With the 2012 NHL Draft less than a week away, we are continuing to look at possible prospects the Dallas Stars are looking at with the 13th overall selection. I started with center Brendan Gaunce (read here), then I took some time to look at center Radek Faksa (right here), before covering Zemgus Girgensons last week (read up). Then I switched over to defensemen, looking at big prospect Cody Ceci (click here). In each post I will look at the prospect, what he brings to the table, where he could go in the first round, and why the Stars should be looking at him. Be sure to Follow Blackout Dallas on Twitter and LIKE on Facebook for more discussions and as always feel free to ask any hockey questions you might have!
Another skilled defenseman that has had his name thrown around in the middle of the draft, Olli Maatta could be one of those players that easily rewards a team that takes him down the line. He was the 1st overall selection in the 2011 import draft in the OHL, and since then he has transitioned nicely to help the London Knights win the OHL Championship this last year. He chipped in 5 goals and 32 assists for 37 points in 58 games with London this season, his first over in North America. He then followed that up with 6 goals and 23 points in just 19 playoff games during the Knights run to a title. Before that the Finnish blueliner had been making his way through the different ranks and levels in Finland, playing in multiple national tournaments before he even turned 18. Just like Ceci, Maatta already possesses good size at a young age, coming into the draft at 6’2″ and 200 pounds.
Maatta is getting praised by many scouts because he is a reliable, two-way blueliner that can contribute big minutes. He brings a mix of smooth-skating skills with smarts and great positioning to the ice, which made him a big part of London’s great season. While he is still growing of course, he already looks like one of the best defenseman in his own end in this draft. While some of the defenseman that are expected to be picked in the top 15-20 picks may turn out to be better offensively than him, Maatta is already defensively smart enough to play with the pros. He has shown the knowledge of where to be on the ice at all times, smart use of his stick and body in defensive situations, and strong endurance to last the shifts when he might get stuck on the ice. But his abilities don’t just manifest themselves in his own end. He has a great outlet pass to start the puck up the other direction and he does have a growing offensive game. Maatta has a very accurate shot and showed more confidence in it as the season moved along and during the playoff run. In every zone, he is great at winning 1-on-1 battles and winning battles along the boards. The knock on Maatta though is that his footwork will need to be addressed moving forward and that he needs to be more physical if he hopes to be as impressive at the NHL level. Funny enough, these are two things that we heard with Jamie Oleksiak last summer. But the other thing that has been thrown around is that his ceiling might not be as high as some of the other defensemen in the top 10-20. He could be a future #2 or he could be nothing more than a future #4 / #5 type.
A defenceman with a good frame. Very good overall skills, though better defensively. A very patient player who positions himself well. Excellent hockey sense. Doesn’t usually go for big hits, but likes to play the body enough to steal the puck.
Written by: Matias Strozyk of EliteProspects.com
Why the Dallas Stars should draft him: His mix of two-way skills. He can skate once he gets going, he has a good shot and great passes, and his hockey IQ is high as he knows position-wise where to be at all times. And in the fact that he has been a work-horse type and can play a lot of minutes each night, and he should be a solid pick for a team in the middle of the first round. If he can improve his pivoting and feet in close and add some more physical play as he fills out, he could be a good top-line defenseman that can play in all zones.
He will be drafted around: Maatta will likely come off the board between 12th and 20th. While he might not be as flashy or promising as Ceci, Griffin Reinhart, or Morgan Rielly, he should make a NHL franchise happy someday with the skills to at least be a good 2nd-line defenseman that can play in every situation.
NHL players that he compares to: If he pans out, think along the lines of Ryan Suter. Or maybe just read this:
While I don’t think he will be good enough to anchor a defense core, I think he would be a great number two guy. Think Mike Richards, but from a defense point of view.
Submitted by: Todd Cordell of TheHockeyGuys