Uh, looks good in blue
We continue our guess and search in the dark for the Hawks draft, or at least their first round pick next Friday. Today we move on to a Finnish defender, who if he pans out can look forward to being completely ignored by Coach Quenneville. That is if previous experience with Finnish defenders is any guide. Though by the time this kid hits the Show, Q and Stan will have finally had that knife fight in the UC offices.
Maatta seems to be the perfect blend, which makes me wonder why he's projected to be around when the Hawks pick in the middle of the first round. But then this is considered a draft lousy with blue line talent, and maybe that's why. Maatta was the first pick in the OHL draft, after being the youngest ever to serve for Finland in the World Juniors two years ago at 16. He's got decent size already, at 6-2 and 203lb. That will probably fill out as he gets older and gets some professional weight training.
The first thing people talk about is Maatta's brain. As with most Scandinavian defenders not named Kronwall, just because he's got that size doesn't mean he's bashing people left and right. He's more the cerebral type, apparently already having a plus positional brain and good with his stick. Very steady, most pegged him as a stay-at-home type. Rock solid, if not spectacular.
Of course, then the OHL playoffs happened, where Maatta exploded for 23 points in 19 games as London went to the Memorial Cup after winning the OHL -- the impression I get is that the Knights do that a lot. While he doesn't have a bomb from the point, he has a very accurate shot that he gets through. So he's more than just a pillar at the back.
There are some caveats. Maatta played with future monster Jarred Tinordi and Scott Harrington, who relieved some pressure and may have taken some of the tougher assignments from him. While Maatta is not slow, he's not that quick yet and can get buried in the corner. The lack of using that size also can cost him at points. He also got labeled in the last Juniors by future Columbus pain in the ass Boone Jenner and missed some time, so concussion problems might not be far away. Then again, which of these kids isn't equipped with those.
As we've said in the past, the Hawks barely have any d-men with size in the holster. Only Stephen Johns really fills that bill. But Maatta isn't just some drooler who can take up space. With some more seasoning, he could fit in to the way the Hawks play. The Hawks haven't shown a propensity to take Europeans, especially in the early rounds. Only Rensfeldt was taken in the first two the past three years. But Maatta has played in North America for a season, and will for at least one or two more before entering anyone's system. Seems like the type of Euro the Hawks might take a chance on.