‘A big part of our organization’s future’: Canucks sign Olli Juolevi to entry-level deal

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It took a while.

But the Vancouver Canucks have gotten prospect defenseman Olli Juolevi under contract, signing him to a three-year entry-level deal that was announced on Friday.

The Canucks, in a bid to bolster their defense, selected Juolevi with the fifth overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft, after the 18-year-old blue liner enjoyed a solid season (nine goals, 42 points in 57 regular season games) with the OHL’s London Knights and nine points in seven games with Finland at the world juniors.

“Olli is a talented all-around defenceman with high hockey sense who will be a big part of our organization’s future,” said general manager Jim Benning in a statement.

“He’s had an outstanding year, winning the Memorial Cup and World Junior gold. We look forward to seeing him continue his development and compete at the NHL level during training camp in September.”

The Canucks have seen a fair amount of change on defense this summer. Dan Hamhuis is gone, having signed in Dallas as a free agent. Prior to that, the Canucks acquired Erik Gudbranson from Florida in a deal that sent prospect forward Jared McCann to the Panthers.

Their top four defensemen — Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Ben Hutton and Gudbrandson — might be set but there should be plenty of competition between Luca Sbisa, Nikita Tryamkin, Andrey Pedan, Alex Biega and Philip Larsen for minutes in the bottom pairing.

The Canucks may also not be done making moves, especially up front, as training camp approaches. There has been plenty of Evander Kane speculation in Vancouver — his hometown — throughout the summer.