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Name: Rasmus Ristolainen
Team: TPS Turku (SM-Liiga- Finland)
Height/Weight: 6'4 205 pounds
Stats: 3 goals, 12 assists, 15 points, 32PIM
Final I.S.S. ranking: 11
As draft day approaches, part five of this six part series takes a look at Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen played for TPS Turku of the SM-Liiga in his native Finland last season, and posted three goals and 15 points in 52 games played.
A big defenseman at 6'4 205, Ristolainen finished just outside the top ten of the final I.S.S. rankings at number 11, so he has the potential to be available for the Islanders to draft with the 15th overall pick if Ristolainen falls a few slots in the draft.
Pros: Ristolainen is one of the top prospects for his age group, and a top prospect for the 2013 NHL draft. Ristolainen does not do one thing particularly well, but has a solid overall game. One of Ristolainen's biggest attributes is his hockey sense. Ristolainen sees the game better than most of his peers, and he rarely makes a mistake because he reads the play so well to position himself correctly.
Ristolainen plays a solid two-way game. Ristolainen makes quick outlet passes in the transition game, and has good skating ability and strength on the puck to carry the puck into the offensive end as well. Reading and reacting to the play is another strength to Ristolainen's game, he understands when to be aggressive and jump into the play offensively and when to stay back to avoid an odd man rush against. Ristolainen has enough skill overall offensively to run a power play as well.
The biggest strength to Ristolainen's game however is his play in his own end. Ristolainen is a strong kid who can knock the opponent off the puck, and likes to get physical in front of the net to clear out any forward trying to screen the goalie. If Ristolainen does not use his strength, he keeps himself in good position and uses his long reach to stick check the opponent and keep them to the outside to limit scoring chances.
Ristolainen's frame is excellent, and playing two years in the SM-Liiga already has helped Ristolainen develop great strength playing against older competition. At the young age of 18, Ristolainen is not far off from being NHL ready after developing quickly in the SM-Liiga.
Cons: There is not much to knock about Ristolainen's game. The biggest knock I could find about Ristolainen is how much upside Ristolainen ultimately has because he does not excel at one particular aspect to the game. Ristolainen does so many things well, but there is not one aspect to his game that stands out from the rest. This potentially limits how good Ristolainen could be in the NHL, but that is really nitpicking over something small just to find a con about him. At worst he is a top four defenseman, and that is something most teams in this league need.
Ristolainen is a solid defensive prospect that the Isles could add to their system if he is still available with the 15th pick. I could not see Snow passing up on Ristolainen if he is still available when the Isles draft. However, I do not think Ristolainen will fall to 15, he is just too solid a prospect for teams to pass up on.
If Snow truly covets Ristolainen, he likely will have to trade up in the draft to take Ristolainen. With no second round pick this year, unless there is a player Snow feels he absolutely must have, it is more likely the Isles trade down to pick up an extra pick later in the draft then trade up and lose another pick later in the draft.
What do you guys think? If Ristolainen falls to 15 is he too good to pass up on? Is he worth dealing away extra picks to move up for? Comments and discussion are more than welcome!
Rasmus Ristolainen highlight video
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