Contract: Signed through 2015-2016 at $925,000.
Report Card Grade in 2013: N/A
Introduction: One of the two defensemen the Sabres took in the first round at last year's draft, Ristolainen jumped overseas right away to join the Sabres. He played in 18 games for the Sabres at the start of the season along with his teenage counterparts Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Zemgus Girgensons. After playing 19 games in Buffalo the team sent him down to Rochester to allow him to further adjust to the North American rink size as well as develop through increased ice time against lesser competition.
He returned to Buffalo in March after a wave of defensive injuries hit the team. Ristolainen stayed with the team until the end of the season, when he was returned to Rochester for their playoff run.
Thumbs Up: Ristolainen looked lost at points during his first stint in Buffalo, which is expected for an 18-year-old defenseman. However he looked much more confident in his second stint, which is evident by both the eye test and statistics. His Corsi percentage went up 5% from his first 19 games to his last 15 games and his average ice-time increased in the later parts of his first stint into his second. Progress! His time in Rochester is also a huge plus, as he tallied six goals and 14 assists in 34 games and often looked a level above the competition.
Thumbs Down: As a rookie, Ristolainen was prone to play the occasional bad game. He dipped down into the teens on occasion in both zone start percentage and relative Corsi on some nights. Overall his fancy stats aren't that compelling either, towards the bottom half of the team in Corsi percentage, relative Corsi, and Fenwick percentage. It may just be a matter of time for the stats to move up, because Ristolainen started to show at the end of the season why the Sabres were so fond of him.
Memorable Moment: Ristolainen's top moment this year didn't come in a Sabres uniform. He stepped away from Buffalo and Rochester for a few weeks when Ristolainen got the opportunity to represent Finland in the World Juniors. He showed everyone watching that the Sabres have one of the top young defensemen in the world when he scored the Gold Medal winning overtime goal against Sweden.
Voting: We're grading on a curve this year, adjusting for the Sabres organizational ineptitude. So, using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with A representing a great season (for the Sabres) C an average season, and F a very poor season (again, for the worst team in the league) grade Rasmus Ristolainen on his performance this year.