Who is this guy?
What are they saying about him?
As one would expect from a recent Draft pick that was ranked anywhere between #12 and #30 there is quite a lot written about him, and most of it is positive. The vast majority of the scouting reports suggest that Maatta will be a solid stay at home shutdown defenseman that projects as #3/4 on the depth chart. He was been favorably compared to Ryan Suter by numerous scouts, although when asked Maatta said he considers himself similar to Kimmo Timonen or Mark Streit. From a Pens perspective I would consider him more similar in style to Paul Martin.
The best aspect of Maatta's game is his simple defensive ability. Hockey's Future's Ian Altenbaugh said "The foundation of Maatta's game is built around consistent, non-flashy play. Maatta possesses excellent vision, hockey IQ, and puck-distribution ability. But steady play in the defensive and neutral zone is what Maatta does best." Matias Strozyk adds "Very good overall skills, though better defensively. A very patient player who positions himself well. Excellent hockey sense." And Future Cosiderations' Sean Lafortune said:
"Maatta is a smart defenceman who can have a positive impact in all three zones. He is extremely smart and shows good positional play in all three zones. He is effective at angling opposition defenceman way from high percentage scoring areas and into areas that limit scoring opportunities. He is strong at reading the play and making smart first passes out of his zone."
However, reviews on his skating ability and offensive skill are mixed. Some scouts are impressed with the numbers he has put up in the OHL, while others feel that he might not translate to an offensive asset at the professional level. Skating some are quite impressed with his speed and explosiveness, while others are concerned with his overall agility. Kirk Luedeke said "Skating is a bit rough-- lacks immediate acceleration, and is a bit lacking in his pivots and turns" and Craig Button said he is not "blessed with closing quickness." However, other reports have suggested "His skating is average. He lacks in both acceleration and overall speed, but isn't something that can't be corrected through power skating. His skating technique is just fine." David Burstyn of McKeen's provides both the positive and negative side of his skating ability:
"He is a good skater who can launch himself up ice however it is his wide, looping range that makes him so efficient. Maatta desperately needs to work on his pivots, as he looses his man down low far too often and get caught running around in the defensive zone."
Then we have yet another scouting report that questions his abilities, "Footwork and first few steps need some work ... acceleration and transitional footwork need to be addressed ... his offensive upside is questionable right now." But that is not to say he cannot be an effective addition to the lineup, he can be an excellent stay at home defensive D that plays in the middle pairing and plays a shutdown role. "Though some scouts wonder if Maatta’s offensive abilities can translate at the NHL level, his defensive acumen is solid and unquestioned." Lastly we will leave you with some final thoughts from Future Condiserations' Sean Lafortune:
"Concerns with Maatta are two fold. First and foremost, I’m concerned about his long-term projectable upside. With some players, you can see them having a high ceiling based on their growth and development. My fear with Maatta is that he has played at a high level for this long, and doesn’t show me a lot of development left. I’m just not sure how much better he is going to get. Secondly, Maatta’s footwork and first few steps need some work. Once he is at speed his overall mobility is not an issue, however his acceleration and transitional footwork need to be addressed. Overall, his long-term projection is as a smart defenceman who will thrive in his own zone, and occasionally produce offensively."
Where has he been?
Maatta started playing in the Juniors in Finland for his local JYP. At 15 he was given an A for JYP U16 in the Junior C SM-sarja, finishing the year as the top scoring D on the team and one of the top scoring D in the entire league. The next season as a 16 year old he was promoted to the JYP U18 and then almost immediately sent up to the JYP U20 club in the Junior A SM-liiga, although he split the year between the Juniors and the D Team in Finland's minor league Mestis. Playing with the older players in the U20 and the minor leagues his scoring was unable to keep up, but he reverted to his simple defensive game and was still able to excel, enough so that he was selected #1 overall in the OHL import draft.
He spent the past 2 seasons playing for the OHL London Knights with fellow Penguins prospect Scott Harrington. From his rookie season Maatta was the top scoring D on the team in both Goals and Points, and during the playoffs scored over a point per game and tied for the overall team lead in Points. He was named to the All-Rookie Team and London won the OHL Championship but lost the Memorial Cup in the Final. Then last season he was named Alternate Captain and once again led the team D in both Goals and Points, both during the regular season and the playoffs, winning the OHL Championship and another shot at the Memorial Cup.
When can we expect to see him?
Maatta is just 19 years old this season, so he will be heading back to the OHL for one final year. This will be a big year for him, since a lot of his former teammates have graduated to the professional level and there are a few left with Junior eligibility that still have a shot of remaining in their NHL club. He is penciled in as an Alternate Captain again this season, and with Harrington gone he may be asked to focus more of the defensive side of his game to replace Harrington's duties.
He could join the NHL roster as early as next year, but there are very few roster openings available and a few D that are either more experienced or more skilled that would be a better fit, so expect him to play his first professional season in the AHL with the WBS Penguins. From there the Pens would have more openings in the coming seasons, although with enough quality defensemen in the system there is no urgent need to rush him into the NHL, so he might benefit from playing a 2nd season in the AHL. Expect to see him on the NHL roster in perhaps 2-3 years.
Why is he #3?
Maatta received 4 votes for 2nd, 1 vote for 3rd, 1 vote for 4th, 1 vote for 5th, 1 vote for 6th, and 1 vote for 9th.
How can he climb the list?
Maatta need to prove he can produce offense at the professional level if he wants to climb the list. He is solid in his own zone, but to surpass the other big names he needs to produce points. As mentioned by the scouts, his skating could also use some work, and like Martin and Harrington it has been suggested that he could stand to play with a more physical edge. But in the end Maatta may have peaked, so its more about maintaining his spot than it is about climbing the list.