LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 08: Charlie Coyle #18 of Team USA moves the puck around Olli Maatta #59 of Team Finland at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 8, 2011 in Lake Placid, New York. Team USA defeated Team Finland 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
From the London Knights...#2... defenceman Olli Määttä! (Immediate bonus points for his name, which is freaking awesome and would look great on the back of a Flames jersey).
Määttä came over to North America from Jyväskylä, Finland last summer after being drafted first overall by the Knights in the CHL Import Draft. Before he was concussed early in the 2012 World Junior Championship, Määttä would have been the #1 defenceman for Finland, and was also the youngest Finn ever to suit up for his country at the 2011 tournament in Buffalo, New York.
The defender wasted no time making an impression on his new team, scoring five times and adding 27 assists in 58 games in the regular season and six goals and 23 points in 23 playoff games, as the Knights went on to lose to Shawinigan in the Memorial Cup Final. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Määttä's stats from last season, however, is that he only amassed a total of 25 penalty minutes. This is perhaps because he is such a good positional player.
Määttä is 6"2, 198 lbs., and just 17-years-old, but according to Matias Strozyk, he is already "a very patient player who positions himself well," and has "excellent hockey sense" (via eliteprospects.com).
He is not the most physical player in terms of delivering big hits, but he can separate the man from the puck without putting himself and his team in a vulnerable position, which is what you want to see from a defenceman--especially one as young as Määttä.
Here's what Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman had to say about Määttä:
Maatta is an extremely advanced defenseman who thinks the game at a very high level...He regularly logged 25 minutes per game in his first North American season in London—sometimes touching 30 minutes—as he is such a mistake-free shutdown defenseman who makes a very good first pass. Maatta plays a polished defensive style with a good mix of instinctual reads, good stick work, and strong physical play.
...On occasion, he will show a flash of something more offensively in terms of his vision. He isn't a conservative player, though, and when he senses a moment to join the rush or help in the offensive zone, he will. Maatta will be used on the power play, where he displays more offensive creativity than he does at even strength...
Määttä scored one of his five goals on the PP this past season and collected 12 assists with the man advantage, and is described as a defenceman with "very good overall skills, though better defensively," by Strozyk. His somewhat limited offensive upside is perhaps the reason why Määttä could be available to the Flames at 14th overall, but given the team's current lack of defensive prospects and the fact that the club's blueline is very much in a state of flux as it is, it would behoove the Flames to add a steady defensive presence on the backend after the departure of Robyn Regehr (and likely Cory Sarich and/or Scott Hannan), not in the last because Määttä is likely the best they come outside of a top-10 that will probably include Matthew Dumba and Griffin Reinhart.
Määttä's shot and offensive creativity is considered by some to be his primary weakness, but according to the Prospects Blog, most of his offence is generated due to his intelligence and vision rather than a high skill level in the opposition's zone.
From NHL Mock Draft:
Some scouts have noted him gaining confidence and aggressiveness as the season has progressed but it appears his attacking upside is relatively limited. He’s an effective distributor of the puck in the offensive zone, but the former first overall selection in the CHL Import Draft has to improve his shot which is arguably his most 'pedestrian’ attribute. As such, he will see more time as a powerplay quarterback than as a triggerman.
Pronman also notes that although Määttä is generally considered to be a smooth skater, especially for his size, he still needs to get better--particularly with regard to his stride, which he describes as "awkward". He notes that:
He has improved in that area, however—I've gotten mixed reports out of the OHL, with some saying no improvement and other scouts saying it has gotten exponentially better.
Määttä is young, and if scouts are noting an improvement in his skating after one season in the OHL, that can only be a positive thing. Although I'm as much a fan of legal, bone-crushing hits as anyone, I don't really take as much of an issue with the fact that he is inconsistent in his physicality as some observers do. Not every big defenceman necessarily needs to be physical to be successful (see Jay Bouwmeester), and by all accounts, Määttä's stick work is quite good. He still has plenty of time to mature in that department and perhaps find a happy medium in his game, as he will more than likely suit up against grown men at some point in Finnish league or International play before he makes the jump to the pros across the pond.
Do you like this pick?
Yes--the Flames need to add a defensive defenceman (43 votes)
No--I'd rather they picked a defenceman with more offensive upside (18 votes)
I'd rather they picked a forward (29 votes)
No opinion (4 votes)
94 total votes