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Maatta Didn't Need Long To Adjust To Surroundings

Friday, 06.15.2012 / 12:00 PM ET / 2012 NHL Draft
By Adam Kimelman  - NHL.com
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Maatta Didn\'t Need Long To Adjust To Surroundings
Olli Maatta recorded 32 points in 58 games from the blueline in his first year with the London Knights.

Generally, coming to North America is a big adjustment for any European player, and Finnish-born defenseman Olli Maatta was no different when he arrived for his first training camp with the London Knights this past August.

How long that adjustment takes varies. For some, it can take half the season. Others pick it up fairly quickly.

"Maybe about 10 games and he was probably our best defenseman," London teammate Josh Anderson said of Maatta.

The 6-foot-2, 202-pound blueliner had 32 points in 58 regular-season games for the Knights, and was even better in the postseason. He led all Ontario Hockey League defensemen in the playoffs with six goals, and no blueliner had more than his 23 points. He helped London win the OHL title and advance to the Memorial Cup championship game. Add in his time with Finland at the 2012 World Junior Championship, and Maatta played 82 games in 2011-12.

He said that extended schedule is one of the reasons he opted to leave Finland for Canada.

"The season has been long and it's been an experience I was looking forward to," he told NHL.com. "I'm pretty tired. It's been a long season. Probably mentally tired, too. Every game you have to get ready mentally and get pumped and everything. It's been a hard season."

But a successful one, as NHL Central Scouting placed him No. 8 in its final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft.

"He's really smart, smooth skating, no mistakes in his game," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "His decision-making, his positioning, it's excellent. He's a real reliable guy."

The Knights also thought highly of Maatta, and sent a player and three draft picks to the Barrie Colts for the chance to pick first at the 2011 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, and then selected Maatta ahead of fellow top 2012 NHL Draft prospect Mikhail Grigorenko.

"I had seen him play in Germany [at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship] and he was one of the dominant defensemen. Power-play guy, penalty-kill guy, playing all the time," Dale Hunter, the Knights' president who started the season as the team's coach, told NHL.com. "And he was playing against kids that are two, three years older. He was doing very good against them. With his age, it makes a big difference at this age when you get 2-3 years different, but it didn't affect him at all. He's a big kid that jumps into the rush well, plays well defensively. That's what sold me on him. That's why we traded up."

Maatta said he felt no extra expectations placed on him in being the first player picked.

"I didn't feel pressure," he said. "I was really excited about it. They said to me, 'It's your first year. There will be ups and downs. Just go with it.' "

There were far more ups, as with Maatta, the Knights allowed just 178 goals, second-fewest in the OHL and 75 goals fewer than 2010-11.

The only downs came in December, when Canada's Boone Jenner knocked him out of the World Juniors with a concussion in the opening game, and the Knights' overtime loss to Shawinigan in the Memorial Cup Final.

He returned from the concussion in less than three weeks, and nothing affected him the rest of the season.

Not even Hunter's departure from the bench to take the coaching job with the Washington Capitals in December rattled him. In fact, Maatta said he saw it as a good thing. Part of that, though, was due to Hunter's replacement, Mark --London's GM and Dale's brother -- changed very little of the Knights' structure.

"It was kind of great," Maatta said. "It reminds us how close the NHL is. The coaching thing, it didn't change too much. Same family, same style of play. Team was doing well. We just kept continuing to do the same thing."

It's just that Maatta did his thing even better as the season went on.

"He was shocking how good he was," Mark Hunter told NHL.com. "He was one of the main reasons -- he was really good in the playoffs. He could have won the MVP in the playoffs.

"Everybody says it's a long season, he's only used to playing 40 games, but he seemed to thrive on it and get better and better. If I was in the National Hockey League I'd love to see it. It's a credit to his character."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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