Tag Archives: Olli Maatta

Offseason Player Grades: Olli Maatta

Regular Season Stats

GP:55  G:1  A:6  PTS:7  +/-:17  PIM:12

Playoff Stats

GP: 25  G:2  A:6  PTS: 8 +/-:8  PIM:12

Player Grade (B-)

I gave Olli Maatta a B- mainly because his play from game to game was that of a rollercoaster. During the beginning of the year he did not look good, but after his injury he looked a little better. Once the playoffs rolled around was when his rollercoaster effect came into play, but in the playoffs the majority of the games he actually played well in. He showed some great signs of progression and only a few minor lapses in his game. He is only 22 years old and will develop for a few more years.

Review

Maatta became a key factor around the tail end of the playoffs, and more specifically against Ottawa. He scored the opening goal in back to back games and provided the Pens with a much needed spark. Another notable accolade for him would be him taking social media by storm when a picture emerged of how Maatta handled the after effects of the parade.

Preview

I think this next season could very easily be Maatta’s best. His skating has already improved a ton and even though he may not have the speed of Kris Letang, he is still a good skater. I also believe that Sergei Gonchar will be able to fix the little lapses in his game during the offseason, and in turn lead to Olli being a key part of this next season.

Odd Men Out

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a log-jam on defense. As of July 26, just over two months until the 2017-2018 season begins, the Penguins currently have 9 defensemen that could possibly make the roster come October. This begs the question, which defensemen will be left off the team and which will be the odd men out?

The Keepers

To me, there are four defensemen that are absolute locks to be here and playing at the start of the season; Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Ian Cole. Leaving Olli Maatta off this list is somewhat controversial sure but we’ll get to him later. Besides Maatta, this leaves Frank Corrado, Matt Hunwick, Chad Ruhwedel, and Derrick Pouliot all fighting for the remaining three spots.

The Unlikely

It would seem as though that the struggling Corrado and journeyman Chad Ruhwedel are destined to start in the AHL next season. Despite General Manager Jim Rutherford‘s high praise for Ruhwedel at the beginning of free agency, it seems as though the signing of Matt Hunwick has made him more of a depth defensemen than a top 6 guy. Hunwick is known to struggle, though, and has been driving Toronto fans nuts for years; so if he does start to flounder, or the inevitable injury to a defensemen happens, expect Ruhwedel to be the first guy up. Corrado on the other hand…well, who really knows. It seems as if he’s been forgotten over the past few months as free agency continues. Unless he stuns the coaching staff and GM in the preseason, Corrado will probably be heading to Wilkes-Barre for a majority of the season.

Three Men, Two Spots

This leaves us with Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and Matt Hunwick, all fighting for the two spots that remain. As I’ve said about Hunwick, I do expect to see him on opening night, that may be in the press box or on the ice, but I just think that Rutherford would not give a three-year deal with an AAV of $2.25 million to someone just to be banished to the minors. Now, if Olli Maatta is still a Penguin by October, then there is absolutely no doubt that he will be starting. Maatta’s game went from amazing to disastrous after a slew of injuries stunted his development. Maatta’s mistakes stand out due to his lack of speed. However, when he’s not getting burned, he is still an outstanding defensemen. Maatta really has transformed his game to become a more complete NHL defensemen since his rookie season, but his speed is still something that plagues him. I personally do not want the Penguins to trade Olli Maatta. He is a great defensemen with a bright future ahead of him. That being said, when looking at the void at third line center and the excess that the Pens have on D…if Rutherford wanted to make a splash and trade for a big name, (which he does not have to), Maatta would almost have to be going the other way.  Finally there is the never-ending conundrum that is Derrick Pouliot. The Pen’s best defensive prospect has struggled ever since he stunned Pittsburgh by scoring his first goal on his first shot. Reported attitude problems and losing the ability to quickly move the puck seemingly overnight have made Pouliot spend a majority of his career in the AHL, despite his overwhelming potential. However, in an interview with The Trib, Rutherford said, “Pouliot finished the season real strong.  We feel he’s going to come in and play,” However, if the Pens were to keep Maatta, then the top 6 would include Letang, Schultz, Dumoulin, Maatta, Cole, and Hunwick. I don’t see where Pouliot fits in. I think the kid deserves a shot and also think that he is probably better than Matt Hunwick is, but again Hunwick’s contract makes it hard for me to think that he’ll be sitting many games. To be quite frank, I do not know what the Pens will do with Pouliot if this same roster is intact. Maybe he’s traded, maybe he spends time at practice and in the press box, maybe he takes Hunwick’s spot, or maybe he’s forced to spend yet another season in Wilkes-Barre.

