It’s 3:15 p.m., and Olli Maatta has just been ushered off the John Labatt Centre ice for an interview.
Sweat drips down his face, looking like jagged lines on a road tripper’s map. He’s tired after an hour-long team practice and 15-minute personal workout.
He’s not done for the day though; he’ll go back out momentarily to polish his shooting skills.
It’s just another day at the office for Maatta, the Ontario Hockey League Player of the Week.
“Olli’s the last guy out there almost every practice,” said Tommy Hughes, Maatta’s teammate and other half of the London Knights’ No. 2 defence pairing.
The No. 8-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s final draft rankings has a blue-collar attitude. Since arriving at Knights training camp in September, Maatta has shown an incredible work ethic.
At the start of the 2011-12 season, with expectations sky-high and little time to acclimate, attention to detail didn’t always translate into solid in-game play.
“It was hard. I struggled for two to three months because I was just getting used to everything. The smaller rinks, being 8,000 kilometres from home – all of that stuff,” Maatta said.
Now, however, he’s an irreplaceable asset on London’s blueline and one of the most complete players of the OHL playoffs through three rounds.
In two games against the Kitchener Rangers in the Western Conference final last week, Maatta managed to pot three goals and a pair of assists. Two goals in 22 seconds in Game 3 seemingly silenced doubters believing his playoff surge in production — now 19 points in 14 games — has been no fluke.
“Of course it is an honour, but I know we have a big game Thursday, so I don’t think about it too much,” the 17-year-old said sheepishly of being named top dog for the week ending April 29.
Hughes, a dependable rearguard for London all season long, is most impressed with his teammate’s composure with the puck and ability to shut down the opposition in 1-on-1 situations.
“He’s kind of found his confidence,” Hughes, 20, said. “It’s not like he didn’t have it all year, but he’s put it all together now.”
Knights forward Greg McKegg, who has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since Game 6 of the Saginaw Spirit series, will likely be in the lineup for Game 1 of the OHL final. Assistant general manager/coach Misha Donskov said the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect “should be ready to go Thursday.”