Joel Armia may not have been able to impress at Sabres Development Camp thanks to a wedding back home, but he still has the eye of management and the fast track to a starting job in Buffalo this fall. All thanks to a lack of depth at forward. As of press time, the list of top end wingers on the Buffalo Sabres roster reads like this: Thomas Vanek. And if half the fans in Buffalo get their way, he’ll be off that list within the year as well. The biggest reason for this youth movement of suffering in the first place is the team’s inability to groom enough scoring wingers and centers to keep up with a deep blue line and goalie Ryan Miller. Change is a slow process, but one can hope that in Armia, the Sabres have an answer to this organizational deficiency.
As the only winger drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres in the last four years – prior to 2012 – Joel Armia is considered the top prospect at the position. Since being picked 16th overall in 2011, he’s spent two seasons playing in the SM-liiga in Finland for Assat Pori. That team name sounds like a fancy Italian car so obviously they won the league title last year. Our boy chipped in eight points in sixteen games during that run, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember that the SM-liiga is a man’s league. Joel was playing against guys at least five, if not ten or fifteen years older than him in a tight checking league. To be counted on to score at better than a .5 pts/game clip for as long he did is an impressive feat.
At 6’3”, Armia has the size and skill to make his own room on the ice to free up a snappy wrist shot, as seen in this highlight video below:
There was one video with music, but I love how the crowd and overall sound of this video recalls old NHL 94 with the cheering noise after a goal.
Joel Armia is a good reason for the Sabres to keep Vanek as well because the two forwards play a similar game. Armia isn’t going to blow anyone away with his quickness, but he uses his size well and his smooth style makes up for his lack of blazing foot speed. Hockey Futures ranked Armia 32nd in their 2012-13 prospect list. Of course, if they’d taken the time to do a few Google searches, if so they would have realized that Armia is a dead ringer for a young Billy Idol. That should bump him a few notches, no? If that doesn’t, then watch another highlight video:
This video made the article because it’s called Joel “The Sailor” Armia. Is that his nickname in Finland? If it wasn’t, it is now.
If you’re not excited yet, don’t worry. We haven’t gotten to the best part of Joel Armia. Before we get to that though, let’s put some expectation on The Sailor’s first year in the Buffalo organization. At first guess, I’d have said that Armia would start the season in Rochester maybe just for a dozen or so games to get him acclimated to North American hockey. I don’t know how different it is from Finland to be honest, but there are likely tweaks to be made. After a trial period and an inevitable injury in the big club, expect Darcy Regier to cast his sails with Joel and sea where it takes him. Dammit, I really shouldn’t have found that YouTube video.
Anyways, I looked at the Sabres depth chart and decided there’s no way Armia isn’t already the 7th or 8th best goal scorer on that roster. That’s talent-wise though. Ron Rolston might decide Armia needs time in the system, and rightfully so. Rochester and Buffalo run the same system and Armia would benefit from learning it as a slower speed first. That said, the Sabres lack top end talent and if this is their best guy to address that, they’ll need to put him in some blue and gold sooner rather than later. Fans should expect to see Armia in Buffalo by Christmas at the latest.
And now, as promised, the very best picture I could find of Joel Armia, found on his Twitter profile, Joel Armia’s Twitter profile pic. Big, slick, smooth, and sporting a stache straight from 1983? Grab your sea charts, people. The Sailor is charting a course to Buffalo.
Stay tuned for coming weeks, when we look at other young prospects ready to take the leap and play for the Buffalo Sabres.
Cory Buck is an NHL writer for Sabre Noise. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TheBuckMopsHere.