Ruotsalainen Lighting it Up in Finland

Sabres forward on loan to Ilves, averaging a point-per-game

It comes as no surprise that Buffalo Sabres prospect Arttu Ruotsalainen is absolutely tearing it up in Finland - but boy, is it a treat to watch.

For the second straight season, the Sabres loaned Ruotsalainen to Ilves, where he’s been playing since the 2017-18 season. The 22-year-old Oulu, Finland native averaged nearly a point-per-game last season, notching a career-high 43 points in just 44 games.

So far this season, things are looking just as good for the up-and-coming forward.

In eight games, he’s recorded as many points, including seven goals. As of October 23, Ruotsalainen is second on his team in scoring behind only Juuso Välimäki, who has 10 points. He’s also tied for fourth in scoring league-wide.

Although Ruotsalainen kicked off the season with two consecutive pointless games, he scored twice in a 5-1 over Jukurit on October 10. He is currently on a four-game goal streak, including another two-goal performance on October 23 in a 5-2 win over Tappara.

Even in the games where he isn’t necessarily scoring, Ruotsalainen is finding ways to put shots on net. He’s recorded 38 shots in just eight games, including seven shots in a recent match against TPS. The center is also averaging 46.76% in the faceoff circle and playing just under 21 minutes per game, on average. (All stats via Liiga.)

Ruotsalainen is one of several players being loaned to Ilves at this point. Others include goaltender Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks); defenders Lassi Thomson (Ottawa Senators) and Juuso Välimäki (Calgary Flames) and forwards Barrett Hayton and Matias Maccelli (both Arizona Coyotes).

Earlier this year, Die by the Blade staff and readers ranked Ruotsalainen as #12 on the Sabres’ Top 25 Under 25. His past performances combined with the current hot streak he’s having should mean he could come directly to Buffalo, and the Sabres, when the time is right. (Whenever the NHL season starts, that is....)

The one problem: there doesn’t appear to be any space for him on the Sabres roster as it stands at this point. However, if I’m the Sabres GM watching how strong of a performance he’s had this season so far, you’re darn certain I’m finding a spot for him somehow.

Because if you have a player with these kinds of skills, playing at this level.... you want him on your team - and you find a way to make it happen. He should certainly be pushing for a roster spot and, depending on what other moves the Sabres are able to execute, could find himself playing in the NHL when the next season begins.

Ruotsalainen’s currently in the second of a three-year entry-level contract with an AAV of $925,000.

Want to watch more Ruotsalainen highlights? Check out the video highlights on Ilves’ website, available free to watch here. Ruotsalainen and his team are next in action on Saturday at 5 p.m. (Finland local time) against Tampere before facing Jyväskylä on Tuesday.