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We have hit the halfway point on the top ten countdown, and coming in at number five on Islander Country's Top Ten Prospects in the Islanders' System is 2012 2nd round pick (34th overall), Finnish defenseman, Ville Pokka.
I know what some of you might be thinking. How could Pokka be ranked in the top five? It is easy to overlook Pokka, who has developed quietly overseas with Karpat in Finland's SM-Liiga. After researching reviews of the Isles prospects and watching some YouTube videos, Pokka is the real deal, and he has all the tools to potentially be a top pairing defenseman at the NHL level. No part of his game in particular stands out, but Pokka has a sound, solid overall game, similar to former Islander Kenny Jonsson.
There is a lot to like about Pokka's game. He has decent size at 6'0" and 200 pounds. Pokka, is only 19, so he still has a few years to grow and add some muscle. Even though Pokka is not the biggest defenseman out there, he still will throw the occasional hit, and works the corners well while battling forwards from the opposition for the puck and positioning.
Pokka, also keeps himself well positioned in his own end while defending the opposition. You will rarely see Pokka get caught out of position, because he is such a steady, smart defender. He uses his stick well to stick check the opponent off the puck and keep the opponent to the outside.
Excellent vision is another trait Pokka possess. He sees the ice very well, and his vision allows him to make quick decisions with the puck to get it out of his own zone while defending. Pokka, plays with a ton of confidence, and he knows how to make a quick outlet pass to get the transition game going too.
Pokka, has also spent two years now playing in Finland's SM-Liiga with Karpat. In 35 games in 2011-2012, Pokka recorded three assists, 12 PIM, and a minus three rating. Last season in 2012-2013, Pokka posted six goals, six assists, 12 points, eight PIM, and a plus two rating in 47 games. Pokka, has held his own with an even rating in two years for such a young player in the SM-Liiga. Also, Pokka, only had 20 PIM in two seasons combined. The low amount of penalty minutes shows how responsible and reliable Pokka is in his own end. Pokka, even started to add some offense to his game last season with six goals and 12 points, up from the three points the year prior.
There are a few parts to Pokka's game that he does need to work on though. Pokka's offensive game could use more work to round him into a more solid two-way defenseman. The increase in points last season for Pokka is encouraging, and another year in the SM-Liiga should do him good as he continues to mature. Remember, Pokka just turned 19, so expecting him to put up huge point totals right away playing against mainly older players is unrealistic.
Also, Pokka does makes some easy mistakes with the puck. It is not something that happens multiple times during games, as Pokka generally is sound with the puck. He does make some simple mistakes, but this is to be expected from a young player. As Pokka continues to mature, the simple mistakes should go away.
Pokka, is slated to spend his third season with Karpat of the SM-Liiga when their season begins. I truly believe Pokka will take his game to the next level in his development this season, and he should open up the eyes of people around the Isles. He should skyrocket up the list of Isles' top prospects as the upcoming season progresses. We could see Pokka in Bridgeport towards the end of next season, after Karpat's season ends.
With so many defensemen in the system, the Isles will not rush Pokka's development. If he continues to properly develop, the Isles might have themselves another jewel on defense.
What do you guys think? Is Pokka ranked too high? Is anyone else just as excited about Pokka's future? Let's hear some discussion in comments!
Here is Islander Country's Top Ten List so far:
The Honorable Mentions
Number 10: Johan Sundstrom
Number 9: Andrey Pedan
Number 8: Matt Donovan
Number 7: Anders Lee
Number 6: Calvin de Haan
Look for number four to be revealed on Wednesday!
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