PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Teenage defenseman Olli Maatta is sticking with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 19-year-old Finn will remain with the NHL club indefinitely rather than return to his junior team, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. The Penguins said on Thursday they could have sent Maatta back down and pushed back his rookie status until next year.
Instead, Maatta stays in Pittsburgh and will enter the first year of his entry-level contract. If he plays more than 40 games, he can become a free agent by age 25.
It's heady territory for a kid who was in high school a year ago.
"It's gone good so far so why change anything?" Maatta said.
Maatta has one goal and two assists while averaging around 15 minutes of ice time a game for the Penguins. The 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft has wowed coach Dan Bylsma with his skating and impressed teammates with his ability to adapt quickly.
"I think he's played nine games in a row because he's earned the right to play nine games in a row because he's given us the best chance to win hockey games and that's going to happen in the 10th game too," Bylsma said.
The odds seemed long during training camp, when Maatta's NHL debut expected to be at least a year away. He made a compelling case for himself during the preseason and was a surprise addition when he survived the final cuts.
"I feel like I worked hard for this and they feel like I still need to work hard and get better," he said. "But I feel better about staying here."
Maatta isn't a potent offensive player but hasn't hesitated when given the opportunity. His first NHL goal came in a 4-3 shootout win over Vancouver last Saturday when he poked in a rebound with 6:48 remaining in regulation to tie the game.
Though Maatta insists the goal wasn't his "welcome to the NHL moment" there's little doubt it gave him a boost that's helped him believe he belonged.
"Every game I've got more confident out there," he said. "Every game I get more confident that I can play at this level."