When the Montreal Canadiens acquired Joel Armia in the off-season of 2018, most fans didn’t know a whole lot about him. He was coming over from the Winnipeg Jets as a gift, as such, for the Habs to take on the contract of Steve Mason. This helped the Jets clear up cap issues in order to sign starting netminder Connor Hellebuyck. Now, in his second season donning the bleu, blanc et rouge, Armia is proving to be a more valuable asset than once perceived when he was acquired. Armia is proving to be a swiss army knife for the Montreal Canadiens.
Joel Armia Proving to be a Complete Player for the Canadiens
After the Habs acquired Armia, I wrote a piece about how he could benefit from an expanded role with the club. See Armia spent most of his time with the Jets playing on the bottom two lines as a shutdown player. He also spent a lot of time killing penalties due to his strong defensive play. However, since coming to Montreal, he has been used in more offensive roles. He has seen time on the club’s top powerplay unit as well as been used in the team’s top six. This has been beneficial for both the Habs and Armia as he has proven that he can hang with the club’s top players.
Strong Offensive Prowess
Armia proved last season that he has the offensive capabilities to roll with the club’s top players. In 57 games last season, Armia scored a career-high 13 goals and added 10 assists to go with it. While not jaw-dropping numbers, it showed that given the opportunity, Armia can produce offensively. He managed to do this by playing 22 fewer games than the previous season, which was his previous career-high.
Now this season, Armia has picked up right where he left off. He has already scored 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points in 33 games. This puts him on pace to score 29 goals and 51 points. He is on pace to crush his career-high totals in every category. Proving that given the opportunity, he can become a strong offensive player for the Canadiens.
Improving the Powerplay
The powerplay is somewhere the Canadiens struggled mightily last season. It was a key contributor as to why they failed to make the playoffs last season. The Canadiens finished second last in the entire NHL last season with a disastrous 13.2 percent success rate. However, this season, the Canadiens sit tied for 10th with a 21.2 percent success rate. Joel Armia is a key contributor to this. Armia has found the back of the net three times on the powerplay so far this season. This ties him for second on the team with captain Shea Weber and just two behind the team’s leading point scorer Tomas Tatar.
Armia’s large frame, heavy shot, and slick puck handling skills are to be credited for this. He uses his size to separate himself from his opponents. If he is caught in tight, Armia has the hands to dangle opponents and get himself into better scoring areas. He can then use his heavy shot, which he is currently firing at an 11.1 percent success rate, to find the back of the twine.
Contributing On Both End of the Ice
Not only is Armia providing offense for the Canadiens, but he is also a stout defender as well. Armia plays a very strong defensive game, using his size and active stick to help shut down the opposition. Thanks to his large frame, Armia currently sits third on the Canadiens in hits (89) and second in takeaways (24). Armia is not afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice where he will finish his checks and win puck battles along the boards. He does this is all three zones which results in regaining the puck for his team and moving it in transition or creating scoring chances off the takeaway in the offensive zone. His ability to stick lift/poke check is a very underrated tool as well. This helps him create a lot of takeaways as well.
Here are a couple of examples just to show you how effective his defensive play is and how it helps him provide offense for the Canadiens.
In this video, you can see Armia goes into the corner in the defensive zone, uses his body to separate himself and his opponent which allows him to get the puck. He then is able to protect it in the corner, turn and come out with the puck going the length of the ice and scoring just 19 seconds into the game.
As you can see in both plays, both goals come of strong defensive plays by Armia. This makes him what people refer to as a “Swiss Army knife” for the Canadiens.
Important Piece of the Roster Moving Forward
Although looked at as just a depth piece when first acquired, Armia has proven to be able to hang with the club’s best players. The offensive abilities were always there, hence why he was drafted 16th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. However, he always had his team’s looking for more. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin knew this about Armia and knew that if put in the right situation, he could flourish. It’s why he went out to acquire him from the Jets in 2018. It’s also why he signed him to a two-year extension worth $2.6 million per season in the off-season. Now, at 26 years old and entering his prime, Joel Armia is starting to break out for the Canadiens. He will prove to be a very important piece of the puzzle moving forward.
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