My number five Anaheim Ducks prospect is defenseman Sami Vatanen. The diminutive defenseman grew up through his hometown hockey program in Finland. This season, however, he is making his North American debut in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals.
Vatanen is now 21 years old and is from Jyvaskyla, Finland. He was born on June 3, 1991. The Ducks drafted him in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (106th overall). He is a right-handed shot and is listed at 5′ 10″-176 lbs.
He is completely known for his offensive abilities. He is very skilled at controlling the puck and spreading it out. Scouts have said that his offensive abilities as a defenseman are as good as any offensive defenseman prospects out there. He is most valuable on the power play. He has good vision across the ice and has very good skating abilities. He doesn’t have a hard slap shot, but he is very accurate with his wrist shot. His hockey sense has also been praised in his time in Finland and short time in Norfolk. It’s always nice to have guys who just get the game and know how to play it well.
The young Finnish defenseman is not a guy who will bang bodies a lot. Due to his small size, nobody would want him to be a defensive defenseman anyway. Once again, he is 5′ 10″ and 176 lbs. There are not many players, specifically defenseman, who can stay healthy for 82 games and play well throughout an entire career at that size. He is not physical, and he does need to get a little more physical to adjust a little more to the North American style of play. His defensive skills aren’t “lacking” or “non-existent,” but he has been good enough in the defensive zone to survive the top FInnish leagues and in the AHL.
With the signings of Sheldon Souray and Bryan Allen, which filled two holes in the defensive corps, Vatanen will most certainly remain in the AHL for the foreseeable future. However, I would much rather have him on the blue line for a full season instead of Souray because, frankly, I am not a fan of Souray and was not pleased with the signing. Vatanen has grown in popularity with the fan base and the organization lately. Therefore, I think it is easy to say that at some point the Ducks will give him a major look. Vatanen has the potential to be a very dynamic 2nd pairing defenseman and very good power play asset. A pairing with a player with the same type of play and body size as current Duck Toni Lydman would most likely benefit Vatanen the most.
My #4 prospect update will be posted later this week. Be ready and go ahead and take a guess on who you think will be my # 4 prospect for the Anaheim Ducks.