Only time can tell what will happen to the Penguins Defense come October. No matter what does happen, a healthy Kris Letang makes the Pens defense one to reckon with next year.

What Penguins Would Have Fun Days With Cup?

It’s been 25 days since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup (again) followed by the victory parade and I am riding just as high as I hope many Pens fans still are. I was in attendance at the 2016 parade and had the time of my life for numerous reasons. While I wasn’t able to make it to this years 2017 parade, having some beers later and watching it on tv in celebration  made me feel like I was there once again at the party.

Winning 2 cups in a row, especially in the Salary Cap era, is very difficult to do. So I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of this 1 (again) much like many of the players did during the parade as you probably have seen by now. It got me to thinking, I wonder what some of the players (particularly the younger guys) are doing with their day with the cup?

Certainly everyone is gonna have fun with it, but who would I wanna be hanging with or as their goal song dictates “party hard” with come there day with the Cup?

I’m going to get this outta the way right now, Phil Kessel is always an automatic choice. There’s no need to explain, I love Phil Kessel, you love Phil Kessel, we all love him, we know the folklore about him. This is definitely obvious. It’s like talking about the greatest Yankees of all team, don’t even need to mention Babe Ruth because we all know he’s one of the greatest players of all time, same ruling goes for Kessel.

Jake Guentzel

Unlike many of his teammates, Guentzel was only on the latter of the back to back championships. For this being his 1st time meeting new best friend Stanley, Guentzel looked thrilled the entire time at the parade. He was seen fist pumping and cheering all the way down the route. My favorite part was him talking about what he’s doing with the cup:

“IM GOING BACK TO MINNESOTAAAAAA”. Jake Guentzel was literally a kid in a candy shop, he’s got a shiny new silver toy to play with this summer. Seeing Guentzel with that joy on his face during the whole parade makes me think that won’t stop at all, for me that’s a front row seat worth the price of admission.

Brian Dumoulin

Last year in 2016 we were blessed with this gem:

Than now in 2017 it might have been even better:

Biting open the can with your teeth is such a savage move I can’t help but be a fan of it. I for sure want to be around for what Dumo will do next.

Sidney Crosby:

As if 3 Stanley Cups and 2 Conn Smythe’s and a team parade wasn’t enough already for Sid, he now gets to be treated like a super hero. His hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia Canada loves their home grown kid so much that Crosby gets his own parde in town. Imagine that, a parade for just you, not any teammates, just yourself. I would love to be apart of that and be on 1 of the floats, definitely would be a cool thing to do.

I also think Sid would let loose a little in a place where you can see him behind the scenes. He’s always very calculated and reserved when it comes to doing interviews, it would be fun seeing the other fun side of Crosby.

Olli Maatta

Need I say more?

Carl Hagelin

“Swagelin” as some call him scored the last goal of the Cup Final, a thrilling feeling putting the last nail in your opponents coffin. He also had a rough year because of injury and under production of goal scoring that we normally see from the Swede. In other words, Hagelin could use the 2nd championship to blow off some steam.

He got right to it by joining Crosby at the NHL Awards over in Vegas. Surely Hagelin ripped up the town while he was there as he wasn’t up for any awards, just there hanging with Stanley and Sid in support of his teammate. I’ll hit the black jack tables with Hagelin anytime.

Ron Hainsey

Trade deadline acquisition Ron Hainsey always struck me as kind of similar to that old dad from the movie Project X, or maybe the fun neighbor you might be aware of. He’s the loving, responsible, caring father that he should be to his wife and kids. Then, one night, the young guys a few houses down decide to throw a real awesome party, Hainsey stops by to ask to keep the noise down, next thing you know he’s invited in and getting wild with everyone else, maybe doing some shots or a quick drinking game, having a great time and being one of the last to leave.

That’s how I imagine Hainsey felt as he wasted away his time in Carolina struggling and never making the playoffs (the nice dad who’s kinda boring). Next he’s on the Penguins in the playoffs, having fun, being productive, scoring goals in the Stanley Cup (the crazy dad) slicing through defenders and finally winning that Stanley Cup! Hainsey than dressed up as a catcher and caught the 1st pitch thrown by Sidney Crosby at the Pirates game the next day. It’s been some ride for Hainsey, he can finally relax.

