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Salo on Maatta: ‘I don’t see the ceiling… He’s special’

Feb 13, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

Olli Jokinen, Olli Maatta Getty Images

Finland defenseman Olli Maatta has been impressing fans in Pittsburgh all season with his steady play, but the NHL rookie hasn’t had a chance to do that for his veteran countrymen until the Olympics.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review hears from Maatta’s Finland teammates to find out the impression he’s leaving is a very good one as Sami Salo will attest to.

“There’s poise, there’s talent and … I don’t see the ceiling. I really don’t. He’s special,” Salo said. “And you know, it’s good for Finnish hockey. It’s good for all of us. We’ve been waiting for someone like him to arrive for a while.”

The last time words like that were uttered it was for guys like Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh and Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Being that kind of player for your country, though, is something else.

The Finns have always had either great forwards, goaltending, or both but defensemen have been harder to come by. Defense was believed to be a weakness for Finland in the Olympics, but with Maatta stepping in, it’s not as bad off as it once was.

  1. theageofquarrel - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    It’s good for the Pittsburgh Penguins too

  2. canadiansportsfan77 - Feb 13, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    I misread the title to “I don’t see the ceiling…he’s not special”

    I thought what a d!ckish thing to say about your teammate haha

  3. djshnooks - Feb 13, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    Another one is coming down the pipeline I. Buffalo’s system…and he was drafted/rated higher than Maata, coming out of the draft.

    Rasmus Ristolainen has drawn comparisons to Pronger…his size, speed, shot…he has a lot of skill, and will probably be paired on Finland’s top duo at the blue-line in the next Olympics. (If NHL’ers go.)

    Not just saying this because I am a Sabres fan, but Ristolainen is going to be special…there’s a reason he was a top-10 pick in last years draft…once ranked in the top-5…but the offensive players pushed him down…still #3 d-man off the board.

    (Zadorov might be better than both of them, “The next Chara” they say…dude is huge and coached by the Hunters in London…he LOVES to hit and has a wicked heavy/hard slapshot…he’ll be elite…but I know that’s a conversation to be had at another time…just keep an eye out.)

    • lowenni - Feb 13, 2014 at 9:53 PM

      You really used this opportunity to glorify your own team despite the fact that it had no relevance to the article. The fact that Maatta has been able to step in at such a young age and perform so well is very impressive. Ristolainen and Zadorov have not been quite as impressive.

    • theageofquarrel - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:34 AM

      If he is soooo great then why isn’t he playing in Buffalo? It’s not like the WORST team in the NHL doesn’t need defensive help.

  4. phillyphanatic77 - Feb 13, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    Though Scott Laughton is becoming a stud two-way forward in the mold of Mike Richards I still wish the Flyers had gone with this kid. Instead I have to root against a guy who could’ve been a much needed stalwart on the Flyers blueline. Timonen would’ve been the perfect mentor for Maatta.

  5. jpelle82 - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    he’s well rounded for being 19. there’s not much that i’ve seen this season that i can really complain about. as a pens fan i pay very close attention to him every night, just looking for some kind of fault. he really doesnt have any that stand out. he seems to elude the common mistakes that young guys make, he doesnt take many penalties, he makes good decisions on the pinches/offensive blue line, his angles are good, stickwork is excellent and he can skate well. plus he can move the puck and shoot well. if anything i would say he needs to hit the weight room but he will gain his grown man weight in the next couple years naturally. not to say that he wont run into the sophmore slump/over confidence pitfall but he seems way to poised and smart to regress like that. i dont see why he cant be the finnish version of nik lidstrom. he should be competing for top pair minutes next season.

    • shwatson - Feb 14, 2014 at 2:28 PM

      I can’t ever remember a Pens rookie defenseman play so well and I’ve been watching them for 20 years now. Can’t imagine where the Pens would be now if they sent him back to Juniors when they had the chance. Another goal and 2 assists today for Finland.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:23 PM

        me either. very promising young player for sure. its always nice to see the scouting and management’s decision making pay off.

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