Noah Juulsen was a teenager in the stands the last time Abbotsford had an American Hockey League team, about a decade later and he’s the one competing in front of thousands at the Abbotsford Centre.
The Abbotsford Canucks defenceman emerged as a local favourite during the team’s inaugural season.
The Yale Hockey Academy alum also spent time in the Abbotsford Minor Hockey Association system and the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds before beginning his Western Hockey League journey with the Everett Silvertips.
Juulsen, along with defenceman Jack Rathbone and goalie Spencer Martin held a media availability last week, and stated this season was a memorable one.
“I think it was awesome,” he said, reflecting on year one. “When I was a kid I went to a couple of [Abbotsford] Heat games and the fan base for them wasn’t nearly what we had this year. I think bringing the AHL team here was a great play by the whole management and the fan base is just going to grow going forward.”
His time in Everett saw him develop into a top prospect. Juulsen put up career-high 52 points in 68 games in 2014-15 and completed his WHL career by scoring 12 goals and 34 points in 49 games in 2016-17. He was also the team captain in his last season.
Juulsen honed his game with the Silvertips under former San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils head coach Kevin Constantine and his lessons worked as Juulsen was chosen in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. He also went on to represent Canada at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships, earning a silver medal.
He suited up for Montreal and their AHL affiliate in Laval in the years following, appearing in 44 games and collecting nine points with the Habs over two seasons. But then the injury bug hit. He suffered two hits in the same area of his face in 2018 and never managed to make it back to Montreal. He was then picked up by Florida on waivers and Vancouver acquired him (along with forward Juho Lammikko) in a trade for Olli Juolevi in October.
Juulsen went on to get the call to Vancouver for eight games this season and played 50 games in Abbotsford and put up 16 points. He said this year was a big one for his development and confidence.
“Getting a chance to play was huge for me,” he said, of his time in Vancouver. “The Canucks taking a shot on me and bringing me in from where I was in Florida – it helped me a lot. I’m fortunate and grateful to have had that opportunity.”
He said he wants to continue to grow as a shutdown defenceman.
Juulsen also emerged as a leader in Abbotsford both on and off the ice. His physical play and ability to stand up for his teammates was important and he also lent his local expertise for some of the new Abbotsford transplants.
“At the start of the season guys were asking me where to go for dinner and where to find spots to live and so on,” he said, grinning. “It was kind of nice for them having me here to give that advice. But they didn’t bug me too much about what to do, it’s pretty self-explanatory when you go on Google.”
He also said he was proud to see he and his teammates help out during the flooding in November. Juulsen added that he and the other players want to have the chance to be more active in the community in the coming years, as the pandemic (hopefully) wanes.
Juulsen was honoured as the first-ever winner of the Abbotsford Canucks man of the year. It’s awarded to someone who is a great player on the ice, and a greater man off of it.
Abbotsford through and through 😉
— Abbotsford Canucks (@abbycanucks) April 26, 2022
“It’s a great award to win but a lot of it has to do with me being from here and having connections with the community,” he said. “When the flood hit, I knew a lot of people who were affected by that and as a team we felt we needed to help those people who were suffering. I think it was more of a group thing than it was about me but we felt as a team we needed to grow our team into the community and build the Canucks name.”
Juulsen enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent and does have the ability to sign with any club as of 9 a.m. Abbotsford time on July 13.