Following a dominant junior season at the University of Minnesota in 2020-21, Sampo Ranta is ready to take the next step and signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche on April 3.
"I thought it was time for me to take the next step in my career," Ranta said about making the jump from college to the professional game. "I'm just excited to go to Loveland and start my pro career there and hopefully work my way up."
During his junior campaign, the Naantali, Finland, native ascended to the top of the NCAA ranks with 19 goals and 12 assists in 31 games. The forward established career highs in goals, assists and points (31), while his 19 markers ranked second in the nation and his 31 points were tied for the 12th most.
Ranta was a major part of the Gophers' success in 2020-21 as he led the club in goals, points and finished second in power-play markers (three), helping the squad to a 24-7-0 record, including a 16-6-0 mark in conference play, and a second place Big Ten finish (48 points). After taking strides throughout his college career and especially in this past season, Ranta and the Avalanche decided now is the time to further his development at the next level.
Video: Sampo Ranta signs NHL contract with Avalanche
"I had a really good year in Minnesota, and I love the team here [in Loveland]," Ranta said. "We have a great group of guys [with the Gophers], but I think it's more of a development standpoint, I felt like pro games are the next step for me and getting used to it. It felt like the right step, I feel like it's the right time for it."
Throughout his three years at Minnesota, the 20-year-old totaled 67 points (37 goals and 30 assists) and a plus-27 rating, while being named to the All-Big Ten First Team and earning a Big Ten All-Tournament Team Selection in his final campaign. He also participated in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship with Finland, recording two assists in seven contests on the international stage. In addition to his collegiate career as well as his participation in development camps with the Avalanche, Ranta has grown through the guidance he's had from the Avalanche's development staff along the way.
"It's been awesome," Ranta said of keeping in contact with the Colorado staff. "I talk to those guys a lot. They watch me play, give me little tips of what to do and it's all about taking the next steps and being ready when you turn pro. They do a great job just pointing out things that are going to help me when I take the step and the development camps were awesome every time. They're fun, but at the same time you learn so much. You get to be around the guys that you're going to play with in the future, so it's fun."
Just a week after inking his entry-level deal, the 78th overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft made his professional debut on April 10th with the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles, notching one shot on net. In his second game on April 11, Ranta tallied his first professional goal and finished plus-1 on the night and recorded his first multi-point game with a marker and an assist on April 14. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound left wing is adjusting to playing with the Eagles and will let his play decide when he'll take the jump to the NHL level.
"My game will do my talking I guess," Ranta said about possibly playing with the Avs. "I'm just excited to get it started, go to Loveland and work with the coaches and just improve my game."