Evgeni Malkin

This really just comes down to the fact that Malkin has always been my favorite player. He’s also the all time playoff points leader in Russia. The reception he probably gets when he brings the Cup back to his town of Magnitogorsk is probably 1 similar to when Steph Curry goes back to Charlotte.

Justin Schultz

I just want to recreate a bunch of the memes that have now went viral of Schutlz walking and chugging. There’s no question he, Maatta, Conor Sheary and Guentzel were the ones really getting after it at the parade, if you know what I mean.

Really you could make a case for any Penguins player on this roster. Back to back, sounds great to say. Raise a glass, a cold one, or the finest bottle of choice for your 2017 Stanley Cup Champs!

 

 

Unsung Heroes

Overtime, Game 7; these are the games as hockey fans we love. Thursday night, the Penguins defeated the Senators 3-2 in double overtime to clinch their bid to the Stanley Cup Finals vs the Nashville Predators. The game winning goal coming from 37-year-old Chris Kunitz, which was his second goal of the night. This entire playoff, and regular season has been filled with unsung heroes. Yes, we have the three-headed monster in Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel leading the way in playoff points. But there are a few guys pulling some of their own weight. Names that stand out are Jake Guentzel, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta, and Brian Dumoulin.

 

Jake Guentzel- 2016-17 Regular Season– 40 GP | 16 G | 17 A       2016-17 Playoffs– 19 GP | 9 G | 7 A

What an amazing rookie campaign Jake has put together. Those who watched Jake play in WBS before being called up knew the type of impact he could have in the NHL, and what an impact he has made. Some may ask why he made this list of surprise players these playoffs, but I don’t think anyone expected a player with 40 NHL games to be in the top 5 of playoff scoring. Not to mention 3 GWG this postseason.

Image result for jake guentzel playoffs

Chris Kunitz- 2016-17 Regular Season- 71 GP | 9 G | 20 A |         2016-17 Playoffs- 14 GP| 2 G| 3 A |     

Chris Kunitz, what a guy. This is a player that Penguins fans have wanted to be dealt out of town for the last three years at least, and I am guilty of criticizing him as well. But with Kuntiz you know what type of player you are going to get. He’s the type of guy to battle in front of the net, finish his checks, and hey, even score goals when reunited with Crosby. Kuntiz has scored the most important goal of these playoffs so far (2OT ECF) so how could he not be a hero?

Image result for chris kunitz goal

Bryan Rust- 2016-17 Regular Season- 40 GP | 12 G | 4 A |            2016-17 Playoffs- 17 GP | 6 A | 1 A |

Rust is a player that really emerged last season when the Pens were faced with injuries and he made a similar impact that Guentzel is making this year. Rust is another guy that will finish his hit and grind in front of the net, but also comes up with some very timely goals. This post season, Rust has 2 GWG those goals being Game 5 vs CBJ, and game 7 vs Washington. Rust plays big in big games, so keep an eye out for him the Stanley Cup Finals.

Image result for bryan rust playoffs

Olli Maatta2016-17 Regular Season- 55 GP| 1 G | 6 A |              2016-17 Playoffs19 GP | 2 G | 5 A |

Maatta has been criticized time and time again, and granted he has not been the player the Penguins expected, he has held his own. Some unfortunate injuries have slowed Maatta’s growth, but minor things such as foot speed seem to be an issue for him. To Maatta’s credit he has played well this season, especially vs the Sens. Scoring two goals in as many games, and one being a GWG in the 7-0 victory, Maatta seems to be finding his way as of late.

 Image result for olli maatta 2017

Honorable Mention: Brian Dumoulin- Dumo gets my honorable mention for this list. Next to Ian Cole, he may be the best defensive defenseman the Pens have. Logging 20+ minutes in almost every playoff game, he is faced with the task of shutting down teams’ top offensive lines. He is a valuable player to this Pens roster that often goes under the radar.

Image result for brian dumoulin playoff

This Penguins team is filled with superstars as we all know, but there are a ton of depth/role players that are just as important as Crosby or Malkin are. Role players play a key part in winning teams, and the Penguins have built their team using high end role guys. They played a huge part in the 2016 Stanley Cup Run, and will again be a key factor in the 2017 Stanley Cup run.

Olli Maatta Beginning To Return To Form

The Pens are coming off a 7-0 blow out against the Senators notching back to back winning efforts.

Notice that the defense is getting a scoring touch here. Olli Maatta himself has scored the first goals in the past few games. But man has he come up big for the Pens during the playoffs.

He has been playing solid minutes for the team and remains effective. Ever since Maatta was diagnosed with cancer and returned, he hasn’t been the same.

