When the Montreal Canadiens open training camp in September there will be a few new faces. Two of the most notable names will be Max Domi and Joel Armia. Domi was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for disgruntled forward Alex Galchenyuk. Joel Armia was a piece the Habs wanted to be included from the Winnipeg Jets as a reward for helping them with their cap issues by taking the Steve Mason contract.
Domi’s role is pretty well solidified with the team as a top-six left winger, but this isn’t the case for Armia. Armia is used to playing in the bottom six for the Jets as he was playing behind Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine. However, with the uncertainty of the Habs roster, Armia could benefit from an expanded role and jump into the top six.
Habs Joel Armia Could Benefit From Expanded Role
For Armia, its a fresh start with a young team trying to find their way. The Habs had a disastrous 2017-18 campaign finishing fourth last in the entire league. The only roster spot on the right wing that’s locked up is Brendan Gallagher‘s, who just had a career year scoring 31 goals. Outside of that, the rest is up in the air. Armia could potentially garner some extra minutes and move into a top-six role with the Habs, after spending the last two seasons with the Jets in a bottom six role playing behind Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine. While he will be challenged by youngster Nikita Scherbak and Charles Hudon, Joel Armia has the most NHL experience and has the two-way game that coach Claude Julien wants in his lineup.
When you look at Joel Armia’s stats nothing really jumps out at you. He scored 26 goals and 58 points in 180 games over his career. However, this is while playing a lesser, shut down role in Winnipeg where he wasn’t really set up to produce offensively. Averaging just 12:36 minutes of ice time per game last season, Armia scored 12 goals and 29 points while averaging 1.7 points per 60 minutes.
A former first-round pick in 2011, Armia was known for his stickhandling and scoring ability going into the draft. While the scoring hasn’t translated at the NHL level just yet, he has shown flashes and could become more consistent with an expanded role. Armia has soft hands and the instincts of a natural goal scorer. He is able to read plays extremely well and get himself into the high scoring areas in order to get off his quick and accurate wrist shot. His stick handling is at an elite level and is able to dangle defenders on the rush. Armia has a nose for the net and likes to take the puck in hard using his big 6-foot-3 frame to hold off defenders. It’s an aspect the Habs lineup has been missing, as their biggest net presence has been the scrappy Brendan Gallagher who only stands at 5-foot-9.
Although he’s just scratching the surface, last season was a breakthrough season for Joel Armia. He proved to be a solid everyday NHL player. His point totals continuously keep growing as he scored a career-high in goals (12) and points (29) while being put into a defensive role. He’s improved defensively year after year and has become a key contributor to the penalty kill.
The most impressive stats for Armia however, is his possession stats. Armia posted a 51.8 Corsi-For percentage last season, but whats even more impressive is that he did this while starting in the defensive zone 55 percent of the time. These numbers were put on blast even further in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as Armia led all Jets forwards with a whopping 60.7 Corsi-For percentage in 13 games while starting in the defensive zone 59 percent of the time. Only two players had a higher percentage than Armia during the playoffs, Mikhail Sergachev and Patrice Bergeron. Some pretty good company to be a part of.
These possession numbers, along with an expanded role for Armia should result in more offensive production from the Finnish native. At the very least, Armia will help gain control of the puck in the defensive end and move it out of the zone more effectively and efficiently. Which will in turn help cut down the scoring chances on Carey Price.
Important Piece Moving Forward
Joel Armia signed a one year $1.85 million contract this summer, leaving him with one year left of RFA eligibility. This gives the Habs control over his next contract as well as a year to evaluate the player. It also allows Armia to bet on himself to earn a bigger paycheck. It’s a win/win for both sides.
Armia will certainly serve as a role model to the younger prospects, most importantly recent draftees Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jesse Ylonen, as well as 2017 draft pick Joni Ikonen. Kotkaniemi has already stated that Armia was his idol growing up, so for him to be able to take Kotkaniemi under his wing is a huge plus for the Habs organization. Armia knows what it takes to put in the work to make it to the NHL as he came up through the AHL system so his experience and guidance will be appreciated by his fellow countrymen.
Armia has the tools to be able to propel himself into a top-six role and his versatility gives Julien the options of moving him up and down the lineup as needed. There’s a great possibility for Armia to beat his career highs once again this season. He will be an important piece of the Habs roster moving forward as they look to get back into Stanley Cup contention.
Main Photo: WINNIPEG, MB April 11: Winnipeg Jets forward Joel Armia (40) skates away from Minnesota Wild forward Joel Eriksson (14) during the Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Game 1 between the Winnipeg Jets and the Minnesota Wild on April 11, 2018 at the Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg MB. (Photo by Terrence Lee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)