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It’s the first edition of the weekly tracker for the 2022/23 season, where we tally up the efforts of the Vancouver Canucks’ highest-profile prospects:

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Joni Jurmo

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Joni Jurmo is trying not to think about the bigger picture.

In his defence, the strapping blueliner has been too busy playing hockey.

From Canucks development camp in July to the World Junior tournament in August, then skipping straight to the Finnish Liiga regular season in September, the fleet-footed 20-year-old is living and learning through each on-ice moment — and his outlook on his game has never been better.

“I feel much more confident,” Jurmo told Postmedia on Friday. “I think in a year I’ve developed a lot, also mentally. I play a much more mature game, but I still have holes in my game I have to fill to one day make the step to North American hockey.”

Make no mistake, this is a big year for the 6-foot-4, 198-pound left-shot defenceman. His contract at Mikkelin Jukurit is up at the end of the season and an entry-level deal with the Canucks is in the offing should Jurmo continue to clean up his defensive game and fine-tune his play with the puck.

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Vancouver Canucks prospect Joni Jurmo (#7) playing for Jukurit of the Finnish Liiga last season.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Joni Jurmo (#7) playing for Jukurit of the Finnish Liiga last season. Photo by Jukurit/Mikko Kankainen /jpg

The Canucks want to see a little more consistency. Assistant director of player development Chris Higgins told Jurmo so after his widely applauded World Juniors showing.

So does Jukurit head coach Olli Jokinen, himself a longtime NHLer with over 1,200 games played and 750 points to his name.

“I think Joni took huge steps last year in the mental side of things. He started understanding what kind of player he is, what kind of person he is,” said Jokinen, who won the Kalevi Numminen trophy last season as the Liiga’s coach of the year — in his first campaign behind the bench.

“To me, he’s the prototype NHL prospect who can definitely be an impact player in the NHL one day. He’s got the size, he can skate, sees the ice pretty well. Once he gets better at the defensive game, I think he’ll be in Vancouver — hopefully after this year. That’s our goal.”

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Jurmo, who the Canucks drafted in the third round in 2020, is off to a good start this season. Besides some stout defensive play, he scored his first goal of the campaign in a 3-2 win over HPK on Tuesday, stepping into a rolling puck at the blue-line and rifling it past a screened goaltender.

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“The first three games, I had quite good chances on the blue-line to take a shot but I did one extra fake and didn’t shoot the puck,” Jurmo said, when asked about the goal. “Then I spoke with (Toni) Lydman, the former NHLer who is our D-coach now and he was like, ‘just shoot the puck as soon as you get the chance.’”

Jurmo finished the game with a goal and a plus-2 rating in 18 minutes of ice time, playing on the second defensive pairing.

Jokinen hopes Jurmo can cement a top-four role this season and push for a power play spot.

“He’s done a good job on the penalty kill. Right now, there are a couple D-men before him on the power play point,” Jokinen said.

“Last year, we tried to teach him how to defend. He’s got unbelievable wheels, he can skate, he can carry the puck but the defending is hard for young players.”

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Jurmo was considered a steal in the 2020 draft until he had a rocky first pro season with a bottom-feeding JYP club. But a move to Mikkeli last fall put the Canucks prospect in the right place at the right time. Jukurit is one of the smaller clubs in Finland, with the population in the historic town at just over 50,000. Because there isn’t a lot of money to throw at players, the organization has brought in young talent — the club boasts four players, including Jurmo, drafted by NHL teams — and surrounded them with veteran players who have won in the past.

It was a successful formula last season, with the team finishing second in the league in the regular season. Jokinen is quickly gaining the reputation as a master communicator, going from running the South Florida Hockey Academy and coaching NHLers in the off-season after his retirement in 2015 to one of the hottest coaching commodities outside the NHL.

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“My big goal is to be an NHL coach and I chose to take this route to come to Europe, be in charge over here and hopefully come back to North America in a few years,” he Jokinen.