Before cancer, Maatta was an obvious top 4 defenseman in the NHL. After returning he has struggled to produce points and help the team.

But with all the injuries during this stretch he has stepped up along with the defense as a whole. But Maatta seems to be finding the same confidence he had during his rookie season.

He is finally living up to his contract and helping his team.

If the Pens do repeat as champs they need impressive play by the injured defensive core. Maatta will be a huge part of this moving on as long as his teammates.

So next time your watching the Pens make sure you’re watching the defense closely and especially Maatta. Who is starting to transform back into the top pairing defenseman the Penguins wanted him to be.

Will Injuries Hamper The Pens’ Chances?

The Penguins are again bitten by the injury bug.

It seems year after year the Penguins must overcome these injuries. But it’s even worse this year after stars like Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have been out longer term.

Now with depth almost not there, how do the Pens overcome the injuries? Well that’s the question to be answered. The Penguins can also be lucking out with this amount of injuries, which could catapult them to back to back championships. And here’s how.

All of the current injuries are expected to be healed up by playoff time. With Letang and Malkin well rested, they could energize the team. Also if the Sid and the Kids line come back where they left off then they’ll be the most dangerous line in the league.

With Nick Bonino heating up as we head down the stretch and Carl Hagelin coming back before playoffs then the HBK line shall be excellent again.

The bottom line is still playing well even though they’re injured.

Cullen has been playing very well and some could argue better than he did last year.

This team is going to be an offensive powerhouse when the injuries are all healed. And I don’t believe they’ll be rusty when they return but rather rested.

The defense on the other hand will be getting Trevor Daley, Olli Maatta, and Letang back, which they’ll be well rested and ready to go. With these key defenseman coming back, they’ll add great depth and much needed help on the powerplay. 

As you can see the Pens aren’t in that much trouble when it comes to the playoffs. They’re adding experience to the young players from the Baby Pens. But when the playoffs come around they’ll be rested and ready for another title run. So all of these injuries could just be a great thing for the team. 

Taking A Look At The Expansion Draft

The trade deadline has come and gone and the picture has been painted much clearer on what the Penguins may do with the expansion draft this off season.

According to league rules, all teams have the option to protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and a goalie. The other, more unlikely option, is to protect 8 skaters and a goalie. This option is more likely if a team has a lot of depth on defense and would rather protect four defensemen and risk the loss of a forward. I don’t expect many teams to take this option.

Impending unrestricted free agents (UFA) will not need protected. Teams can simply wait until after the lists of players the expansion franchise, Vegas Golden Knights, to sign their players. The Penguins will have a few players fall under that category.

Penguins Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA)

  • Chris Kunitz
  • Trevor Daley
  • Ron Hainsey
  • Nick Bonino
  • Matt Cullen
  • Kevin Porter
  • Garrett Wilson
  • Cameron Gaunce
  • David Warsofsky
  • Chad Ruhwedel
  • Tom Sestito
  • Mark Streit
  • Frank Corrado

The bottom six on that list would not typically be players an expansions franchise would look at with golden eyes. Those types of players could be signed through free agency.

The first five, however, are legitimate NHL talents who have played in the NHL on a consistent basis. Hainsey, Kunitz and Cullen are both reaching the ends of the careers and none of the trio would likely be taken unless the Golden Knights were in a cap bind and needed to fill out their roster. Daley and Bonino are both guys who could serve as great additions for a team just starting out. Daley being capable of a top four defenseman role has been proven over the past two seasons that he’s spent in Pittsburgh. Bonino is a third line center on a good team but could serve higher if a team’s depth needed it.

None of these players will be available to Vegas unless they hit the open market due to their contract status, as previously mentioned.

Penguins Restricted Free Agents (RFA)

  • Justin Schultz
  • Brian Dumoulin
  • Frank Corrado
  • Derrick Pouliot

Of the two lists, this one is more important. The UFA’s don’t need to be retained as they will not be under contract to be drafted by Vegas. RFA’s, however, can still be drafted because with an RFA contract, that player is still considered team property. The Penguins won’t need to be worried much about Corrado as he should come cheap and won’t be an attractive option to many teams.

Schultz and Dumoulin are much different stories. The Penguins have enjoyed stellar play from both defensemen over the past two seasons and will need to resign both at season’s end. If presented, Vegas would be foolish not to look at one of these two guys as the player they’d acquire from Pittsburgh, so the Penguins must be careful in that regard.

Who Should The Penguins Protect?

