Follow the NHL long enough and you’ll notice that pretty much everything is cyclical. Bad teams become good once they rebuild, good teams eventual fade away as their stars age and move on. The ebbs and flows of professional sports are natural, but they sure are fun to watch.
It’s hard to believe so much time has passed, but it was seven years ago in the fall of 2006, a broken hand suffered by Brooks Orpik helped Kris Letang stick around in Pittsburgh. As just a 19 year old, Letang was well regarded and scored two goals in his nine game NHL stint, before being sent back to juniors where he tore up the QMJHL (named best defenseman and best defensive defenseman) and was the captain of Team Canada’s WJC team and led them to gold.
Now, flash-forward and a knee injury to Letang, has opened the door for another very promising blueliner to make his NHL debut in Olli Maatta. Maatta, though highly sheltered (just as Letang or practically an teenaged NHL defenseman will be) hasn’t looked out of place in the speed, pace and physicality of an NHL game.
He’s showing flashes too- check out the GIF below (clickable) to see a subtle but nice play by Maatta that reminded more than one person of former Penguin defenseman Sergei Gonchar.
This doesn't mean that anything is done for Letang, but it goes to show the cycle of life sometimes in the NHL. Young players can get chances in all sorts of shapes and forms, and if Maatta can keep on this development path, the team will be in great shape watching him continue to grow and it won't be long until he's an NHL regular.