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Penguins rookie Maatta might still play in World Junior

Nov 23, 2013, 12:02 PM EDT

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 26: Olli Maatta #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on October 26, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Penguins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Defenseman Olli Maatta has played in all 23 of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ games this season. This will consequently count as the first season of the 19-year-old rookie’s entry-level contract.

At this point it’s unlikely they’ll have him play for OHL London, but Team Finland? That might be another story.

They can loan Maatta to his national team for the sake of playing in the upcoming World Junior Championship.

The event goes from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, but he would need to start training for the event in mid-December. In other words, the Penguins would lose his services for several weeks, but it’s still something they’re considering, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Maatta is averaging just 15:31 minutes per contest and his role might be further diminished when Rob Scuderi (broken ankle) returns. Maatta can’t be sent to the AHL for more seasoning because London still owns his non-NHL rights. If they do return him to the OHL, the Penguins won’t be able to recall him until late May. This tournament would give the Maatta an opportunity to log more minutes without being away from Pittsburgh for too long.

It’s worth adding that if Maatta plays in fewer than 40 games this season, then it will take him a season longer before he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.

  1. killerpgh - Nov 23, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    I think it could be a good learning experience him. It probably won’t be the best thing for the on ice product of the Penguins but it should be better for the long term development of Maatta. Even if Scuderi isn’t ready it will give Bortuzzo a chance to get back in the line while Maatta is on leave. Add in the fact that rookies aren’t used to playing an 82 games plus playoffs it wouldn’t be a bad thing that he takes a month away from the NHL and plays less games while helping his country in the WJC’s.

  2. bencia823 - Nov 23, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    If they do this, this could give somebody like Scott Harrington or Simon Despres some ice time this year, which couldnt be a bad thing

  3. csilojohnson - Nov 23, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Im sure that was Shero’s plan the entire time. Dont see him playing less then 40 though.

  4. hazlydose - Nov 23, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    I think its a good idea to give Maata a small mid season break before the playoff push starts to pick up. He has played fantastic and I can probably count on one hand the times hes made a rookie mistake. That said, he is young and his body needs a rest from the hard NHL schedule. We have to keep in mind that for all of his poise and his smart decision making that he is still a 19 year old kid being hit my grown men all year.

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