International Ice Hockey Federation

Juolevi rides again

Juolevi rides again

Finnish D-man wants more gold at his third WJC

Published 15.08.2018 01:05 GMT-4 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Juolevi rides again
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 28: Finland's Olli Juolevi #7 skates during preliminary round action against Denmark at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Olli Juolevi has gone from the highest highs to the lowest lows at his two previous World Juniors. Here in Buffalo, the Finnish defenceman is on a mission.

Let’s recap. 2016 was a dream year for this Helsinki native. After earning U20 gold and a tournament all-star berth in his hometown on a team featuring Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho, and Jesse Puljujarvi, Juolevi won the Memorial Cup with the OHL’s London Knights. He was also selected fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL Draft.

But the following season proved painful. Juolevi was named the captain of the Finnish U20 national team at the World Juniors in Montreal, but losses to the Czechs, Danes, and Swedes doomed his team to the relegation round and a ninth-place finish. Critics also claimed the development of his low-key, puck-moving game had stalled.

Now, as the lone returnee who played for both the 2016 and 2017 Suomi squads, Juolevi seems to have found stability. The Canucks loaned the Jokerit-schooled player to TPS Turku this season, and he’s put up 14 points in 20 games. His World Junior defence partner, Henri Jokiharju of the Portland Winterhawks, has nothing but praise.

“Of course, you can see the experience he has,” said Jokiharju. “He’s a role model for me. He’s a year older than me and did the same thing, going to the Canadian Hockey League and stuff like that. I enjoy playing with him a lot and I think we have good chemistry.”

We chatted with Juolevi after Finland’s dominating 4-1 win over Denmark on Thursday. This evening they will play Slovakia.

How do you feel about the role you’re being asked to play on this year’s team?

I’m happy with my role. We have a really good D-corps here, and we can all play in all kinds of situations. So it’s easy for our coaches to put anyone in for PK, power play, whatever. I think it’s really good.

What has impressed you about Henri Jokiharju?

Of course, he’s super-skilled and good offensively. It’s hard to say, because [the Danes] didn’t really test us today defensively, but I know he can handle that job too. He’s been playing well here in North America. I really like playing with him.

You were hoping to make the Canucks this year. What helped you get past the disappointment when you went back to Finland?

When I went back to Finland, it’s a new situation for me. There are new challenges. I think I did a good job of jumping in right away in those games. It’s been a great start to the year.

With TPS, you’re working with a former Canucks defenceman in assistant coach Sami Salo. What have you learned from Sami?

He gives a lot of small tips, more individual stuff. I think it can really help. It’s always nice when you can learn from those old players.

He was known for his big slap shot. Are you shooting the puck 100 miles an hour yet?

[laughs] No, I don’t think so! I think you need a kind of talent for that, and a different flex for your stick, stuff like that. But I’m working on it.

Does he still shoot it like that in practice?

Oh yeah, he does sometimes. He still has a really good slap shot!

The TPS goalies must be very happy about that.

They’re happy he’s not playing full-time anymore. Still, sometimes in drills, when he shoots the first puck, I think they’re scared.

You played with your TPS teammate and fellow Canucks pick Petrus Palmu in the Jokerit system and at last year’s World Juniors. What do you think of his progress?

I think he’s doing good. What he brings to our team is more skill and young energy. He’s a great team guy, too. He already has more than 10 goals in Liiga, and that’s pretty good for a young guy.

You lived most of your life in Helsinki. What’s it like living in Turku?

It’s nice. It’s still a big city in Finland. So it’s pretty easy. And it’s only two hours from my home, so if I have a weekend or day off sometimes, I can still go see my parents or whatever. It’s kind of more relaxing now.

Winning that 2016 World Junior gold medal in Helsinki was one of the best moments in Finnish hockey history. Do you feel like this could be a gold-medal team as well?

Oh, for sure. But there are a lot of good teams this year. I think all the teams are pretty even. Just like we showed two days ago when we played Canada, it’s tough to win those games. Whoever comes on top is going to be the champion.


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