The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of six staff writers and over 500 readers that ranked players under the age of 25 by September 1st, 2019. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.
We’ve finally reached the top five of our 2019 Buffalo Sabres top 25 under 25 rankings. Back in late July when these rankings were put together, I wondered if we would make it to this point or this player would be traded prior. That player is none other than defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
The 24-year-old has been the topic of trade discussion all summer as we await some sort of clarity with his situation. As of now, it looks like he’ll be in training camp with the Sabres when it gets started in a few weeks.
While his flaws have been a focus over the last year, the Finnish defender does have some good traits in his game. He’s an excellent power play defender that has done a good job running the point with the man advantage in Buffalo over the last few years. He brings that size and physical play to the Sabres in the defensive end of the ice.
He’s scored at least 40 points in each of the last four seasons. When he does get involved in the play in the offensive zone, Ristolainen can be a tough assignment for opposing defenders. He uses his size at times down low to open space and create chances for his teammates.
It’ll be interesting to follow this saga as it unfolds in the near future with Ristolainen and the Sabres. Recent comments have made it seem as though both would welcome a change. The former eighth overall pick has become worn down by all the losing in Buffalo and the Sabres may see him as a chip to get that final forward they need for the roster.
If he’s back next season it’ll likely be in a different role than he’s served over the last few years. He’ll probably no longer be asked to play those top pair minutes and will not be the top defender on the power play. Some reduction in his 5 on 5 minutes could prove to be beneficiary for the big defender.
Ristolainen has the talent and is deserving to be ranked highly on this list. The frustrating part is we haven’t seen it all come together for him and we may never see that happen in Buffalo.
#25 Miska Kukkonen
#24 Linus Weissbach
#23 Andrew Oglevie
#22 Jacob Bryson
#21 Casey Fitzgerald
#20 Marcus Davidsson
#19 Matej Pekar
#18 Ryan Johnson
#16 Oskari Laaksonen
#14 Will Borgen
#13 C.J. Smith
#12 Rasmus Asplund
#11 Tage Thompson
#10 Dylan Cozens