BUFFALO NY - DECEMBER 31: Forward Andrej Kudrna #23 of Slovakia battles for the puck with forward Joel Armia #20 of Finalnd during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between Slovakia and Finland on December 31 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Every year the hockey hub at SBNation does a mock draft in which every blog selects a player in a "real" draft setting. Blueshirt Banter picked in the 15th slot (there are no trades) and after much consulting with George (Rangers Smurf) I selected Joel Armia.
George and I originally agreed that if Mark McNeill were on the board he would have been our pick. But once McNeill went 13th overall to the Calgary Flames (consider that your payback for the whole "Tim Erixon thing" Matchsticks and Gasoline) we unanimously agreed that Armia was the pick.
I am aware many of you are bigger fans of other players who were available when it was our turn to call names, but if you join us after the jump I will explain the reasoning.
Basically, there was one key component to the pick: goals. Armia might be the best pure goal scorer in the draft, and honestly his numbers speak for themselves.
Armia did, however, score 18 goals and add 11 assists for 29 points in 48 Finnish Elite League games. That's even more impressive when you consider the fact that Armia is all of 17-years-old playing with men much older and stronger than him. His goal scoring abilities have already been compared to Teemu Selanne's.
Starting with the World Junior Championships, I don't mind his poor performance. As a 17-year-old playing in the Under-20's on a team that collectively didn't play well at all, I can understand him not having a good showing. He only posted a single assist in six games. In the Under-18's however, Armia scored four goals and added nine assists for 13 points in six games.
Don't just brush off his numbers in the Finnish Elite League. As a 17-year-old playing amongst men, 18 goals is relatively eye-popping. You'll see a lot of people allude to his poor showing in the U-20's, but like I said above, it can be excused, especially after his showing in the U-18's.
Aside from Chris Kreider the Rangers don't have any other pure goal scorers in the farm system. Armia fixes that problem instantly. If he reaches his potential, he will be a lethal goal scorer for the Rangers for years to come. The Rangers haven't had a plethora of those players in recent memory, and Armia and Kreider could pair up to be one of the most dangerous one-two punches in the NHL.
His size is something we didn't talk about in our preview on him, but it's a big part of his game. At 17-years-old he is already muscling his way into the tough areas of the ice in a men's league and doing good things once he gets there. Throw that in with his goal scoring skills and the potential seems endless.Midterm Rank: 9 | League Rank: 1st SM-Liiga | Country Rank: 1st FinlandAfter climbing the rankings early, it seems like Armia's stock may have tailed off a bit the past few months in the eyes of most. Despite going under the radar at the U20's in Buffalo, Armia still had a productive first season in the SM-Liiga and went on to lead Finland in scoring at the U18's. The Finn is still pretty raw, but a winger with his size and skill is an attractive package and it's hard to imagine him slipping much further than 11.
In the end, George and I agreed that Armia had a higher celling than anyone else on the board offensively so the pick was truly a no brainer. The Rangers would be lucky to see this kid at 15.
That's not to say the pick doesn't have it's risks, however.
His defensive game is something that definitely needs work, which automatically brings speculation about how he will work with John Tortorella. But realize that Armia is only 17-years-old, and once he is drafted he will be informed of his team's expectations and move on from there.
Trust me, if the team who drafts Armia tells him he needs to work on his defense to crack and NHL squad, he's going to work on it. I'm sure a lot of his focus this season went to his goal scoring (it's what put him on the draft map) so it's no surprise his defense took a hit.
Any player taken at 15 is going to have some type of an issue, and for Armia it's his defense. Thankfully, that's something that can be worked on. His goal scoring ability, his size, his fantastic shot, and his quick release (all elite talents he posseses) can't be worked on. Plus his vision isn't too bad either.
Overall, George and I felt this was the best choice for the Rangers at 15. He has too much talent to pass up on, and although there were more polished player we could have taken, no one had the potential we felt Armia possesed.
Thoughts on this guys?