The Top 20 Under 24 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of five staff writers and over 300 readers that ranked prospects under the age of 24 and have played less than 125 NHL games.
Arttu Ruotsalainen has developed into one of the more intriguing players in the Buffalo Sabres prospect pool after being signed as a European free agent in the summer of 2019. He’s undersized at 5’8” but has a knack for generating offense.
He got a look with the Sabres at training camp last season, but was sent back to Finland to play with Ilves due to the clause in his contract. This year he was expected to make his North American debut, but was loaned back to Ilves when the start of the season was being pushed back.
The Finnish forward took that next step and was one of the best players in Liiga before the season had to pause due to COVID-19. He led the league in both goals and total points as the top line center for his club.
His strong stint in Finland this year has pushed him into the conversation of being a player that could earn a roster spot in training camp. While it’s still likely he starts in the AHL based on how the Sabres operate, he should be given a real opportunity to make the club. There’s a transition that needs to be made for players moving to the smaller ice and North American game. However, at his age I don’t believe he needs the AHL seasoning.
We’ll see if he gets the chance to resume his season in with Ilves. Now that the NHL is looking to start on January 13th, I would bet the Sabres want to get him over to North America to be ready for training camp at the end of the month.