Joni Pitkanen is one of those players many fans disagree about. After a game, some will say he played very well, while others think he did not. There is no arguing about his skating ability and skill, but his stride is so effortless that it can give the impression that he is barely trying.
The defenseman led the team in average time on ice during the regular season and really picked up his game in the playoffs. While he did not score a goal, he had some huge assists and played a near perfect game seven against New Jersey as he assisted Jussi Jokinen for the game-tying goal. He plays in all situations, the penalty kill, powerplay, and at even strength.
|2008 - Joni Pitkanen||71||7||26||33||11||58||2||0||3||0||147||4.8|
Pitkanen was originally drafted by Philadelphia with the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft. The Flyers traded him to Edmonton before the 2007-08 campaign and of course the Hurricanes acquired him from the Oilers when they traded Erik Cole up north last summer.
After a slow start, the blueliner had a decent season statistically and greatly improved as the season went on. He missed 11 games due to a couple of different injuries during the year.
The Good: Pitkanen is creative with the puck and is good at making passes in the offensive zone. He is also very good at skating the puck out of his own end. He was successful playing in different pairing situations and helped to make both Anton Babchuk and Dennis Seidenberg better players as they both enjoyed their best seasons while matched up with Joni. While he takes chances on offense, he is very good at recovering and breaking up odd man rushes the other way. He handles his heavy workload of ice time well and does not seem to tire, even when called upon to play more. (30 plus minutes of TOI in OT against the Devils). The Finn seems to be coming of age and if he can continue to improve, could turn into one of the most under-rated defensemen in the league.
The Bad: Like many players, Pitkanen can be inconsistent. Sometimes it seems like he is not concentrating, or is not totally into a game. For some of the season he was soft in front of his net, but he did improve upon that later in the year and in the playoffs. He could still probably stand to be more physical. The Finn admits that he always looks for the pass first, so he probably needs to shoot the puck more often and that most likely will be emphasized this year with Babchuk gone.
The Money: The defenseman is in the second year of a three year deal which averages four million per year. That makes him the highest paid blueliner on the team.