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)
With all the recent NHL and New York Rangers news we've taken a bit of a break from our draft previews, but we're back on the ship today.
One of the guys we have been discussing is Joel Armia.
Armia is one of the most interesting options in this draft, and he might be a guy that ends up falling into the Rangers' lap. Armia might be the best pure goal scorer in the draft, although there are significant defense and some motor issues to follow suite.
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, and he could be exactly the type of risk/reward pick the Rangers might look to at 15.
Let's take a look at his scouting reports.
Another toolsy prospect that B2011DW will no doubt be second-guessed on, we've seen him live and we've seen him on video and sorry to all the Finnish hockey fans out there, but we just can't get on board with this guy in the top-20. We suspect an NHL club will jump on him in the top-15 because of his intriguing mix of size and scoring upside. That said, he's risky because to us, he looks a lot like a more skilled Mikko Lehtonen, who scored goals, but also went through the motions for two seasons as a member of the Providence Bruins before tearing it up in the Swedish Elite League this past year. The Bruins traded Lehtonen's rights to the Minnesota Wild, but like Lehtonen, Armia is an alternately a dazzling and frustrating player to watch. Whenever the puck is near him in the offensive zone, he's a threat to put it in the back of the net. He uses his large frame to fight off checkers and has a quick stick with laser-like release. However, when you watch the rest of his body of work, you keep wondering: "Where's the beef?" He doesn't backcheck much and just looks lazy skating up and down the wing at times. There's no denying the killer instincts offensively, but he's not nearly as talented as he and his fans think he is that he can get away with his lackadaisical approach to play in the neutral zone or his own end. Armia has the potential to blow this scouting report out of the water, but we gave him the benefit of the doubt several times. In the end, his uneven compete level and a lack of seeing him ever really take charge in any game we watched him play has him just outside the top-20.
Joel Armia is a budding power forward already playing in the Finnish Elite League at 17 years old. 6'2, 185 lbs, Armia has an incredible shot and uses his size to his advantage on the cycle. Already drawing comparisons to Finnish great Teemu Selanne, Armia possesses a similar scoring touch, though not to the same degree. Although he underwhelmed during the World Junior Championship, the Finnish team collectively flamed out during the metal round. Though he is one of the top offensive players in the draft, Armia may not go straight to the NHL, as his defensive game needs rounding out. Armia projects to go in the from any where inside to top 10-the a pick in the mid teens.
Where to begin?
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.
Moving onto the other concerns. His defense is a huge issue, and it obviously won't mesh well with John Tortorella's current system. His offense game would flourish, but his lack of back checking is an issue. Luckily, those two things can be taught, the two things that cant (size and scoring) he's already proficient in. The defense can be worked on right away, and he knows it's something he needs to improve on, and his back checking will come with the defensive work.
There will be some spirited debate over this potential pick, and there should be. On one hand, it's a player that's defensive game is nowhere near ready for the NHL. On the other hand, Armia is a rare blend of size and scoring and could end up being a huge steal at 15. The Rangers have a proficient scorer in the system with Chris Kreider, but you can never have too many of those guys in the system. And since Armia is only 17-years-old, he wouldn't have to be rushed to round out his game. It's also a very good sign he's so effective in a men's league.
Some mock drafts have him going as high as the top-10. Others have him going as low as the 30th pick in the first round.
In the end, Gordie Clark and Glen Sather will have to see what's available if Armia is on the board when they're calling names. If a guy like Mark McNeill is still available, I take McNeill.
But aside from McNeill, of all the prospects we've reviewed, I might give Armia a long hard look. And I might take the risk. His goal scoring potential is immense, and would intrigues me if I was at the podium.
So if he falls to the Rangers, would you want them to take him?