The writing was on the wall. Right from the start of training camp when he essentially collapsed into a corner after Head Coach Travis Green’s day-one conditioning skate, Olli Juolevi seems to have been on thin ice. His fatigue behaviour had Vancouver Canucks veteran players expressing a collective “really!?” Other than one decent evening against the Calgary Flames on October first, it gradually went down hill from there.
Sunday morning, after playing in only four of the club’s seven preseason matches, the Canucks 2016 first-round, fifth-overall draft choice was sent to the Florida Panthers in exchange for 24-year-old right-shot defenceman Noah Juulsen and 25-year-old forward Juho Lammikko, the Cat’s third-rounder in 2014.
It didn’t help Juolevi that younger, fellow-lefty D-man Jack Rathbone emerged on the scene in a big way, eventually playing in every preseason game. On September 26th in Spokane in the Canucks exhibition opener, Juolevi finished a minus-one with two penalty minutes, taking a tripping call late in the first period. Rathbone meanwhile used his first period to score the Canucks first goal of the preseason, unassisted, ripping a twisted wrister past Seattle Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer after coming out of the penalty box. Ninety-two seconds later he tallied the primary assist on a Brock Boeser goal. Rathbone finished the evening with four shots on goal and from that point forward his and Juolevi’s paths continued to diverge in general.
Both players played the next night in Abbotsford against the Calgary Flames. The game was less eventful for them, although Rathbone finished a plus-player, Juolevi a minus. There were no time-on-ice logs either evening.
The amiable, 23-year-old Finn’s best night came against the Flames on the Friday night in Calgary. He had an assist and one shot on goal. Not exactly overwhelming, but an improvement in the competition, particularly with Rathbone going minus-3 in Calgary’s 4-1 win. Juolevi played almost four more minutes than Rathbone in the game. Juolevi’s final game was last Tuesday night against the Seattle Kraken at Rogers Arena. By then, the combination of practice performances and game nights meant Juolevi was the odd man out, particularly with the trickle down effect after the return of Quinn Hughes at the top of the depth chart.
Juulsen, a native of the Lower Mainland, comes home to play for the Abbotsford Canucks. When drafted in the first round, 26th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2015 he was highly touted out of the Everett Silvertips organization of the WHL. Despite the Habs being desperate for some D-development at the time, Juulsen failed to pan out, was waived, and picked up by the Panthers this past January. A big body, a right shot, Juulsen might get some inspiration from coming home and from hearing some different voices. The Canucks will hope for a late bloomer.
While Juulsen has played just 48 NHL games, Lammikko is up to 84 games played, all with the Panthers. In between his 40 and 44 game stints in south Florida, the most recent being last season, the 6-foot-2, 190 pound right wing played a season in his native Finland for Karpat, and then spent a year in the Russian KHL with Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Well traveled, he’ll try to settle into the Vancouver Canucks depth chart and make an impression.
Lammikko is on a one-year NHL contract for $750,000 while Juulsen is on a two-way NHL-AHL deal.