The Pittsburgh Penguins this morning, confirmed the worst kept secret in hockey over the past couple days in that the team will not be sending Olli Maatta back to juniors.
“Based on his play, we believe this is the best decision for Olli and the Penguins,” Penguins GM Ray Shero announced on the team’s twitter feed. “We want to thank Mark and Dale Hunter and the London Knights for their patience and understanding.”
The coaching staff is said to have had a big impact on the Penguins keeping Maatta as members of the staff feel Maatta is on the path to being a real difference maker this season.
One scout I spoke with yesterday expressed some concerns about Paul Martin’s play through the first month of the season. It wouldn’t be a huge shock if Maatta forced his way into a top-4 pairing role by the playoffs. That’s how special of a player some evaluators feel about Maatta.
The Penguins deserve credit for giving Maatta an opportunity to force his way onto the team. The Penguins are a better team because of it. Management easily could have sent Maatta back to juniors at the start of the season due the Penguins depth on the blueline.
Nine defensemen were picked before Maatta in the 2012 draft, taking 22nd overall. He’s looking like the early steal of the 2012 draft. Among the notable teams to pass on Maatta were the Philadelphia Flyers at No. 20. A team starving for a potential young franchise type defenseman.
The Maatta decision is bad news for Robert Bortuzzo who slides to 7th on the depth chart, though, I believe the Penguins will find ways to get him into the lineup some. It’s also not good news for Simon Despres playing his way back into the NHL lineup.
More on Despres later.