Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen stood out from the crowd at an August junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. -- and not just because the 17-year-old blueliner checks in at 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds.
Ristolainen excelled in all phases of the game during his week playing with and against some of the top talent in his age group. Many scouts have him pegged as a first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. NHL Central Scouting ranked him as an "A" player on its preliminary "players to watch" list, meaning he has the potential to be a first-round draft pick.
Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen combines a solid frame with a skill set that features physical ability, some offensive flair and improved play in his own zone. (Photo: Getty Images)
"He's a mobile, strong, offensive-minded defenseman with very good puckhandling and passing skills," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "He's young, but he knows how to use his size and strength. He's one of the best young defensemen in Europe in his age group. He's a leader on the ice and plays with confidence."
In 40 games last season with TPS in SM-liiga, the top Finnish pro league, he had three goals, five assists and a minus-21 rating on a team that finished 10th in the 14-team league.
He also saw time with Finland at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he had three assists in seven games to help his country to a fourth-place finish, its best since 2006. He also had two goals and an assist in seven games for Finland at the 2012 World Under-18 Championship.
That's a lot of hockey for one season -- he also played eight games for the TPS team in the Finnish under-20 league -- but Ristolainen said in hindsight it was a good experience.