(Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI) http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=684195
Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins face the Colorado Avalanche in the ninth game of the 2012-2013 season and rookie defenseman Olli Maatta's career. Aside from seeing Nathan MacKinnon and this being a solid matchup, is no big deal, right? For most everyone else, not really. Oh, but for Olli Maatta it is. Tonight might be his final NHL game this year.
According to NHL rules (which tend to be more bewildering than the Minotaur's Maze) everything will be cool if Maatta plays under nine NHL games. However, if the young Finn dresses for more than he'll enter the first year of his entry-level deal. Business-wise, not a great thing. Maatta can be sent back to his junior team, the OHL's London Knights, but after playing ten professional games he be cannot be brought back to the Pens for the rest of year.
Simplified, if Olli plays after tonight's game against the Avalanche he's either going to be a Penguin the rest of year or potentially not again until 2013-2014.
The choice is easy . . . keep him on the Pens.
Maatta has gotten better and smarter after each game. Like any rookie he makes some mistakes, but the good crushes the bad. His speed is marvelous and he's tough along the boards. The stats are not there yet (one goal, two assists, and a minus-1 rating), but he's still learning. Only good things can come from continuing playing him.
After Saturday's win against the Canucks, Maatta said of his NHL experience, "I feel like every game I have gotten more confident and comfortable out there. Today, I felt good.”
The Penguins have a battalion of young defenseman waiting for their chance with the big club. Olli Maatta is proving he belongs in the NHL. So is Robert Bortuzzo and sure as spit will Derrick Pouilot and Scott Harrington. Now is the time for these youngsters and it all starts with Maatta playing after the ninth game of the season.
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