The other (probable) Finnish born first rounder this year is Olli Maatta. The 6’1", 203 pound defender is already NHL size and is considered a mid-round pick by most outfits. Unlike fellow Finns Teuvo Teravainen and Flames prospect Markus Granlund, Maatta decided to hop the pond and play some of his formative years in the OHL. His five goals and 32-points in 58 games for the London Knights was the highest total for any OHL rookie rearguard this season.
Maatta followed up his decent regular season debut with an eye-popping platoff run. In 19 games, he beat his regular season goal total (6) and added 17 assists for 23 points. Only former first rounder Dougie Hamilton (23 points) and probably top-3 pick Ryan Murray (22 points) were within range of Maatta in the post-season.
Like with Tervainen, I asked eliteprospects writer Matias Strozyk for his insight on Maatta.
Kent Wilson: Olli is a defender who spent his season in the OHL with the London Knights, but previously grew up and developed in Finland. Was it obvious earlier on that Maatta was a top-end talent?
Matias Strozyk: Määttä surprised many two years ago when he was not only a defenseman who jumped from the U16 league to the 2nd highest level of Finnish hockey but also developed his status from an injury back-up to the backbone of his team’s D. He had great patience, vision and positioned himself well and his size certainly wasn’t a negative factor.
KW: In your description of him on eliteprospects.com, you describe Maatta as good overall, but probably better defensively. Does he project as top-4 guy in the NHL who play in all situations, but won’t necessarily lead the blueline in scoring?
MS: That’s pretty accurate. It’s not that he can’t contribute offensively: Olli has a good shot, gives a smart first pass and is useful on the powerplay. Despite his all-round skill I would still profile him as a defensive leader since he is so secure in the defensive zone and has good hockey sense and size. What you get is a solid all-round defenseman who should be able to come in and take his spot in the NHL after a couple of seasons in the minors.
KW: What would you say is Olli’s biggest strength? Does he have any glaring weaknesses?
MS: He’s a smart player who makes good decisions on the ice. Määttä is not someone you should expect to see in the headlines night after night but does his job well. He has a nice overall package of skills and can contribute to every aspect of the game. He’s not a magical puck-mover nor a simple shutdown defenseman: he makes very few mistakes, is secure at the backend and can make the occasional offensive contribution.
I haven’t seen much of Olli since his move to North America but when he left I considered his biggest weakness to be his skating. I wouldn’t call it bad – his technique was a bit so-so, but it’s difficult for me to say how that has developed during his time with the Knights.
KW: There is a decent chance Olli will be around when Calgary picks at 14. Does he strikes you as a good fit for the Flames?
MS: Määttä is already a solid two-way defenseman with good size and I’m expecting him to turn into a reliable defender. There shouldn’t be too many organizations that won’t have a spot for a player like him and the Flames aren’t an exception. I can’t see him getting called up within the first ten picks so he might well be available for Calgary where Olli can grab a decent role. He’ll need a couple of years for his body to develop but after that he should be a reliable D who can also score a handful of points, on the 2nd powerplay unit for instance, along the way.
The Flames haven’t gone fishing in the OHL lately, eschewing that league in each of the last three entry drafts. Greg Nemisz and TJ Brodie from 2008 were the Flames latest picks from that corner of the CHL, so it’s hard to know if Calgary has simply forsaken the Ontario Hockey League or just simply haven’t had the opportunity to pick a guy they liked from there in awhile.
Aside from that, Maatta sounds like a decent mid-round target. He finished off his first season overseas in style, has an NHL ready frame and a solid overall game at both ends of the ice. He’s not as a sexy a pick as some of the other options who might fall to Calgary, but he could be the best one once 14 roles around.
Probability he will be around at 14: Moderate-to-high
Probability the Flames will pick him: Moderate