The Canucks waited a long time to make their first pick of the draft, not just because they didn’t have a first or second round pick, but because the unusual format caused day two of the draft to drag on a lot more slowly than usual.
Day one of the draft is all about taking time and celebrating the first-round picks. Each of them was filmed in their living rooms and it was neat to see the prospects celebrating with their families. But day two is all-business, with picks made in rapid-fire succession from the draft floor.
This year, however, there was no draft floor. Everyone was in their own war room and the added difficulty of timing each pick with all the different video teams caused the second round to drag over two hours and the third round was a little slower than normal as well.
By the time the Canucks picked 82nd overall, the allotted time for the draft on the Sportsnet broadcast was nearly over. It was 11:43am, over three hours after day two started. The broadcast was originally scheduled to end at noon.
For a GM that has always enjoyed the draft, watching the first two rounds go by without being able to make a pick must have been torture for Jim Benning, particularly with it prolonged so long.
The wait was worth it, however, as the Canucks added an intriguing defenceman to their prospect pool in Joni Jurmo.
Jurmo is 6’4” and played last season in Finland’s junior league, putting up 28 points in 43 games for Jokerit. This season, he’s playing in the men’s league in Finland on the third pairing for JYP.
Through two games, Jurmo is averaging 10:30 in ice time, but that could go up as the season progresses. He currently has a 60.5% corsi in that small sample size.
What jumps out immediately about Jurmo is his size, but that doesn’t mean much without skill to go with it. Fortunately, Jurmo has skill to spare with a smooth skating stride that allows him to go end-to-end in transition and keep a tight gap defensively against the rush.
“Jurmo’s arguably one of the best skaters going in a straight line in the draft class among defencemen,” said Lassi Alonen in his scouting report for Elite Prospects. “It’s the speed that he generates that makes him one of the better puck-rushers in the Finnish U20 league. I would argue no other blue liner playing at that level this season can create exits and entries by carrying the puck with such consistency and finesse.”
“He skates beautifully,” says Ryan Wagman of McKeen’s Hockey in his scouting report. “His stride is fast and powerful. His edges are solid and he has four-way mobility, but his speed at his size is remarkable.”
On a call with the media, Jurmo identified his offensive upside as the strength of his game.
"My strengths are skating and playing with the puck and more on the offensive side," said Jurmo, specifically mentioning his breakouts. He named Miro Heiskanen as a player he tries to pattern his game after — not as physical a defenceman, but "smart and skilled."
That combination of size and skating had Jurmo ranked a lot higher than 82nd overall across pretty much every draft ranking out there. Elite Prospects ranked Jurmo 46th overall, Hockey Prospect had him 53rd, and Bob McKenzie had him 60th.
Getting him that late in the third round makes this a great pick for the Canucks, adding a great piece to the Canucks’ depth on defence in their prospect pool.
Of course, the question is why a 6’4” defenceman that can skate like the wind would fall that far. There are some significant flaws that kept him from being a higher pick, namely his decision-making and passing.
A key for Jurmo will be making quicker decisions with the puck as he plays against tougher competition. Several scouting reports noted that he sometimes struggles to move the puck when under pressure, preferring to skate his way out of danger instead. That option won’t always be available to him as he faces bigger, faster players.
He also lacks creativity with his passing.
“Jurmo excels in transition and can pull off end-to-end rushes, but doesn’t provide a lot of offence from the point at even-strength,” said Alanen. “He’s not a very sophisticated passer in the offensive zone.”
Another common refrain among scouting reports is that Jurmo is very raw. He has a lot of projectable tools but hasn’t necessarily put it all together yet. In a sense, that’s exciting, as the potential is there for him to develop into a very impactful player. It’s also a risk, however, as he may never put all those tools together at the NHL level.
Jurmo knows he needs work on the defensive side of his game as well.
"Definitely my defensive game needs to be tougher and I can close my gaps better," he said, but he was quick to note that he has been able to make the transition to the Finnish Liiga and hold his own against the tougher competition at the highest level.
Overall, this is a compelling pick for the Canucks, adding size and speed to their backend. With some development over the next few years, Joni Jurmo could be a difference-maker for the Canucks.