Red Wings: A statistical look at defenseman Olli Juolevi

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 14: Olli Juolevi #4 of the Florida Panthers clears the puck from behind the net against the Ottawa Senators during first period action at the FLA Live Arena on December 14, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. The Senators defeated the Panthers 8-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 14: Olli Juolevi #4 of the Florida Panthers clears the puck from behind the net against the Ottawa Senators during first period action at the FLA Live Arena on December 14, 2021 in Sunrise, Florida. The Senators defeated the Panthers 8-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /
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Sunday afternoon, the Detroit Red Wings announced that defenseman Olli Juolevi was claimed off of waivers from the Florida Panthers. Forward Joe Veleno was assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins to make room for the deal.

The stats

Juolevi is a former fifth overall pick. Selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2016 NHL Draft, Juolevi was regarded as a top-end defensive prospect for his play with the London Knights in the OHL. His first couple of years with the Canucks were marked by injuries (including a knee surgery) and disappointing play in the AHL. Juolevi played a total of 23 games with the Canucks, scoring two goals and an assist in the process.

In October of 2021, Juolevi was traded to the Florida Panthers. He played 10 games for Florida this season, failing to notch a single point in that time. In this short sample size, Juolevi’s wins above replacement is -0.7 (-0.5 expected) and his goals above replacement is -0.1 (-0.1 expected).

Juolevi’s possession metrics are similarly mediocre. His Corsi-for relative percentage sits at -0.9 for the 2021-22 season. His Fenwick-for is -3.4.

Why pick him up?

Glancing at his player profile on any database paints a clear picture: Juolevi has yet to stick at the NHL level. He’s had only short stints in the show, with most of his playing time coming in the AHL. So why did the Red Wings make this move?

Well, firstly, it was free. Claiming a player off of waivers doesn’t cost a thing (although the team did have to send down Joe Veleno, a young player that has been playing well of late). In using the waiver wire, Steve Yzerman is effectively not taking a risk.

Secondly, Juolevi plays at a major position of need for the Red Wings. Marc Staal, Nick Leddy, Jordan Oesterle and Danny DeKeyser are the current left-shot defensemen on the roster. Needless to say, that isn’t the ideal lineup on a good team.

Thirdly, Juolevi is still young. Are the odds of him finally figuring things out at the NHL level slim? Sure. But to go back to a previous point, it did not cost a thing. Juolevi is still a young player, and it took nothing to add him to the roster.

Essentially, the Juolevi claim is a reclamation project. Yzerman is no stranger to such trades, although this one certainly is not the needle-moving type trade like Jacob de la Rose for Robby Fabbri. In short, Detroit took a low-risk flyer on a young player to fill a position. It’s a low risk, low reward move – a savvy one at that. And considering just how bad Detroit’s defense is this season, Juolevi probably won’t be the most noticeable player on the ice.

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