LAKE PLACID, N.Y.
-- Olli Maatta, a Finnish defenseman taken by the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League with the first pick of the 2011 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, told NHL.com on Tuesday that he intends to sign with London and play in the OHL this season.
Maatta, who won't turn 17 until Aug. 22, is expected to be a first-round choice in the 2012 Entry Draft. He currently is in Lake Placid as part of Finland's national junior evaluation camp, competing for a spot on the country's roster for the 2012 world junior championship.
"I'll play in London next year," Maatta told NHL.com. "One of the reasons was that I want to play in Canada. It's a little different game in Canada because the rink is a little smaller and I like that. And ice hockey … everybody in Canada loves ice hockey, there's 9,000 people watching games."
Maatta said what sold him on London is the reputation the club has gained under the leadership of general manager Mark Hunter
and coach Dale Hunter
. In 10 seasons with Dale Hunter
as coach, the Knights have made the playoffs every season, finished with 100 points six times and won the Memorial Cup in 2005. Hunter also has helped develop NHL All-Stars like Rick Nash
, Corey Perry
and Patrick Kane
"My agent said to me that it is the best organization in CHL, or one of the best," Maatta said. "They have a good staff, good coaches, good team.
"I think the best part is that we have a good team in London. We're going to win the Memorial Cup there. We have a chance."
Maatta, a 6-foot-1.5, 196-pound defenseman, had eight points in 19 games with JYP's under-20 team in Finland's top junior league last season, and also played for Finland at the 2011 world junior championship, going scoreless in six games. He had four points in eight games for Finland at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship, where he was voted one of Finland's top three players at the tournament.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK