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Photo Credit: © Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

What’s the Ceiling on Joel Armia?

Joel Armia is a study in contrast.

He shows flashes of brilliance at times, not only with terrific hands but great puck protection and cycling ability. He has the pedigree of a first round pick in 2011, and at times shows the skill to match. He has proven to be a beast shorthanded, leading the Jets in shorthanded goals last season and tying for the lead the year before.

He has the mixture of size and skill coaches covet in a winger and has played up and down the lineup throughout his young career. And every now and then he does something jaw-dropping with the puck.

The fact that you weren’t sure which of his two sensational dangles I was going to put here speaks volumes. The guy can dipsy doodle.

So what’s the bad news? Well, all this skill and size have yet to amount to more than ten goals and 19 points in any season. The offense simply isn’t there, and neither are the possession stats.

As Garret Hohl noted in the Pilot’s Logbook, Armia and Adam Lowry had very similar shot generations, albeit with Lowry playing more minutes and more games. They also spent most of the year together, so it makes sense they would have similar stats.

Armia also had some trouble entering the zone with the puck. One thing you may have noticed last year, during those shifts where Armia, Lowry, and Shawn Matthias hemmed the other team in their own zone for long stretches, is that they were often fresh off the bench when it happened.

On the other hand, Armia’s at-times-dominant puck protection is a huge asset on the penalty kill. The shorthanded goals get a lot of attention, as they should, but his ability to kill the clock on the PK shouldn’t be overlooked.

What’s His Upside?

Armia’s frustratingly inconsistent play mixed with flashes of stickhandling genius make him difficult to project. While he’s no longer a really young player, he’s still only 24, and may not have peaked yet.

His current progression has him on pace to be a defensive specialist capable of hitting 15 goals, but every time I think of this and decide I’m ok with that considering he was just one part of the massive Evander Kane trade, I can’t help but recall goals like this. Does this look like the work of a defensive specialist?

Notice here not just the move through the neutral zone but the puck protection once he’s in the zone. Armia is not an easy player to take the puck away from. Of course, you’d think that would improve his possession stats, but with stronger linemates he could elevate those easily enough.

Now, there’s a reason this is called a highlight. We’re not looking at a typical example of Armia’s work, but there are enough samples of this type of play that it makes you wonder what’s missing from Armia to make him an elite player.

Some stronger linemates might help. You’ll notice that at the end of the play when Armia tries to start the cycle Lowry turns the puck over almost immediately. But stronger linemates may be hard to come by as the Jets set their roster with the deepest forward corps they’ve ever iced. Armia may end up back with Lowry and Matthias or Copp.

As mentioned, Armia is difficult to project. He’s not young but he is a young NHLer, as last year was only his second season, and he has yet to play a full 82-game season due to injuries and demotions.

Armia likely hasn’t peaked, but the question now is what do the Jets have to do to get him to the next level? How do you bring out the best in an enigmatic but skilled player?

If the Jets knew the answer to that, Alex Burmistrov might still be in town. And while Armia is not the same player as Burmistrov, there are some similarities.

A lot of the things we can say of Armia are things Jets fans once said of the frustrating Russian forward. He’s good on the penalty kill. He’s got great hands but he can’t put it all together. If only he had some better linemates. Sound familiar?

Armia’s game is more mature than Burmistrov’s of course. His shorthanded skills are better developed. And for all Burmistrov’s skill, he never scored a goal as nice as the one Armia potted against Dallas in 2016.

Ultimately Armia isn’t expected to be anything more than a skilled third liner, and that I think gives him an advantage. He’s not supposed to blow us away. If he never amounts to more than a strong bottom-six player, it wasn’t our first-round pick he took up.

And with the trade that brought him over also including Tyler Myers, Brendan Lemieux, and Jack Roslovic (ultimately) it feels almost like the Jets were playing with house money when they acquired him. That lack of pressure may help him to thrive.

This season will go a long way toward establishing what Armia is. With a deep, talented forward group all around him, he’ll have to carve out his own niche.

Whatever heights he hits, Jets fans can at least look forward to some superb penalty killing and shorthanded goals.

 

  • FishWhiskey

    Burmi does not deserve to tie Armia’s skates. Even with the qualifier afterwords I really hope Joel does not read this. Just my humble opinion but the only thing Armia needs is more and consistent NHL ice time. Let him earn the right to move up and fill in for injuries on the top 6 and we will find out if he has what it takes to have a higher ceiling than bottom 6. He seemed to get his head in the right place last season now he just needs to tune his game.

    • FishWhiskey

      Ps. Except for the Burmi comparison it was a great article and well written and researched. Did not mean to sound like I was dumping on you Rob! Great work. Keep it coming!

  • Paul from NZ

    Good article, enjoyed it.

    “And for all Burmistrov’s skill, he never scored a goal as nice as the one Armia potted against Dallas in 2016.”

    In defence of burmi, the goal he scored as a thrasher against Washington was better!

  • High and Wide

    This was an interesting read, I enjoyed the article. I appreciate how you worked videos in to the flow of the article.

    The most shocking part of the article, and what prompted me to sign up for commenting privileges, was that this is the first article I have read on this site in a while without an obvious spelling or grammar issue. Please contribute more.

  • Dr. Rocktopus

    As a RW, Armia is kind of pin-holed with the Jets. He’s never going to be ahead of Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine in the Depth chart. And that’s ok. To my mind, he has developed into a defensive specialist through playing mostly with a defensive specialist in Adam Lowry. But, does anyone else remember the last handful of games of the ’15-’16 season when Armia was playing with Petan and Copp? Those three guys were lighting it up together. I think this year the Jets kind of can’t help but ice a deeper lineup than before, with more offensive talent trickling down into the 3rd or 4th lines. And, barring something remarkable, I think Armia is a bit of a lock as the team’s 3rd best RW next season. For instance, I think there’s a very real possibility that Armia plays on the 3rd line with Perreault on the LW this year. I feel like this is where Armia could start to shine. Whether you’ve got Petan or Lowry slotted in the middle, Perreault brings a whole hell of a lot more offensive drive to that equation. This could really bring out the excitement in Armia’s game that’s been a bit lacking over the last couple of seasons.