Note: This article is part of a top-ten countdown of the Buffalo Sabres' top prospects. In order to be considered a prospect, the player has to be eligible for the Calder Trophy this season, which means they cannot have played more than 25 games in the NHL in any season prior. This removes Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Jhonas Enroth and Cody Hodgson from contention.
When the Buffalo Sabres entered the 2011 NHL Draft, the lingering taste in their mouths from the seven-game loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs did not sit well. What many blamed for the loss was the lack of top-tier goal scoring talent.
With the 16th pick in the Round 1 of the draft, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier sought to change that goal scoring problem by selecting Joel Armia out of the Finnish pro league. A winger with size and skating ability, Armia has been pegged by many as possibly the best goal scorer in the 2011 draft class.
Despite all of this talent, Armia may be somewhat of an enigma to Sabres fans. Armia has played in the Finnish pro league for Assat Pori since being drafted, meaning, aside from the occasional YouTube highlight, not many in North America have been able to watch him play.
Here is what Sabres fans need to know about Armia:
First, checking HockeyDB will not give you an accurate portrayal of Armia's abilities. In his third year with Assat Pori, Armia has scored 45 goals in 124 games, which certainly does not scream superstar. However, it is worth noting that Armia is 19 years old and playing with much older players, both in age and in body composition. A few years of NHL-level strength training and competition will do wonders for Armia.
Second, the kid is talented. He was seen as one of the best players, if not the best, on the Finnish World Junior Championship team the past two years, including the tournament held in Buffalo. That team also included Minnesota Wild blue chip prospect Mikael Granlund, so that's the type of talent he has played with.
Third, he can score. 18 goals may not seem like a lot, but it ranked 11th in 2010-2011 and 16th in 2011-2012 in the league. He also has been compared to Jeff Carter, who was a big part of the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup last year.
Look for Armia to be stateside this year, with his requisite military service ending after this season. Where he ends up will likely depend on the health of Corey Tropp and the plan for Patrick Kaleta, but he will certainly have a shot at becoming a part of the Sabres NHL club come next September.