First Round Targets: Joel Armia



While Sven Bartschi is a good target for the Flames in terms abilities, the truth is it’s entirely possible he’ll be picked by the time the 13 choice rolls around. The lanky Fin Joel Armia, however, lands right around the Flames in just about every draft llst I’ve seen so far.

At 6’3" and 190 pounds, the right winger from Pori, Finland already has NHL size, although he could probably stand to put a few more pounds on his frame. Armia was the youngest player on the SM-liiga Assat Pori this year at just 17-years old. but still managed 18 goals and 29 points in 48 games played. Only 22-year old Thomas Zaborsky scored more goals than Armia on Assat. Armia’s 29 points was good for sixth on the club, although his PPG pace of 0.60 project to about 49 over 60 games (a full season in the Finnish Elite League) which made him the team leader by seven points. 

Sm-liiga is a professional league like the SEL, meaning it’s populated by established veteran hockey players, albeit guys of somewhat lesser quality than the Swedish equivalent. It is therefore notable when a teenager not only makes the club, but becomes a significant contributor. Gabriel Desjardins notes in his league equivalency studies that SM-liiga is about "half" the quality of the NHL (0.54) whereas the SEL is closer to three-quarters (0.78).

Obviously the quality of our information on Armia is limited to his counting numbers. While we can’t determine his ES or PP splits or percentage of team offense, we can translate his PPG pace to an NHL rate using Desjardins ratio. (0.60 X 0.54) = 0.326 PPG. If we project that over a full 82 game season, we get a point total of about 27. That’s not astounding, off course, but keep in mind this is a 17 year-old kid. Even top-three offensive type prospects usually top-out at 40 points for their NHLE.

That’s the good stuff. Armia isn’t without his warts however. Here’s Corey Pronman on Armia, whom he ranked 15th overall:


Armia is very confident with the puck on his stick and he has good reason to be. He is able to execute above-average dekes with regularity and is very good in open ice. On more than occasion I’ve seen him execute a stick-handling move or a mid-distance pass through a tight space that left me saying "wow". He has an above-average shot with the ability to score from notable distances with the tool’s accuracy and power. While the frame and his natural offensive tools are a great package, there are quite a few areas of concern with Armia. While he is a tall player, Armia still has a ways to fill out and loses a fair amount of battles that a man his size shouldn’t.

His hockey sense is decent in regards to his positional play in all zones, however his decision-making with the puck is poor and he too often tries to force the big play with cross-seam passes, deking in dangerous locations, or will chuck the puck at the net with no traffic. His stride is good, but Armia’s feet are heavy and the skating tool grades as fringe, but likely could get up a notch with attention to that area. Armia’s intangibles and more specifically his consistency are also a question mark. He has one of the best upsides of any forward in the class, but there’s a fair amount that he needs to work on.


Good stuff: big, soft hands, great puck skills, deadly shot.

Bad stuff: high risk decision making, poor skating, uneven consistency

Overall, Armia is a guy typicaly referred to as a "high risk" pick who could either turn into a top-six offensive threat, or wash-out completely due to some of his weaknesses. Personally, I think the fact that he’s performing against adults already is a big point in his favor and speaks to a fairly high ceiling. Clearly some aspects of his game would have to improve if he is to become a legitimate NHLer down the road, but many of his deficiencies can likely be taught, whereas many of his strengths are more inherent. Perhaps the most alarming deficiency is his skating, although a lot of offensive forward prospects who were dubbed poor skaters in their draft year have established themselves as great players recently (Corey Perry being the most obvious example).

As such, I’d like the Flames to take a hard look at Armia if he’s around at 13. CSS ranked Armia as the second best European skater behind Adam Larsson and one spot ahead of Mika Zibanejad. ISS had him 13th overall, a couple of spaces behind Bartschi and well back of Zibanejad, whom they have at 7th.

  • icedawg_42

    I’ve always been curious when you hear that skating is a liability at the junior ages, how far NHL coaches and trainers can bring that along, or if these kids sort of peak in that they have grown into their own technique, and it’s not a matter of strength or physical training. I too have noticed that this kid falls into the Flames wheel house on almost every list too. It will be interesting to see who else is available at #13 when the day actually comes.

  • Corey Pronman let me know that updated numbers on equivalencies has the SM-liiga at 0.49 rather than 0.54. Not too big a difference. Apparently you can adjust upwards for Armia because he was so young as well, so the numbers in the post probably aren’t too far off.

    If you add 30% to the .49 (because Armia was just 17), you get a 0.637 equivalency. That equates to a 31 point season in the NHL.

