Mar 25, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) skates up ice against the Phoenix Coyotes during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Phoenix Coyotes won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Olli Maatta To Start Season On Injured Reserve?

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ defensive corps will have a new look this October.

Pittsburgh’s lost Deryk Engelland (Calgary), Matt Niskanen (Washington), and Brooks Orpik (Washington), and they’ve added Christian Ehrhoff. Roberto Bortuzzo is expected to have a larger role, and there’s a high possibility the team integrates a few of their young defensemen this season.

But what about Olli Maatta? Will he ready when the season starts?

Yes, next season’s lineup will feature another youngster, but it may be because Maatta won’t be healthy enough. But how long will he be sidelined? And will his injury hinder his development as a defenseman?

Undergoing shoulder surgery back on May 22, Maatta was given a timetable of four-to-six months for recovery, which puts him awfully close to Oct. 9th’s opener. Pittsburgh brass may be looking at his situation a lot like how he broke into the bigs last season.

Starting the 2013-14 campaign on the injured reserve, Kris Letang‘s absence allowed Maatta to draw a roster spot, and the tables could certainly turn by September. Only, it won’t be Letang – obviously. It’ll be another one of the Pens’ defensive prospects potentially taking Maatta’s spot – for the meantime.

Maatta’s ’13-14 inauguration season was spectacular.

Starting off a little slow, Maatta found his niche, and despite a drop-off in efficiency down the stretch, he displayed tremendous promise. Winning a bronze medal and enduring his first NHL playoff experience, Maatta accomplished plenty at 19-years-old than what most hockey-aspired teenagers dream of doing.

Now, we don’t know the details as to when Maatta might possibly be able to suit up, but there’s a chance we don’t see the soon-to-be 20-year-old Finn until November/December. And I’m not talking about just being re-inserted; I’m referring to his proficiency. We won’t get the real Olli Maatta back until he gets a few games under his belt because, unlike his teammates, he’ll most likely be without a training camp/preseason.

Yet, is there a window open for Maatta to make it just in time for the opener? There’s not much information regarding his recovery process right now, but considering he’s one of Pittsburgh’s top defensive prospects, and he’s still really young, the team is going to exercise caution with his rehab.

This is a shoulder we’re talking about. A shoulder to a hockey player – especially to a defenseman – is utterly vital. And it’s a shoulder that could keep Maatta from being on the ice at the start of the season.

Hopefully, he can take a page out of Adrian Peterson’s book, or Robert Griffin III’s story, and find a way to heal faster than expected. But, most importantly, it’s pivotal he returns 100-percent healthy.

We’ll know more as we get closer to camp.

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins

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