Player: Olli Maatta
Born: August 22, 1994
Birthplace: Jyväskylä, Finland
Draft: First round, 2012, No. 22 overall
Contract: Maatta has three years remaining on a six-year contract with a salary cap hit of $4.083 million per season. The contract runs through the end of the 2021-22 season.
Regular season history
After a promising rookie season where he looked to be destined to become a top-pairing defender in the NHL, Maatta’s career kind of stalled out for a bit for reasons that were often times out of his control. He overcame cancer and has had constant injury issues that helped derail the early part of his career.
He is never going to be a big offensive player, he does not skate well, and he is not going to be the top-pairing defender the Penguins envisioned six years ago, but he’s not a total zero on the ice, either. One of the things about Maatta that’s stuck out to me over the past couple of years is that after all of his health issues he seems to have learned his limitations and what he can and can not do on the ice, and he has been able to adjust his game. He plays a more conservative game, and he will back off a little at the blue line when faster skaters target him, but once he gets into the defensive zone he is a decent defender. And while he lacks high-level skating, he is still a decent passer that can make a smooth outlet pass out of the zone.
Basically, I think he is actually what the Penguins thought they would be getting in the free agent defender from this past season that shall not be named.
Not great. Not bad. But a solid 4-5-6 defender.
When the Penguins finally had all of their defenders healthy at the start of the playoffs Maatta found himself in the Game 1 lineup in place of Jack Johnson. It did not go well. He had a brutal game that featured a couple of mistakes that turned into goals, the Penguins lost by one goal (in overtime) and Maatta never saw the ice again the rest of the series. It was probably the right move to play him, then they overreacted to the result (then never reacted to any of the results that followed).
Game of the season
October 27, 2018 at the Vancouver Canucks — The Penguins won 5-0 and Maatta played a phenominal game, logging more than 20 minutes of ice-time, recording an assist on the game’s opening goal, and finishing the night as a plus-four.
Matta’s only goal of the season was a power play goal back in January to open the scoring against the Winnipeg Jets.
Here he is jumping into the play in Vegas to set up Phil Kessel for a goal.
Smooth release to get a puck on net for Patric Hornqvist to pounce on the rebound in front.
If he is still in Pittsburgh the ideal situation for Maatta is as a second-or third-pairing defender, that he stays healthy enough to play the majority of the games, and that he plays a sound, responsible, defensive game within his limitations. It is not exciting, it is not game-changing, you may not notice it. Honestly, though, if Maatta is playing at his absolute best you probably will not notice him at all throughout the course of a game. That is a good thing, because it means he is not getting beat.
Worst case 2019-20
It is probably one that we have seen play out on numerous occasions throughout his career. Injuries sideline him, he is never fully 100 percent healthy, and struggles to keep up with everyone around him and gets beat wide by faster, more skilled players while getting too many minutes and too large of a role.
It is probably a mix of the best case and the worst case. He will almost certainly miss a handful of games, he will have games where he plays at his best and provides a stable presence on the blue line and he will have games where he just looks woefully out of place. That is probably going to happen whether he remains in Pittsburgh or is traded over the summer, with the latter option probably being the most realistic. The Penguins have too many players on the blue line, need to clear some salary cap space, and Maatta seems like someone that could be at the top of the trade list.
What are your Olli Maatta feelings in general? Not just necessarily from the 2018-19 season, but overall? His career kind of feels like a disappointment just simply based on how great his rookie season was. But calling him or his career a disappointment also seems terribly unfair, not only because of the circumstances around his regression early on, but also because even with that regression and the health issues he has still probably been about what you would expect from a No. 22 overall pick, if not more. Look at the history of players taken in the early-20s of the first-round. There is not a lot of impact players there, and even getting a regular NHLer out of that spot seems like a success. He has had success, he has had struggles, he has been okay. That seems like the perfect description for Olli Maatta.
Grade Olli Maatta’s 2018-19 Performance
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