by Lisa Rectenwald
When Olli Maatta began his nine-game tryout, most people didn’t expect him to make the team. Fans and some NHL writers seemed to think that the depth the Pittsburgh Penguins had on defense or simply his young age would keep him out of the line-up, but Maatta’s talent never seemed to be an issue. Nevertheless, he proved to the organization that he was able to compete at the high speed and intensity level of the NHL at the young age of 19. Proving everyone wrong, he made the opening night roster. Every time he steps on the ice, Maatta looks confident, always keeping his composure. This season, Maatta has five goals and 15 assists, for a total of 20 points; he also has just 12 penalty minutes, proving that he is a disciplined young defenseman. There has even been talk of him being a candidate for the Calder Trophy, the award for the NHL rookie of the year.
The Olympics provide one of the biggest stages on which to compete for any athlete, and representing one’s country, competing against the world’s top athletes is a huge honor. At just 19, Maatta was selected to play defense for Team Finland, and is projected to be paired with former NHL defensemen, Ossi Vaananen. Noted repeat member of the Finnish team and current Anaheim Duck, Teemu Selanne, told Josh Yohe of TribLive Sports:
“I’ve never seen this guy. But Tie Domi [former teammate of Selanne’s with the
Winnipeg Jets] is a good buddy of mine and tells me about him. It’s great, great
story. It’s not too typical for a Finnish guy to come to the NHL this way. Usually
you get drafted and come to the NHL when you’re ready.”
When asked if he thinks Maatta can hold his own at the Olympic level, Selanne replied “Oh, I think so, If you can play in the NHL, you can play in the Olympics. We don’t have so many defensemen in the NHL right now.” Having a player like Selanne say that about you must definitely be a confidence booster. All signs point to Maatta being able to keep his composure and play “his” game in the spotlight. If he sticks to what he knows, he will be successful. With hard work and some luck, he may come home with an Olympic medal before the age of 20. If he comes back to Pittsburgh empty-handed, he still has plenty of time to accomplish that goal.