Rasmus Ristolainen – The Next Ones: NHL 2013 Draft Prospect Profile

He’s been on everyone’s radar since the beginning of the season.  He’s a big body on the back end, an intelligent puck mover, a boy amongst men, and one of the most talented defensemen in this year’s draft class.

His name: Rasmus Ristolainen.

Rasmus Ristolainen THW Close-Up:

Date of birth: 10/27/1994

Place of birth: Turku, Finland

Ht: 6’3″     Wt: 207 lbs

Shoots: Right

Position: D

NHL Draft Eligibility: 2013

THW The Next Ones Rankings (January 2013): 8

Rasmus Ristolainen [photo: Teemu Saarinen, HC TPS]

Rasmus Ristolainen [photo: Teemu Saarinen, HC TPS]

Other Rankings:

THW War Room Rankings (April): 10

ISS (May): 11

Future Considerations: 13

Craig Button: 20

Consensus aggregate of several services (NHL Numbers): 10

CS Final Rankings for European skaters: 4


[NHL 2013 Draft Guide – The Next Ones Draft Headquarters: Your quintessential draft resource]


The Finnish Pronger

He’s been on everyone’s radar since the beginning of the season.  He’s a big body on the back end, an intelligent puck mover, a boy amongst men, and one of the most talented defensemen in this year’s draft class.

His name: Rasmus Ristolainen.

Get used to hearing it, because he will be playing in the NHL very soon.  Standing 6’3″, 207 lbs, Ristolainen is what teams are looking for in terms of a full package.  Seth Jones is clearly the #1 defenseman in the draft, but Ristolainen is not that far behind.

He’s played in the SM-liiga for two seasons now and started his professional career at 17 years of age.  That’s a tall order for any young hockey player, but Ristolainen took it in stride and suited up for his hometown hockey club, TPS.

A cerebral defenseman, the young Finn thinks at a high level.  His hockey IQ is slotted among the best in Finland and the poise/patience with the puck is fantastic to watch.  His skating is effortless.  He is comfortable taking the puck up the ice and isn’t afraid to use his heavy shot from the point.  Capable of quarterbacking a powerplay, Ristolainen’s offensive abilities are second to none.  But his defensive abilities are equally as impressive.

With his height comes a long reach, which he uses very well to knock the puck of opposing players’ sticks.  While his finesse game stands out, he is a stalwart on the blueline who doesn’t shy away from a bodycheck.  Ristolainen always seems to be in the right place at the right time and makes simple – yet smart – decisions to clear the puck out.

The chances of him actually reaching Chris-Pronger-like levels are slim, but you can see flashes of Pronger’s game in Ristolainen’s early career.  He is likely going to be the 2nd best defender taken in this year’s draft.

Rasmus Ristolainen [photo: Teemu Saarinen, HC TPS]

Rasmus Ristolainen [photo: Teemu Saarinen, HC TPS]

Where Will He End Up In June:

He has all the skill of being a top 10 pick, which is where he should probably be selected.  Some rankings have him falling past the top 10 into the top 20.  Don’t be shocked if he slips a tad in June.

Scout’s Honor:

“You could see all the NHL scouts looking mighty heavily at the big, mobile, puck-moving defenseman. He plays very mature for his late ’94 birthdate as he knows how to turn the play up ice quickly by making the outlet pass or carrying the biscuit himself. He plays a very strong defensive game by utilizing his strength, positioning, and long reach to cut opposition’s opportunities down. Ristolainen showed some nice vision as he created scoring chances with some beautiful feeds and also unleashed his bomb from the point a handful of times at the NJEC. He will certainly draw much attention in Ufa, Russia this winter and looks to be a solid first rounder come June.”


Russ Bitely – MyNHLDraft.com

“Ristolainen has been a known commodity for a few years but the 17-year-old really burst onto the scene with some strong play and physicality. While the hulking Finn is far from a finished product, the two-way potential and physicality are certainly enticing. Ristolainen is a polished skater and an emerging offensive game which makes his potential intriguing. While further progression and development is still required, he plays an NHL style of game and brings a lot of the tools that teams will be looking for out of a Top 4 defenseman.”

The Scouting Report

“Ristolainen is a big, strong blueliner that plays a calm, composed and safe game; not trying to do more than his abilities will allow him to do. A talented skater, he has a plus level athletic body with very good mobility for a player his size. His skating gives him a chance to quickly close in every possible direction within his reach defensively. Ristolainen has some room to grow with his skating as he uses short steps and moves mostly with agility rather than power. He has a good head for the game; keeps his head up and makes smart reads. He has good focus, is ready to contribute in all three zones and wants to make an impact.”

Aaron Vickers – Future Considerations

“He’s a mobile, strong, offensive-minded defenseman with very good puck-handling and passing skills.  He’s young, but he knows how to use his size and strength. He’s one of the best young defensemen in Europe in his age group. He’s a leader on the ice and plays with confidence.”

Goran Stubb – NHL Director of European Scouting



The Flyers should draft Ristolainen

Interview with NHL.com

International Tournaments:

Ristolainen has played for Finland from the U16’s all the way up to U20’s.  He’s appeared in the past two World Junior Championships.  He’s played in 85 games for Finland.  In that span, he’s accumulated 11 goals and 25 assists.


1-2 years

Risk/Reward Analysis:

Risk: 1/5  Reward: 5/5

NHL Potential:

Top pairing defenseman that can play in every situation and QB a powerplay.


Shot from the point





Defensive awareness

Good first pass out of the zone

Hockey sense/IQ


Flaws/Aspects He Needs To Work On:

Increase speed for NHL


Fantasy Hockey Potential:

Offensive: 7/10   Defensive: 8/10

NHL Player Comparison:

-As was said before, Ristolainen’s game compares to that of Chris Pronger.  The ruggedness, intelligent, physical style is what sets Ristolainen from the rest of the pack.

-Hall of Fame comparison: Viacheslav Fetisov



THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph

Follow Shawn Reznik on Twitter: @ShawnTHW

Shawn Reznik

Shawn Reznik

Shawn started at The Hockey Writers in 2011 covering junior hockey/NCAA/European leagues for the site. In 2013, he became the Lead Writer for the Philadelphia Flyers.
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