Photo courtesy of Liiga.fi

Fantasy Summary

A small, gritty scorer who likes to fire the puck on goal and deflect it in front of the net. Not a huge forechecking or playmaking presence. Needs to continue developing his possession game.


Observations

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May 2021 – Ruotsalainen joined the AHL’s Rochester Americans on February 5, 2021 after an extremely successful stint in Liiga earlier in the 2020-2021 season. At the time of his final appearance with Ilves on November 28, 2020, he led the league in scoring with 16 goals and 27 points in 19 games. With the Rochester Americans, he scored five goals and 13 points in 13 games, prompting the Sabres to recall him to Buffalo. He made his NHL debut on April 9, 2021 and scored his first goal in the following game on April 11. In 17 games with the Sabres, he scored five goals and six points, spending most of his ice time on the right-wing alongside two-way rookie Dylan Cozens and 24-year-old Anders Bjork. He averaged 13:59 of TOI per game and 1:07 of powerplay time per game with Buffalo. During his time with the Sabres, he showcased numerous strengths, but also a series of deficiencies. He hustled along the ice and often played in traffic and around the net. He regularly supported his team on the backcheck, although in the neutral zone he preferred to trail the play. In the offensive zone, he needs to engage more along the end boards. Despite having a good motor, he must apply more pressure towards the opposition. Additionally, this season in Buffalo, he did not exhibit strong playmaking elements in his game nor sufficient vision or creativity, sometimes forcing pucks on net. His single assist in 17 games may be indicative of this. He was caught distributing the puck too slowly at times, and he struggled to get it past the opponent in transition, resulting in the loss of possession for his team. Some of these early challenges may be attributed partially to his adjustment period to the NHL, as well as the relative inexperience of his line. In his rookie NHL season, Ruotsalainen was more of an opportunist than a line driver. With one more year remaining on his current $925,000 AAV deal before he becomes an RFA, this 23-year-old, 5’8” scorer is still far from polished but possesses some promising characteristics to build upon. Kevin Wong

December 2020 – Ruotsalainen has elevated his game considerably in the first half of 2020-2021. As of December 2020, he leads Liiga in scoring with 16 goals and 27 points in 19 games, four points ahead of runner-up Ryan Lasch. His 2020-2021 points-per-game average of 1.42 is a significant improvement over last year’s PPG average of 0.98. The 23-year-old’s development continues to progress smoothly. Kevin Wong

August 2020 – Ruotsalainen’s 2019-2020 Liiga season with Ilves was a success. He finished the campaign with 15 goals and 43 points in 44 games, his highest point total and by far his highest points-per-game average playing in Finland. He finished 18th in league scoring and second among Ilves players. In the offensive zone, Ruotsalainen has found quite a lot of success hovering around the net-front. He is a powerplay and penalty-killing staple. He recorded a 9.5% shooting percentage, the highest of his career. He was scheduled to play the 2020-2021 season in North America, but due to COVID-19 has been loaned back to Ilves until regular-season play resumes in the NHL and AHL. Kevin Wong

January 2019 – Arttu Ruotsalainen is having quite the campaign with Ilves (Liiga). In 27 games played, the Finnish forward prospect has 12 goals and 17 assists. In fact on the 18th, Ruotsalainen tallied three assists and one goal against the Pelicans. He is having an outstanding campaign and finally posting consistent high-level offensive production. If Ruotsalainen can continue at this pace and his play translates into success in the pre-season (2020-21), he might have a spot in the NHL next season. Josh Tessler

September 2019 – Arttu Ruotsalainen has been assigned to play for Ilves this season. Unfortunately, Ruotsalainen’s training camp and preseason with the Buffalo Sabres did not go so well. Instead of staying in North America and playing either for Rochester or Buffalo, he is heading back to Finland for some more seasoning. Ruotsalainen’s shot selection was poor. He took quite a few shots from the perimeter when he had room and consistently aimed low for the goaltender’s pads. It did not appear that he was looking to create some rebound opportunities for his teammates. Instead, it seemed that he was a tad nervous in his first preseason with Buffalo. In addition, he had some weak breakup attempts and was not dependable in the defensive zone. On the flip side, Ruotsalainen did have good transitional play and his stick handling was NHL ready. While it is not a great sign that Ruotsalainen was reassigned to Ilves, it is not a bad one either. The 21 year old will likely play another full season in the Liiga and will hopefully refine his shot selection. If all goes to plan, Ruotsalainen will be back in Buffalo next season and he could make a solid case for a bottom-six role. Josh Tessle

May 2019 – Ruotsalainen has signed a three-year entry level contract with the Sabres.  Jokke Nevalainen

May 2019 – Ruotsalainen had a breakout season in the Liiga at age 21. Despite his young age, he was a leader on his team. His 21 goals and 42 points in 59 regular season games led the team in both categories, and those were some of the best marks in the league among his age group. He also added seven points in seven playoff games. Despite a strong season in the Liiga, Ruotsalainen was one of the final cuts from Finland’s roster for the World Championship tournament. Ruotsalainen has played at the Liiga level for four years already. Perhaps being pushed to the top level too early is part of the reason he’s been overlooked until now, although the biggest reason is probably his size (5-8, 181). But he doesn’t play like a typical small player. He competes very hard and isn’t afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice.

Ruotsalainen has always been a scoring star among his age group in Finnish juniors but he hadn’t been able to translate that to pro level until this season. Ruotsalainen has very good offensive skills, great hockey sense and very good skating ability. He has a very good wrist shot and a dangerous backhander. He’s an opportunistic goal-scorer with great patience. He got great usage on the Ilves team this season, as he averaged over 21 minutes per game and received more power play time than any other player on the team. But only 14 of his points were scored on the power play, so he wasn’t overly reliant on power play production. He also led all forwards on his team in shorthanded ice time and was frequently used late in the game to protect a lead which allowed him to score five goals into an empty net. Ruotsalainen’s Corsi ratings were some of the best in the league, and he was also one of the best faceoff guys in the league. He will likely have to switch to wing to play in the NHL. He needs another year or two before he’s pushing for a spot on an NHL roster.  Jokke Nevalainen

Attributes
Fantasy Upside 7.0
NHL Certainty 7.5
Country FIN
Position C
Roster Type System
Shoot/Glove Left
Date of Birth October 29, 1997
Height 5‘9”
Weight 181 lbs
Drafted No

Stats

 Season Team League GP G A TP PIM      Playoffs GP G A TP PIM 
 2011-2012 Kärpät U16U16 SM-sarja Q8 8 412 4|        
  Kärpät U16U16 SM-sarja30 24 3559 18|Playoffs8 4 812
  Kärpät U18U18 SM-sarja2 0 00 0|        
 2012-2013 Kärpät U16U16 SM-sarja Q1 0 22 4|        
  Kärpät U16U16 SM-sarja0 0 00 0|Playoffs11 12 1527 10 
  Kärpät U18U18 SM-sarja45 15