PENTICTON — Here’s the thing about Olli Juolevi: blink and you’ll miss him.
The Oilers did. Many times.
Greg Chase had Juolevi lined up for a hit early in the Canucks opening period of the 2016 Young Stars tournament on Friday night. He missed.
Later, Jesse Puljujarvi was barrelling over the Canucks’ blue-line, moving just a tad slower than a cigarette boat. He had the puck, until he didn’t. Juolevi, quietly, poked it away while Puljujarvi twisted and crashed to the ice with a thud.
Juolevi played a smart, and smooth game in a 4-1 Vancouver loss. It was as quiet, impressive and promising.
“Those kind of defencemen are better when the game is cleaner. It’s more suited for an NHL game where everyone’s timing is on, it’s not as scramble-y,” said Travis Green, the Canucks Young Stars head coach. “He’s going to be a helluva defenceman.”
Especially after he puts on 15 more pounds. Juolevi got hit once, at the end of the second, when he turned his back. He drew a penalty.
Splendid as he was, however, Juolevi wasn’t enough to lift an overmatched Canucks team. Neither was Vancouver’s star goalie, Thatcher Demko. The goalie had his moments. None better than a third-period glove save on Drake Caggiula.
But Demko had no chance on Edmonton’s first two goals. The first hit something in front of the net, changing direction at the last moment. The second was scored only after a complete defensive meltdown from the Canucks which left Puljujarvi alone at Demko’s backdoor.
As most could have predicted, Puljujarvi was the game’s best player. He scored two. His second was both gorgeous and undefendable.