eliminated himself in training camps. This is why he stayed right in that “anti-goldilocks zone”. He was never hot enough but also never quite terrible enough to justify giving up on him. As it always is, hindsight is clear, Olli’s days with this club weren numbered for a long time, long before Rathbone stepped on the ice.

In early August I wrote an article right here on pondering the very question that we just recently got an answer for. Does Juolevi have a future here in Vancouver? It turns out the answer is no, and I believed it was a no at the time of writing that last article as well.

The Canucks were right to trade him before his sample size of “games played” grew to be a larger number. Had they let him play games in Vancouver for the rest of the season with little or no development, the Canucks would’ve been hard-pressed to trade him at a later date in 2022.

Juolevi is on a 1 year contract and he’s far from the type of player that teams look to pick up as a rental come playoff time. At the time of that last article, I thought that the Canucks had already made their decision on Olli by re-signing him and had squandered those trade opportunities. Many Canucks fans are likely thankful that I was wrong on that front.

Juolevi has a set of skills that remain promising in an AHL environment, but he could never quite transition to the big league in his NHL contests. His stretch passes always made for a good highlight, but that alone is not a skill that can compensate for the larger pieces of Juolevi’s defensive game that are lacking.

Two Panthers For One Olli.

On the outside, flipping a 23-year-old Olli Juolevi, a struggling and unproven defensive prospect, for two players, with the oldest only being 2 years Juolevi’s senior, sounds like a good deal. Initially anyways that very much seems to be the case.

Noah Juulsen is one of the new additions coming from Florida. He was a Montreal Canadien prospect before he was a Panther prospect as of just last year. This hometown defenceman (Surrey, BC) has played over double the games that Olli has and with just about the same results to show for it.

Juulsen isn’t a big points defenceman like a Quinn Hughes, this much is a given, but what he could be is a depth piece on the right, as he’s a right-shot D-man, an area where the Canucks will need help the most. Noah is also 6”2” to Olli’s 6” tall. Now although it’s tempting to make a whole host of jokes around the idea that 2” can make a big difference, the truth is that on defence it really can.

This new prospect sounds like Olli, but just one year older. He too is on a one-year contract at league minimum, and perhaps he just needed a change of scenery. We’ve seen how well that’s worked for Loui Eriksson so far… 

The Canucks also picked up Juho Lammikko, he played 44 games for Florida last year and unfortunately had a total 5 points to show for it. If Juho was a defenceman, that wouldn’t be a great record but as a forward, that is a pretty bad record.

However, as you would expect on a team that was better than the Canucks last year, Juho was not heavily relied on, regularly playing below or just slightly above 10 minutes per game, with minimal offensive deployment. This pick-up is again another league minimum RFA with a contract expiring at the end of this season. 

Juho is likely just AHL depth unless he really forces his way onto the lineup in an unexpected way. The forwards are not the problem for this team right now anyways, if anything they were spoiled for choice in that department.

This addition of Juho Lammikko to the trade seems mostly like an opportunity for Beginning to pump his own tires and claim that he flipped the team’s 5th overall 2016 pick not for nothing, but for two additional young pieces. Although that statement may technically be true, it’s the quality of these new pieces that remains up in the air.

Olli for Nothing

All eyes are on Rathbone and the rest of this team now. Olli is only truly missed by those that still are or were at one time “true believers” of the Finish defenceman. People like Chris Faber, who have a collection of Olli rookie cards, because they were hoping that he would indeed breakthrough one day.

Unfortunately though, when people like Faber stumble across their Juolevi rookie cards in a shoebox a few years from now, those cards won’t be raising their bank accounts, but rather their eyebrows. As those fine folks will simply sigh and say “… We could’ve had Tkachuk.”