2015-16 Team: London Knights (#4)
Date of birth: May 5th, 1998
Place of birth: Helsinki, Finland
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 179 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 1st year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking (February): 6
- Craig Button (TSN): 9
Olli Juolevi was one of the London Knights’ most prized additions in the offseason after they selected him with the 45th overall selection in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. In addition to fellow newcomers Max Jones and Matthew Tkachuk, the Knights loaded up on young talent in an effort to bounce back from a disappointing first round playoff exit in 2015 at the hands of the Erie Otters. Juolevi went on to have a season to remember, capturing a Memorial Cup Championship, OHL Title, and World Junior Championship gold medal as the Knights’ bona-fide number one defenseman and one of the finest blueliners in the entire CHL.
Juolevi entered his first season in North America as a potential first round draft choice, but not many were expecting the all-around excellence and immediate impact he would have on one of the Ontario Hockey League’s marquee franchises. A smooth skater who exudes confidence with the puck, Juolevi immediately took over the role of the Knights’ number one power play and penalty killing defenseman, in addition to a heavy workload at even strength. While he’s not overwhelmingly physical like fellow top prospect Jakob Chychrun, Juolevi’s calm demeanor and active defensive presence is reminiscent of Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. While some may point to his stacked team as a basis for his stellar offensive performance, it’s telling that he was able to rack up even more points spearheading the Finnish attack at the 2016 World Junior Championships. Juolevi is among the best defensemen in the OHL at calmly collecting the puck in his own zone and swiftly transitioning it to his forwards.
With such a well-rounded game and among the highest hockey IQ in the entire draft class, it’s hard to find faults with the package that Juolevi brings to the table. Even with one of the most offensively dominant lines in the history of the OHL headlining the Knights’ attack, Juolevi often was content to sit back and let his forwards do the work. To elevate his game in the professional level and become an elite number one defender, Juolevi must become more assertive on offense. His skating is smooth and low-effort, but his top speed could stand to improve as well. The one glaring area of Juolevi’s game that’s missing is a physical element; he possesses the frame to pack on extra muscle and become even more of a coach’s dream on the back-end.
Juolevi’s combination of smooth skating, hockey smarts, and confidence with the puck is a package that would leave every NHL GM chomping at the bit to get their hands on. Despite still needing to put on some weight to withstand the rigors of a full professional season, Juolevi’s puck possession game and elite hockey sense are perfect for the modern NHL, which is moving away from the brutish, physical defender and transitioning to Juolevi’s brand of stellar two-way play. He may not ever become an elite, number one defender who competes for Norris Trophies, but if his offensive production can improve, he could become a rock solid first pairing defenseman in the NHL for a long time.
NHL Draft Projection:
Juolevi is often mentioned as one of the top three defenders eligible for the draft this season, and for good reason. There are a handful of defense-needy teams in the lottery that would do well to take a high floor, high ceiling prospect such as Juolevi to shore up their defensive woes. While it’s unlikely Juolevi ends up as a top five draft selection, Juolevi is all but a lock to be off the board by the time the top 14 selections come and go.
Olli Juolevi 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 poised, calm demeanour are the stuff of pillar-type defencemen.
Craig Button, TSN
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.
Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects
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.
Smart two-way defender with size. Fluid skating stride with quickness and speed. Very effective running PP, has a very high panic threshold when being pressured. Not physical, relies on body positioning and a good stick to defend. Very good skater with mobility, good gap control and pivots. He has solid point production this year, which is due to the way he reads the ice so well and finds the open man. Equally as good on defense as he is on offense. Close to being NHL ready. Still needs to get stronger physically as he has a lanky frame.
- Hockey IQ
- Skating ability
- Playmaking vision
- Strong breakout ability
- Defensive positioning
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Strength and physicality
- Shot power
- Offensive assertiveness
Juolevi had a season to remember for the London Knights, and is widely expected to be taken high in the first round. His smooth skating ability, confidence with the puck, and all-situations potential are all hallmarks of an elite defender. However, his offense may not reach that of a number on defender. Still, look for this puck possession monster to become a solid first pairing blueliner for a long time.
NHL Player(s) Comparison – Hampus Lindholm
Risk = 1/5 Reward = 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive = 7.5/10 Defensive = 8.5/10
- 2014-2015 European Youth Olympic Festival Bronze Medal
- 2014-2015 Jr. A SM-Liiga Best Defenseman
- 2015-2016 Memorial Cup Champion
- 2015-2016 OHL Champion
- 2015-2016 OHL Second All-Rookie Team
- 2015-2016 OHL Third All-Star Team
- 2015-2016 World Junior Championship Gold Medal
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11