Breaking: Top prospect and Calder Trophy favorite out long-term with back injury

A brutal set back for the youngster…

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The Vancouver Canucks announced earlier today that top prospect Olli Juolevi will undergo surgery to correct a disc issue in his lower back.

Here’s the full statement from the team:

Olli Juolevi will be undergoing a microdisectomy procedure for a disc in his low back. Joules began experiencing some discomfort during off-season training and, after imaging and consultation with the team’s medical staff, it was determined this would be the best course of action to prepare for next season. An update on timelines will be provided after the surgery.

Ouch. That’s not good news for Canucks fans who were excited to see this kid FINALLY make the team in 2018-19. While there’s no official timeline for his recovery, these operations usually take 6-8 weeks to fully recover from. This would mean that Juolevi would technically still be healthy enough to earn a spot in training camp, but it’s likely that his offseason training will be severely affected by this injury and the required rest and rehabilitation time. 

Juolevi’s development has been slow and steady, if not entirely underwhelming, since being selected 5th overall by the Canucks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The 20 year old Finnish defenseman recently completed his first full season of pro hockey with TPS Turku of the Finnish SM-liiga where he put up seven goals and 19 points in 38 games. The 6’2, 180 pound blue liner also put up back to back 42 point seasons with the OHL’s London Knights in the two seasons prior.

While Juolevi is just 20 years old and the Canucks have preached patience when it comes to the development of its young players, Canucks fans are growing restless waiting on Juolevi. Especially when you consider that Juolevi was selected ahead of established NHL defensemen like Charlie McAvoy and Mikhail Sergachev, not to mention forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Clayton Keller. In fact, Juolevi is the only top 10 selection from the 2016 NHL Entry yet to play an NHL game. Double ouch.

What this latest setback means for Juolevi’s development remains to be seen, but you can bet that the spotlight will be shining brightly on the kid when he does finally make his NHL debut.