  • icedawg_42

    Anyone in the CHL own his rights? Is he someone who should spend time in a CHL league, given the difference between SM-liiga and the SEL..or let him finish out his junior career over there then off to Abby

  • icedawg_42

    LOL at the KHL drafting him, I’m pretty sure 99% of the time they are not drafting Russians they are doing it for ****s and giggle and free press in other countries.

    This is a guy that if Bartschi isn’t there at 13 I’m okay with drafting but if we draft him over Bartschi I’m gonna be a little upset. He has a lot of tools to work with and sounds like he can work with the tools and be a legit offensive pressence. However reading all the negatives its just as likely he could never even crack the AHL.

    “Armia still has a ways to fill out and loses a fair amount of battles that a man his size shouldn’t.”

    This just scares the crap out me frankly, I mean he is playing in a mens league, but hell, he’s probably bigger than most of them, the last thing we need is another “big” guy who never ever plays like it.

    • SmellOfVictory

      If a guy can play in Swedish/Finnish men’s leagues in his draft year, he can probably contribute in the AHL. NHL, perhaps not, but AHL would be a near certainty, I would imagine.

      My biggest beef with this scouting report is “poor decisions with the puck.” If a guy is prone to making notably poor decisions with the puck after playing hockey for presumably 10+ years, I’m not a huge fan of that individual. If a player is willing, he can be taught to play “bigger”, to change his stride, etc. but if he’s particularly deficient of the noggin (not that Armia necessarily is, but that scouting report is a large red flag IMO) then all deficiencies aside from purely physiological ones become exaggerated and more difficult to fix.

  • I think I just sold myself on Mark McNiell. Barring anyone in the top 8-10 falling significantly, of course. My mock:

    1- Nugent-Hopkins
    2- Hubredeau
    3- Landeskog
    4- Couturier
    5- Larsson
    6- Zibanejad
    7- Strome
    8- Murphy
    9- Hamilton
    10- Bartschi
    11- Siemens
    12- Armia
    13- McNiell
    14- Olesiak
    15- Phillips

    • Not a bad list, but if Larsson doesn’t go top three I see him going to the Devils if they can get Parise signed because then the focus would be D rather then offense. I also see Armia going to the Wild rather then Bartschi, but Bartschi going to the Avs. The wild has a great fin in Koivu, so I could see them taking another. The Avs will want some more wingers after dealing Stewart to the Blues so I see them taking Bartschi to replace that loss. They won’t be going D as they just picked up great D in the trade with the blues. Also the Hurricanes are going Forward, I’m pretty sure since the lockout the only D man they drafted was Johnson and that didn’t turn out so well for them. Since then its ALWAYS been forward, so I see that trend continuing, So Siemens or Olesiak goes there, or a guy you completely missed in BEAULIEU. Of course there could be a run on D and that Brodin kid sneaks in top 12 as well.

      Which would leave us with a choice between Phillips and McNeil and thats more a thing on preference if you’d rather someone out of the Q or the W.

      • My thinking…

        RE: NJ — Lou LOVES his big centers. If Couturier is there, I think they take him & move Zajac for a d-man. If FLA were to take Couturier, then definitely Larsson to Devs.

        RE: Wild — Armia definitely makes sense there (with Koivu and soon, Granlund).

        RE: Avs — If they take a F at 2, then I see them looking at a d-man at 11. However, since I had them taking Hubredeau, perhaps Saint John teammate Beaulieu could be a target (rather than Siemens)… then again, does them being Jr. teammates REALLY matter?

        RE: Canes — That’s exactly why I didn’t have them taking a d-man. (BUT did you just say that they always take a F, and won’t take a d-man, AND THEN say they’d take Siemens or Olesiak… or did I miss something?)

        RE: Beaulieau — I didn’t exactly “miss” him. I’ve heard him mentioned as possibly the most likely to have a big fall. But really, who knows? Certainly not me… just hearsay.

        In any case, unless 1 of MY top 10 list falls and is available at 13, I think I like Mark McNiell. Seems like a good fit.

        **When I asked their thoughts on McNiell to the Flames at 13, The Pipeline Show said “makes sense to me. CGY likes the WHL, big strong guy is a fit for them too.”

        • LOL thats why I shouldn’t try to leave a comment 5 minutes before I’m out the door, I meant to say that Siemens or Olesiak would be left after the canes pick, along with Beauliau. I still think the Avs go forward even with a pick at 2, they picked up 2 defenders in the Blues trade, so I think they pick a guy at 2 thats immediate NHLer and a guy that may take a year or two next. With how disappointing Statsny has become I could see them trying to find his replacement as well.