Joel Armia showed some flashes offensively last season although his overall numbers didn’t stand out. Despite that, the Finnish winger could be in line for a career year in 2019-20.
Armia never really got much of a chance to play on Winnipeg’s top two lines but he was given that opportunity off the get-go with the Habs as he averaged 17:31 per night in October. For perspective, he averaged just 12:36 the season before. However, despite the extra playing time, the production wasn’t there as he had just four points in that span. Shortly after that, he suffered a knee injury that took him out for 25 games.
Not surprisingly, between his struggles in the top six and Andrew Shaw’s success when he moved up there, Armia didn’t have quite the same role he did when he came back. He wound up spending a good chunk of his time on the third line but also had some time on the fourth unit (and the odd night back on the second line) as well. The end result was a lot like his time with Winnipeg. There were nights where he looked like he could carry the team on his own and others where you could go a week without noticing him at the offensive zone.
Fortunately for Claude Julien, Armia’s ability in his own end and on the penalty kill rarely wavered which made him a reliable part regardless of his offensive struggles. Unfortunately for Julien, Armia never really made an impact on the power play. He came into the year having never scored with the man advantage and only managed a pair of tallies in nearly 100 minutes of ice time. For someone who was a scorer at the lower levels, that was certainly a disappointment.
Season Stats: 57 GP, 13 goals, 10 assists, 23 points, even rating, 14 PIMS, 2 PPG, 2 GWG, 134 shots, 15:48 ATOI, 52.8 CF%
3 Year Averages
Armia has a fourth season with a reasonable amount of NHL games played but it was a year split between Winnipeg and their AHL affiliate. The three seasons represent his only full NHL campaigns.
Despite not really doing much with his top-six role to start last season, there’s a good chance that Armia could find himself there once again this upcoming season. Shaw is now back in Chicago and the Habs never really replaced him so there’s an opening to be filled from within. Eventually, that spot will be filled by a prospect but for now, that won’t be the case. As a right-hand shot with size, there’s a good chance Armia will get the first look.
Assuming he lines up alongside Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi, the opportunity is going to be there for him to pick up some points and go past his career high. However, Shaw was successful on that line by doing the dirty work along the boards, something that Armia has been hit or miss at so far in his career. That could result in a bit of a short leash.
In terms of special teams, Armia was one of Montreal’s better penalty killing options last year and there’s little reason to think he won’t be again. Despite his struggles with the man advantage, there’s also a good chance that he’ll see regular duty on one of the two units given Montreal’s general dearth of right-shot options and players with any sort of size up front.
Last year, the signs were pointing towards a career year for Armia considering that he’d get the opportunity he never really got with Winnipeg. The end result was largely the same from his time with the Jets, however.
One season later, the signs are still pointing towards a career year for the exact same reasons. He’s probably going to average around 15-17 minutes a game with a fair bit of time in the top six and more power play time than anyone would like to see. Can he overcome his inconsistency? Probably not but assuming he can stay healthy, he should still be able to put up improved numbers across the board.
How does that translate to a fantasy pool though? Not all that well. In 12-team leagues, he’s a waiver wire pickup. For 16-team ones, he’s probably no more than an end-of-draft flier instead of picking up a rookie on a whim. When you get even deeper though, he’s an intriguing 4 RW/end-of-roster stash. It’s not often you can get someone who’s going to receive this type of ice time (with power play minutes as well) which makes him a low-end sleeper. After hovering near two hits per game last season, give him a small boost in the rankings for leagues with that as a category.