Canucks prospect Juolevi to captain Finland’s world junior team

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In just a few days, Finland will begin its defense of world junior hockey gold — and it will have a returning champion, Olli Juolevi, as its captain.

The official announcement came Monday.

The Vancouver Canucks selected Juolevi with the fifth overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft, bolstering the depth among their defensive prospects. Juolevi, 18, saw some playing time during the pre-season in Vancouver, but he was sent back to his junior team in London.

At last year’s tournament, Juolevi had nine assists in seven games. His performance there left an impression on Canucks management ahead of the draft.

“We thought he had an exceptional tournament for a 17-year-old kid,” Jim Benning told Sportsnet earlier this year. “To step in and help lead his team to a championship… In all my years of scouting, I don’t think I remember a 17-year-old who did what he did this year.

“We just felt of all the defensemen, we liked his all-around game the best.”

On Monday, USA Hockey named Minnesota Wild first-round pick Luke Kunin as its captain for the upcoming tournament.

Kunin, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, was taken 15th overall in this year’s draft. This season, he has 11 goals and 17 points in 16 games.

Colin White, an Ottawa Senators first-round pick in 2015, and Charlie McAvoy, taken in the first round of this year’s draft by Boston, were named alternate captains.

“I couldn’t be happier to have these three quality guys leading this locker room,” said U.S. junior head coach Bob Motzko in a statement.

“We’ve been saying it every day that there’s a pulse with this group. We know Luke, Charlie and Colin are at the center of that through their style of play and their tremendous amount of heart. We’re fortunate to have them leading this team.”

Wild prospect Joel Eriksson-Ek was named captain of Sweden’s team.

Eriksson-Ek already has experience in the NHL regular season, playing nine games in Minnesota, scoring twice with five points, before he was sent back to Sweden.

Related: Coyotes prospect Strome to captain Canada at World Juniors

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