The Penguins will take the 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie model. I would expect it to look something like this:

Forwards

  • Sidney Crosby
  • Evgeni Malkin
  • Phil Kessel
  • Bryan Rust
  • Patric Hornqvist
  • Carl Hagelin
  • Jake Guentzel

Defensemen

  • Kris Letang
  • Brian Dumoulin
  • Justin Schultz

Goalie

  • Matt Murray

Any player who has a “No-Trade Clause” or a “No-Movement Clause” is automatically protected and counts as one of your protected players.

Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel follow this description among the Penguins forwards and take up three of the seven slots at forward.

Looking at the rest of the depth, a guy like Hornqvist must be protected. He is a very special player and one gritty presence the Penguins can’t afford to lose. He will be protected. Rust and Guentzel are two young forwards with top six roles potentially awaiting them in the future. Both have already seen time in the top six already which means the Penguins will be needing to protect them.

That leaves one more player needing to be protected. Conor Sheary would be my pick except, under some circumstance I’m unaware of, Sheary is already protected. This leaves my next choice to be Hagelin. Hagelin isn’t a player who’s produced on the scoresheet before as his career high in goals is 17 with New York in consecutive seasons during 2013-14′ and 14′-15′. He’s still a scary opposition when he steps on the ice. His speed coupled with his vision makes him a scary commodity for teams to face and the seventh person I’d protect to finish out my forwards.

The defensemen the Penguins will have to protect and not protect could be something Vegas looks at.

Letang has a no-movement clause and is the Penguins best defenseman. There is no debate there. He’s protected regardless. The logjam only begins there.

The Penguins have eight capable NHL blueliners on their roster right now. Some listed above will become unrestricted free agents and won’t get protected. The options in need of protection are Schultz, Dumoulin, Maatta, Cole. This is also the order I’d consider when protecting them.

It’s been a blessing watching Dumoulin progress into the player he has become. The Penguins have a quality shutdown defenseman in Dumoulin. He doesn’t factor in much at all in the goal scoring department as he’s gone 128 games without scoring a goal. He’s got great foot speed and can move the puck very well though. He does get factor in on goals as he has 12 assists this season. He went over half of last season without a single penalty minute which makes him a very disciplined hockey player.

Schultz has been the biggest blessing of 2016-2017 for Pittsburgh. He has completely rejuvenated his career with the Penguins and is playing Norris type of hockey right now after being a complete afterthought in Edmonton. The third round pick Jim Rutherford gave up to acquired Schultz was brought back in when the Penguins got rid of Beau Bennett.

Through Monday, Schultz has put up a staggering 12 goals and 46 points in 64 games this season. He’s showing no signs of slowing down, either. He loves Pittsburgh and will 110% be a Penguin next season when the Penguins sign him to a lucrative extension.

Cole and Maatta are solid players. Cole is a guy that will likely be passed upon as a draft option, which is a huge plus for the Penguins. If I’m Vegas, I am looking at taking a young guy like Maatta. He is a former first round pick who has shown signs of being a good NHL defenseman. Injuries have derailed his leg speed, something which makes him a outcast on defense in the Penguins system. Despite the slower player he has become, Maatta is a +17 (through Monday) and was a +27 last season.

The goalie situation has pretty much sorted itself out. Murray has clearly become the starter as the younger option and proving he can play in the big time after winning the Cup last season. Marc-Andre Fleury will likely waive his no movement clause to allow the Penguins the chance to protect Murray.

Who Does Vegas Select?

The whole point to this article was to answer this question.

Let’s say Fleury continues playing at the level he has played at over the past couple weeks and sees some action in the playoffs and handles it well. He potentially could be sent to another team via trade if he is able to play well enough to get some value back under his name. He carries a reasonable $5.75 million cap hit and a team looking for a goalie fix right away may take the chance to jump on him.

If no team trades for Fleury, he likely will waive his clause and make himself available for Vegas to scoop up and gives them a franchise goaltender right away as he’d be the best available option for the Golden Knights.

Assuming Fleury is moved beforehand, I believe Olli Maatta would be the one to go.

Essentially, Vegas’ two best choices will be Cole and Maatta. There will be plenty of Ian Cole’s to pick from on other team’s rosters. No offense to Cole of course, but the attraction of a very young Maatta under a top four defenseman’s salary and a change of scenery could be what both Vegas and Maatta are looking for.

The June expansion draft is going to bite the Penguins harder than most teams as they will lose a valuable member of their roster. No matter who is selected, the Penguins are a deep enough team to replace that player with someone who can produce the same, if not more, than Vegas’ selection.