For possibly the first time since the Sedin twins were rookies, the World Championships will be must-watch hockey for Vancouver Canucks fans.
And no, it’s not because Anders Nilsson is Sweden’s de facto starting goaltender.
Elias Pettersson and Olli Juolevi were added to Sweden and Finland’s rosters respectively this week. This means the Canucks top two prospects will each get once last chance to wow fans on an international stage.
Both players got better as their seasons in Europe went on, but there’s no doubt that Pettersson deserves most of the attention for his record breaking campaign. Pettersson was league MVP, playoff MVP, and also broke Kent Nilsson’s record for points by a U20 player in one season.
Another surprise addition was when Michael DiPietro of the Windsor Spitfires was named as Team Canada’s third goalie. The selection speaks highly of his draft plus-one season, although he’s unlikely to suit up for Canada unless something goes awry. With that being said, all eyes will be on Pettersson and Juolevi.
Pettersson Poised for Huge Rookie Campaign
When Pettersson first joined the Canucks organization, most thought he would be a couple of years away from making the NHL. After being drafted by the Canucks, Pettersson told media that he wanted to play in the NHL “as quickly as possible.”
After tearing up the SHL, it sure looks like Pettersson will be suiting up for the Canucks sooner than expected. If he’s half as good at Canucks training camp as he was in Sweden, he should make the team.
Most have him penciled in as a right winger, but it might not be long until they try to put him at centre. It will also be interesting to see where Pettersson slots in for Sweden, with established NHL centres like Mika Zibanejad and Mikael Backlund slotted ahead of him.
No matter what, it’s going to be must-watch hockey to see what Pettersson does against better competition than the SHL. We saw how dangerous he could be against players his own age in the World Juniors, but what he does here could be telling.
His inclusion in the tournament, as mentioned, makes it arguably the best World Championships for Canucks fans since the twins played in the tournament in 1999-00. That year, the twins both had five points in seven games.
Juolevi Remains Roster Mystery
While Pettersson seems to be a lock on the Canucks roster next year, where Juolevi remains is more of a mystery. He has a chance to make the team based on the Canucks weak defence, and that’s part of the reason why he’s been included on Team Finland.
Defenseman Olli Juolevi is not Utica bound, he will join the Finnish national team tomorrow. #Canucks— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) April 23, 2018
While the Finnish forwards look promising with guys like Mikael Granlund, Mikko Rantanen, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen on the, the defence is suspect. Miro Heiskanen and Juolevi both should slot in the top six, along with other young players like Julius Honka and Ville Pokka.
It’s definitely a weak spot for Finland, but it also means that Juolevi is going to get a decent opportunity to prove his worth against stiff competition. He won’t be as flashy or exciting as Pettersson. However, it’s worth watching Juolevi just to see where he fits in against talented players. His biggest tests will come on Saturday, May 12th against Canada and Tuesday, May 15th against the United States.