While he wasn’t drafted to be a key offensive blueliner, Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta surprised many in his rookie season with 29 points in 78 games back in 2013-14. That raised the level of expectations for him right away that he could be a legitimate two-way threat in the league. Fast forward to today and suffice it to say, that hasn’t happened, writes Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
This season, Maatta has only managed a pair of assists in 35 games, a stat line that more than a few goaltenders around the league have. The Penguins have deployed him in a primary shutdown role which has limited his offensive opportunities but the 22 year old knows he can be better at that end of the rink:
“It’s something that should be part of my game as well, and it hasn’t been this season. It’s something I gotta pay attention to. You have to try to get better as a player as the season goes on. That’s a big thing, and I think that’s part of my game that I can be better at. I can improve.”
With Kris Letang and Trevor Daley, two of Pittsburgh’s top offensive threats from the back end, both out of the lineup, Maatta should get more of an opportunity to be a factor offensively in the coming games.
More from the Metro:
- Philadelphia fans will be keeping a close eye on the World Junior Hockey Championships which get underway today. As Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post notes, the Flyers have an impressive nine prospects that will be representing the team. By comparison, no other team has more than five. Among those nine players are three netminders, Carter Hart (Canada), Felix Sandstrom (Sweden), and Matej Tomek (Slovakia). With the uncertainty surrounding Philadelphia’s NHL goaltending situation moving forward (Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth are both unrestricted free agents at the end of the season), it’s certainly encouraging for the Flyers to know they have several quality prospects in their junior ranks even if these goalies are still a few years away from contributing at the NHL level.
- Newsday’s Steve Zipay wonders if there’s a chance we may see tanking of a different kind come April. As things sit in the standings, both Wild Card spots in the East are from the Metropolitan Division, creating a scenario where it could arguably be more beneficial to see a top three team drop into the first Wild Card spot and cross over to the bracket in the Atlantic Division. There’s still more than half the season to play but if things hold up close to where they are now, it will certainly be something to keep an eye on as we hit the stretch run of the season.
- With Casey Cizikas expected to be out through the Islanders’ five day break from January 1st to the 5th, captain John Tavares is expected to take a regular turn on the penalty kill, writes Arthur Staple, also of Newsday. Head coach Jack Capuano noted that Tavares has the hockey IQ to handle the role, even though it’s one he hasn’t played since his days in junior hockey. It also helps that Tavares is their best faceoff threat at 52.9% and winning shorthanded draws is an area that the Islanders have struggled at this year as they’ve won just 45.4% of their faceoffs in that situation.