Defending Big D continues our annual series of looking at top draft prospects that could possibly have their name called by the Dallas Stars at the 2011 Entry Draft. Today an offensively gifted forward who is polarizing the draft boards...Joel Armia.
Team: Assat (SM-Liga)
NHL Central Scouting: 4th (European skaters)
International Scouting Services: 13th Overall
Red Line Report: 20th overall
THN: 15th overall
TSN: 15th overall
Why the Stars would take him:
It's quite possible that Armia has the potential to be one of the most offensively gifted forwards in the draft and he's one of the highest touted players coming out of Europe. He possesses an absolute sickening shot (possibly the best in the draft) and is one heck of a puck-handler as well. He's the epitome of a "pure goal-scorer" and he is starting to learn his size to his advantage when on offense.
Playing in the top league in Finland as a 17-year old, he had 18 goals in 48 games and is one of the top young players for Finland at the world championships.
He possesses great size for a forward (6-3) although right now he's best described as "gangly". He needs to put on some weight to really use his height to his advantage. When the puck is one his stick, chances are something magical is going to happen and it's going to be pretty darn amazing. Watching Armia fire the puck on net is a thing of beauty and it's easy to see why he's getting so much attention on the draft boards.
He's also a righty. So there's that.
Why the Stars would pass:
Because when Armia doesn't have the puck, he completely disappears. And I mean completely. He is purely a one-way hockey player right now and he hasn't shown the fire or passion for hunting down the puck when it isn't on his stick. His size and skill set should have him heading to the NHL as a powerful, dominating forward but his lack of power when the puck is on his stick is very alarming. I've seen him easily knocked off the puck, and this was against players his own age -- not in SM-Liga.
It's because of this inconsistency (he's a hot-cold scorer as well), there are some who just aren't that high on Armia. Some scouts seem to have fallen in love with his shot and scoring ability, but it's impossible to overlook the fact that he shows zero defensive presence when he isn't putting the puck on net. In the NHL, the ability to play both ways is becoming more important than ever and the Stars have already taken their chances on European goal scorers who don't have the physicality to adjust to the North American game (Perttu Lindgren, Fabian Brunnstrom).
Armia is generally regarded as a pure scorer but not a "competitor". That's alarming for a team that is dire need of dynamic forwards, not another player whose sole skill is putting it top shelf. That being said, he's 6-3 and is absolutely one of the best pure scorers to come out of Europe the past few years. Is he worth the risk?
"He is a very dynamic player with excellent power elements in his game complimented by some very good skill around the puck. Few players have the shot release that Armia possesses, which makes him a threat to score from a variety of areas on the ice and from different situations. He fights his way around defenders with and away from puck well. He battles well along the boards and in the net area. He has great soft hands and his reach allows him to walk right around players at the net." - International Scouting Services 2011 Draft Guide
Joel Armia has plus puck skills and is well above-average for a 6'3", 190 lb. forward. Armia is very confident with the puck on his stick and he has good reason to be. He is able to execute above-average dekes with regularity and is very good in open ice. On more than occasion I've seen him execute a stick-handling move or a mid-distance pass through a tight space that left me saying "wow". He has an above-average shot with the ability to score from notable distances with the tool's accuracy and power -- Hockey Prospectus.