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Julien: 'He's one of the best at protecting the puck'

In addition to setting a new career-high in goals, Joel Armia is having his best season in many other ways

by Pierre-Antoine Mercier. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski. @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - Joel Armia is developing into one of the Canadiens' most complete players.

After establishing a career-high with 13 goals in 57 games during his first season in Montreal, the 26-year-old Finn surpassed that mark with his 14th goal in just his 42nd outing on Tuesday night against the Devils in Newark.

The former first-round selection of the Buffalo Sabres (16th overall) in 2011 is being given ample opportunity by head coach Claude Julien to showcase his skills. Since the start of the year, Armia is the second-most utilized forward on the roster, averaging 17:13 of ice time per game.

In addition to being deployed at both even-strength and on the penalty kill, Armia has also been given power play time since debuting with the CH.

According to the right-winger, an increase in ice time and a subsequent confidence boost are the two principal reasons behind his success production-wise.

"Last season was the first time I was playing a more offensive role. I got used to it and I think I've improved this year," explained Armia, who boasts 26 points in 42 games. "I gained confidence and I think it's a reason why I'm getting more points."

Video: Joel Armia on his recent performances

The Pori native is strong in every aspect of the game. He leads the Canadiens with provoking 35 turnovers this season, and he ranks second among forwards with 107 hits.

When asked what aspect of Armia's play has improved most since last year, Julien shared similar thoughts as the Finnish Elite League grad.

"I'd probably say his confidence. We like his size. He's a big player. He's strong and he protects the puck well. He has good hands and a good shot. He has all the qualities in the world," mentioned Julien, during his post-practice press conference. "I think he's gaining confidence in every aspect of the game."

Dominant in one key area

In addition to lighting the lamp regularly and playing well defensively, Armia is particularly strong in one important area.

The 6-foot-4, 213-pounder knows how to use his size to his advantage.

"He's one of the best at protecting the puck. He has all the tools. He has the size, good hands, and good hockey sense. He knows how to position his body to protect the puck," explained Julien. "It's an important asset. He has the confidence to maintain possession of the puck and protect it in key situations."

Video: Nick Suzuki on the play of Joel Armia

Armia's ability in that department hasn't gone unnoticed by his teammates.

"Sometimes he's surrounded by three opposing players and he still manages to find a way to come away with the puck," praised rookie, Nick Suzuki, who has 10 goals and 33 points in 55 games. "He has good hands and he's a good skater for a player his size."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Here are the lines and defense pairings featured at Wednesday���s practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.#GoHabsGo

Suzuki and Armia have formed a good duo for the Canadiens over the last few games. The 20-year-old centerman has six points in his last five outings.

And Armia loves playing with him.

"He's very good at both ends of the rink. He's smart and he has a good shot. He's an excellent playmaker. He has everything he needs to be successful," mentioned Armia.

The Canadiens welcome the Anaheim Ducks to the Bell Centre on Thursday night. To purchase tickets, click here.

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