The 2011 draft is a little more than a month away, and we all know that Gordie Clark, Glen Sather, and the collection of Rangers scouts are holding many meetings to discuss potential players on their draft boards. The Rangers have the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft, and while most of the prospects on people’s lists will be gone (Nugent-Hopkins, Larsson, Courturier, etc), there are a good amount of prospects that would help the Rangers in the long run. Today we look at #13 in the ISS Top-30, Joel Armia of Assat Pori of the Finnish Leagues.
At first glance, Armia’s numbers don’t really jump out at you. In 48 games this year, the 18 year old forward has 18 goals and 11 assists, with 24 PIMs and a +9 rating. However, SM-liga is notoriously low scoring, so Armia’s numbers had him 52nd in points, but 12th in goals as a rookie in the league. Standing at 6’3″ and 187 lbs, Armia is a big kid and still has a body to fill out. Once he matures, he is going to be over 200 lbs. That’s great size for the forward.
When it comes to skill, Armia has a tremendous shot and can pick corners from almost anywhere. He uses his size to fend off the opposition, and when he is in the offensive zone, he is a threat to generate offense from anywhere. He has a very long stride when he skates, unsurprising considering his height, and uses that stride to generate speed and most importantly, separation from the opposition. He definitely has the skills and the tools to be successful in the NHL.
But, and there is always a but, where Armia lacks is in his consistency and work without the puck. Too many scouts have noted him as a bit “lazy” with back checking and playing defense. In a defense-first league like SM-liga, that’s a bit alarming. Of course, most 18 year olds are only fascinated with the offensive part of the game, and not the delicate intricacies that make up the game of hockey. As Kirk Ludeke put it, if it’s a maturity thing, then he’s a sleeper pick in this draft. If it’s not, then he’s another one zone guy who will never reach his potential.
Armia has the tools, he has the skill, and he has the hockey sense to be a successful NHL player. It’s the inconsistencies that really make his stock drop. The Rangers have a habit lately of drafting kids with tremendous upside, but also great character and work ethic. Character doesn’t appear to be an issue with Armia, but work ethic on the ice might be. If it is, then I expect the Rangers to pass on Armia. However, I’m just a blogger, so don’t take my word for it.