What the Sabres Should Expect from Joel Armia

While it’s been a very disappointing season thus far for Buffalo Sabres fans, there are still a few things to look forward to. One of those things is finally getting to see Joel Armia play in a regular season game.

The Finnish forward’s broken hand has nearly healed and he should be ready to play sometime next week. However, fans will have to wait awhile longer before seeing him in Buffalo. ”[Armia] wasn’t a cinch to make the team before he got hurt. said Sabres head coach Ron Rolston, “We’ll probably send him down, he’s got to play some games. It would be tough throwing him right into this league.”

Strong & Talented

Regardless of where he starts, expect to see Armia in a Sabres uniform at some point this season. Given the team’s woeful ways, it’ll only be a matter of time before Armia is given his chance. When he was drafted sixteenth overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, he provided the Sabres with two needed assets at the time – size and scoring ability. While the Sabres have gotten decidedly bigger over the last few years, they currently possess an anemic offense, and this is where Armia could potentially provide a shot in the arm.

His scouting report on Elite Hockey Prospects sounds like exactly what the Sabres need:

A large forward, Armia plays a simple and solid game. He likes to head towards the net and is very strong in one-on-one situations. Armia is extremely dangerous in the slot where he can create space for himself with a simple deke and then use his sharp and accurate shot to finish the play. Armia has good stickhandling and puck skills but could share the puck more often. He has built his physique well and added a new dimension to his game with improved defensive skills.

He has the potential to become the new Thomas Vanek or at least turn into the player we’d always hoped Drew Stafford would be. He has the size and strength to be placed in front of the net on the power play and finishing ability to improve the special teams unit. When at even strength, he’d be best paired with a playmaking center. Looking at the current roster, he could potentially mesh well with Tyler Ennis, who could use a boost to his own game.

Years of Pro Experience

(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

Something that should be to the young forward’s advantage is his years of pro experience. While fellow Finn and Sabres rookie Rasmus Ristolainen hasn’t been able to leverage his SM-liiga experience to his advantage, Armia differs because he’s older and has had more time to develop his game, unlike Ristolainen who’s been thrust right into the NHL after being drafted this summer.

The 20 year old has spent the last three season playing for Porin Ässät in Finland. While playing in 149 games for his hometown club, Armia amassed  55 goals and 45 assists as well as tallied 5 goals and 7 assists in 24 playoff games, which included a deep playoff run last season. The plan to let Armia get acclimated to the North American game in Rochester should translate to success for the forward. He can get accustomed to the different nuances while he competes at a level of competition he is already familiar with.

Barring injuries or other roster transactions, expect to see Armia play for the Sabres after a few weeks of getting his legs under him down in Rochester. While the end result of Armia’s performance may be in question, his debut at least gives the Buffalo faithful something to look forward to during an otherwise bleak season.