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Scouting 2011 16th Overall Pick Joel Armia

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For the first time since 2006, the Buffalo Sabres selected a European player in the NHL Entry Draft. Joel Armia of Assat (Finnish SM-liiga) is a big winger with power forward potential and talent to spare, but instead of prattling on I’ll let Finnish hockey writer Matias Strozyk of Elite Prospects and do the talking for me…

Joel Armia made his SM-liiga debut in the 2010-2011 season as a 17-year-old. He scored his first goal in early October against HIFK and played in the Ässät first line in only his 5th SM-liiga game, in which he scored three points. In his first five games in the leading line Armia scored 5 goals and added 4 assists for a total of 9 points.

After his flying start Armia failed to score a single point in the next eight games before the third two-goal night of his career. He went through another quieter period in November before scoring a total of 15 points in his final 23 regular season games. Armia finished the regular season with 29 points in 48 games. He was the team’s 6th best point scorer and 2nd best goal scorer, and the league’s 3rd best rookie in terms of points.

At 6′ 3” and 192 lbs Armia has good size for a player of his age, and is an exception to typically small Finnish prospects. He uses his size well to cover the puck and has good reach. Despite his decent frame, Armia still lacks the strength to be a force in the professional level. Armia has improved his forechecking, but relies too much on his skills with the puck.

Once Armia has the puck, he patiently makes his way towards the opposition net. As a calm player who thinks ahead, Armia uses fairly simple moves to deke his opponents before getting close enough to utalize his sharp wrist shot. Armia is at his best near the goal where he can either go for a shot, which he prefers, or try to deke the goalie.

Armia plays the game with a scoring mentality and loves to drive the net. In addition to his quick release, Armia is dangerous in front of the opposing goalie and takes advantage of any rebounds.

Armia’s major weaknesses are his defensive game and skating. He is a sniper and a goal scorer, and as a winger he doesn’t have the same defensive responsibility as centers, but in terms of NHL success there is a lot of room for improvement. Armia’s first SM-liiga season made him a better skater but he still lacks the sharpness to stand out.

Armia has been described as a boom or bust type of prospect by a number of prospects and I’m okay with that. The Sabres are nicely set for a number of years and can afford to take a chance on a project-type draftee. With the Sabres employing a two-way system at all levels, he can focus on his skating and work ethic while in Finland and then improve his defense when he arrives in Rochester.

Throughout the season, Matias will be keeping Black & Blue & Gold updated on how Armia is doing and how his development is going.

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