After everything Olli Maatta went through in the last year that kept him off the ice, it’s understandable that now, he doesn’t want to leave it.
“I think this is the most I’ve been on the ice (in a) summer because I just can’t stay out of there,” Maatta admitted with a smile. “When you have a four or five-month break from the ice, you just kind of want to get out there.”
Maatta spent all of last summer furiously rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery so that he would be ready for Game 1 of his sophomore season. But later that month, Maatta received awful news – he had been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his neck that required surgery.
After recovering from that, Maatta sustained another shoulder injury that required the same surgery he had just underwent months earlier. Overall, he played just 18 games in the 2014-15 season and didn’t take the ice again after Dec. 6.
What Maatta dealt with would be overwhelming for anyone, much less a 20-year-old kid living an ocean away from his family. But Maatta said mentally, he's moved on and is looking ahead to this year.
“Just leave it all behind me,” he said. “I don’t even think of it. That’s not on my mind. All I’m thinking of is the next season. Just being ready to go in training camp and the beginning of the season.”
Maatta has been in Pittsburgh the last couple of days to meet with his doctor and get a couple of skating sessions in at CONSOL Energy Center.
“We’re on schedule,” Maatta said. “Obviously the goal is to be ready for training camp. Everything is going as we planned, so that’s the goal.”
Maatta said right now, he’s approaching his training as just progressing one step at a time.
“Getting healthy and better every day and every week,” he said. “Just trying to build up the muscle and fitness I lost during those four months. I actually feel pretty good (conditioning-wise).
“Could be better, though,” he added with a laugh.
Maatta is flying back to Finland next week and will spend the rest of the month there. After that, he’ll return to North America and train in London, Ontario at the OHL Knights’ facilities with his old junior teammates and trainers before coming down to Pittsburgh in September.
With a couple of key departures on the blue line in Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff, Pens general manager Jim Rutherford has said that he sees Maatta, who in a top-pair role alongside Kris Letang – a role the young defenseman feels ready to step up and handle.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “I want to be there. I want to be a big part of this team and produce. That’s what I’m driving towards – just helping my team all I can to win the Stanley Cup.”