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As for Jurmo, who loved his time in Vancouver over the summer and forged some quick friendships with fellow Canucks prospects — “Arshdeep Bains, Marc Gatcomb, Chase Wouters, Chad Nychuk, those are the guys” — he’s going to keep working on his game and let the chips fall where they may.

“The leadership in Vancouver knows what’s best for me next season,” he said. “Right now, I’m just enjoying hockey and trying to develop every day, as much as I can.”

Jurmo has one goal, one assist and a plus-2 rating in six games this season. He also has 14 shots on goal.


Jonathan Lekkerimaki was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 7, 2022 in Montreal.
Jonathan Lekkerimaki was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 7, 2022 in Montreal. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

Jonathan Lekkerimaki

It hasn’t been the smoothest start to the season for Jonathan Lekkerimaki. This much is true.

Just don’t read too closely into the Canucks top prospect’s delayed liftoff with Djurgårdens IF of Sweden’s second-tier Allsvenskan league.

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The 15th overall pick in 2022 has yet to score in two games and has gone minus-3 over that stretch, with only two shots on goal.

Now we learn the 18-year-old might have a wrist injury, although he could be back in action in a few days.

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Lekkerimaki reportedly started the season injury and sickness-free, after a bout of mononucleosis affected his performance at the World Junior tournament this summer.

He had been playing in the middle-six of the Djurgårdens lineup and getting some power play time. Thing is, Djurgårdens’ other 2022 first-rounders in the lineup — namely, Minnesota Wild pick Liam Ohgren (18th overall) and Noah Ostlund (16th overall) — have sputtered out of the gate as well, with one assist each.

If you want to see what a real rough start looks like, look no further than the Seattle Kraken’s new mascot Buoy, which has managed to unite the disparate factions of Hockey Twitter in their collective chagrin for the blue-haired troll.

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Still, expectations remain high for the Canucks’ top prospect, whose lethal shot and high-end offensive tools should produce results in Sweden’s second-tier league.

After all, he scored seven goals in 26 games in the top-flight Swedish Hockey League as a 17-year-old last season, after tearing up the J20 Nationell with 35 points (20G, 15A) in 26 games.

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Lekkerimaki could be back in the Djurgårdens lineup for Tuesday’s game against Kristianstad.


Elias Pettersson at the Vancouver Canucks Development Camp at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on July 11, 2022.
Elias Pettersson at the Vancouver Canucks Development Camp at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on July 11, 2022. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Elias Pettersson

In some circles, this is the best defensive prospect the Canucks have in Europe.

Elias Pettersson can seemingly do it all. The 2022 third-round pick skates well, is often involved in the play and can deliver punishing hits.

Pettersson has split his time between the J20 Nationell and the SHL this season, though most of his playing time with Örebro HK has come in the juniors — where the 6-foot-2, 185-pound left-shot D-man has shone thus far.

Pettersson, 18, scored a power-play goal from the point and had an even rating in a 6-1 win over Linkoping HC on Sunday, a day after providing 2:28 of spot duty in the SHL in a 3-2 shootout win over Skellefteå AIK.

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Pettersson is a top-pair D-man in the juniors, where he’s registered four points (1G, 3A) in four games while going a plus-1 overall.

In the six games Pettersson has dressed in the SHL, he has a high of 6:31 of ice time and a minus-2 rating.

The Vasteras product also had an excellent showing for the Swedish U20 team in August, notching three points (2G, 1A) and a plus-9 rating at the Four Nations tournament.

Elsewhere: Centre Connor Lockhart (2021. Rd. 6) is off to a hot start with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, with the 19-year-old leading the junior league in points with six (1G, 5A) in two games. Meanwhile, Daimon Gardner (2022, Rd. 4) told the Rez Hockey Podcast this past week that he tore his MCL playing pre-season hockey for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL.

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mraptis@postmedia.com

twitter.com/mike_raptis

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