Defenceman Joni Jurmo has never represented his home country in a major tournament.
The Canucks prospect might have thought his last chance passed him by when he didn’t make the cut for Finland’s roster at the 2022 World Junior Championship last December. Since he was about to turn 20 in April, he wouldn’t get another opportunity to play in the World Juniors.
Now, with the tournament rescheduled to run August 9-20 in Edmonton, Alberta, Jurmo is getting one more chance. Even though he’s already 20, the cutoff dates for the under-20 tournament remain the same from the original tournament: as long as players are under 20 by January 1, 2022, they’re eligible to play.
Though he didn’t make the cut in December, Jurmo is on Finland’s roster for the August tournament.
Finland opened up their decision-making process for their World Junior roster by creating two teams: a main team that was almost identical to their original December team and a challenger team. The World Junior team would then be selected from those two teams.
Jurmo was included in the main team, alongside the eight defencemen who made the team in December. After Finland’s July camp, Jurmo had supplanted one of those original defencemen.
Two defencemen who were on the original team were cut for August’s tournament: Seattle Kraken prospect Ville Ottavainen and the undrafted Rami Määttä. Considering Määttä is a left-handed defenceman like Jurmo, it seems likely that he’s the defenceman Jurmo is replacing.
Jurmo is significantly bigger than Määttä at 6’4” and he’s a fantastic skater, something that was immediately obvious at the Canucks’ recent development camp. Jurmo was a force in drills with his slick puckhandling skill and powerful skating stride.
Jurmo made an impression on his teammates at development camp as well, surprising the many Swedes at camp with his fluency in their language.
“I got surprised!” said Filip Johansson. “We were on the bus and he started to talk Swedish to me. Like, ‘Oh, are you not Finnish?’ A few of the Finnish guys know Swedish — I don’t know, maybe they want to be like us. So we have 11 Swedish-speaking guys, plus all the staff.”
There are no guarantees that Jurmo will see much ice time in Edmonton as he’s one of eight defencemen on the roster. But even getting named to the roster is a good sign for Jurmo, whose development has been mixed since he was drafted by the Canucks in the third round in 2020.
Jurmo played all of last season in the Finnish Liiga but only played on the third pairing and managed just 10 points in 50 games. He has tremendous physical ability but his speed at processing the game needs some work.
Still, Jurmo managed a 52.0% corsi with Jokerit, second among the team’s defencemen behind his usual partner, Niklas Peltomäki. Even if he was only on the third pairing, he held his own in those minutes while playing against men.
Now, we’ll see how he plays against his peers at the World Junior Championship.
Regrettably, he won’t be joined by his fellow Canucks prospect, Aku Koskenvuo. The young goaltender made an impression at Canucks development camp and was on Finland’s challenger team for World Junior evaluations but did not make the final cut.
Koskenvuo is on his way to Harvard University this coming season, something he is extremely excited about.
“It’s the only place in the world pretty much you can combine top-level hockey and academics, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Koskenvuo, who said he hopes to be the starter. “If I had the chance to go to Harvard, it’s really hard to say no, right?”