My absolute favorite active player in the NHL is Olli Maatta, if you didn’t already know. Today, August 22, 2018, just happens to be his 24th birthday. I’d say he definitely accomplished and overcame a lot in his life thus far. A defenseman from Finland, Maatta has his haters, but they just don’t appreciate the progress of his career.
- He played in multiple World Junior Championships and many other international competitions both for Finland’s U18 and U20 teams.
- He was the youngest player to ever play for Finland’s World Junior team
- While in the OHL, he and his team made it to the Memorial Cup championship game not once, but twice.
- He finished in fifth place for Calder Cup voting after his rookie season with the Penguins.
- He won a bronze medal with Team Finland in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
- He was selected to Finland’s team for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
- Olli Maatta has played a part in the Penguins winning back to back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
Mind you, he achieved those two Stanley Cups after overcoming a shoulder injury that required two separate surgeries about six months apart. In the midst of that, he was diagnosed with low-grade thyroid cancer which kept him off the ice for only two weeks after surgery.
The kid has only gotten better over time. His skating, which everyone complained about it being an issue his first few seasons, has improved greatly and is no longer a hindrance to his game. He has been relied on to step up with alllllllll of the injuries that have plagued the Penguins’ blue line over the last few years. Maatta is steady and secure in his game. He’s not one to get in his own head and let one bad shift affect the rest of the game.
It’s been exceptional, tremendous, enlightening, and just really, really cool to watch him grow his game and develop as a player over the last few years. He’s the one that really introduced to me to the greatness of the developmental program that Finland has created and maintained. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him and hope he stays in Pittsburgh for a long, long time.
Sources that helped out with some of the stats: