The Buffalo News notes Sabres prospects all had the same thing to say last week at development camp about their chances of playing in the NHL next year: They’re working hard this summer, their games are mostly ready, and although the team has an abundance of players at most positions, they just need a chance.
Joel Armia was the exception. The Sabres’ first-round draft pick in 2011 has no plans to compete for a roster spot or play in Rochester. His focus for camp was to improve the impressions he’s made on Sabres brass before returning to Finland to complete his obligatory military service while competing for a title in the SM-liiga, Finland’s top professional league.
“We’re going to have a great season,” a shy Armia said of his team, Ässät (translation: Aces), which lost in the quarterfinals this year. “We have a good team and we’re going for a championship.”
He impressed his teammates last week and began to develop some chemistry while playing wing on a line with 2012 first-round picks Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko.
Armia’s game isn’t to take the puck end-to-end, dazzle you with moves and then undress the goalie – though he could if he wanted to. He’s more of the silent killer, making the smart, simple plays along the way before beating you for a goal, or several.
“He’s got a knack for the front of the net and he knows how to score goals,” said goaltending prospect Connor Knapp, who faced Armia all week.
Of all the successful Finns in the NHL – Teemu Selanne, Jari Kurri, Saku Koivu – Armia doesn’t have a favorite who he tries to model his game after.
“It’s so hard to say,” Armia said. “I just like all the goal scorers who work hard.”
While there’s no single aspect of his game Armia is looking to improve, Ruff likes his skill set and was pleased to see Armia put some weight on his 6-foot-3 frame.
“I watched him in Lake Placid late in the summer last year – looked a little bit light,” Ruff said. “I think strength-wise he’s gained some [muscle]. He’s got a great shot, good hands coming out of the corner. I think he’s going to be a dynamic player.”