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FUTURE WATCH: Rasanen piling up experience

Aapeli Rasanen has played through ups and downs this season, culminating in some valuable learning experiences

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

Experience. 

Win or lose, hockey prospects can't pad their resumes with enough of it.

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And Sioux City Musketeers forward Aapeli Rasanen is compiling plenty of experience this season, enduring both ends of the spectrum. The Oilers sixth-round (153rd-overall) selection in the 2016 NHL Draft has persevered through on-ice upheaval and pursued ice cold conquest.

For one, the two-way centre is surging with success on the top team in the United States Hockey League. Only seven games in the season remain but the Musketeers have clinched a playoff spot, fashioning a five-point cushion on the next best Waterloo Black Hawks. Through 53 contests, Sioux City is 36-10-5-2 and have tallied 79 points. 

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The Musketeers, armed with an arsenal of offence and already geared for playoff battle, have their sights set on capturing the Anderson Cup first - the USHL trophy awarded to the regular season champion. 

"We're leading the whole league with eight games to go for the regular season," said Rasanen, who's scored six goals, 18 assists and 24 points in 34 games played this season.

After their quest for the Anderson Cup, Rasanen and his battalion will focus on the Clark Cup, lifted by the playoff winners.

"We clinched our playoff spot and now the aim is first to win the Anderson Cup - win the League - then go for the playoffs," he said.

Sioux City continues overthrowing their opposition, having won nine of their last 10 games. Rasanen has spent time on the first line alongside premier 2017 NHL Draft prospect and fellow Finnish compatriot Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen leads the squad in scoring with 28 goals and 48 points. 

The pair has proven they can produce together and showed it at the 2017 World Junior Championships, where triumph didn't come by as regularly but the encounter was invaluable nonetheless.

"There was a lot of good and bad things about the tournament," said Rasanen.

After Team Finland won the World Juniors just a year ago in their home country, many of their leaders made the move to professional hockey, including Sebastian Aho, Patrik Laine and Oilers prospect Jesse Puljujarvi. 

As a result, Finland iced a young and inexperienced team. 

After three preliminary round losses and a berth in the relegation round, a coaching calamity ensued. Finland released their coaching staff even though they had the relegation series looming. 

Despite the turmoil, Rasanen managed to take away some positives. The 18-year-old shared the team scoring lead with Tolvanen, both piling up six points in six games. Rasanen also finished the tournament with the best faceoff percentage, winning 66.97 percent of his draws.

 "The World Juniors was a disappointment as a team but I started as a third line centre and ended up centering the first line," Rasanen said.

The 6-foot, 196-pound centre also helped his country stave off withdrawal from the 2018 edition of the tournament, defeating Latvia in two games. Rasanen recorded three assists in the series. 

Having won gold at the under-18 World Championships - where he played with Puljujarvi as his winger - and then almost finishing last at the under-20 World Juniors, Rasanen accepted both endeavours as beneficial learning experiences. 

"Now having two different tournaments, first winning gold and then being in the relegation round," Rasanen said, "both tournaments were good ones to go through and maybe they will be good for next year."

Team Finland's disappointing outing didn't hinder Rasanen's arc. 

In February, the Tampere, Finland, product committed to Boston College. Rasanen fielded a number of potential university suitors but felt comfortable with the Eagles. That could be because Tolvanen is also committed to playing there.

Tweet from @Aapeli8: Proud and honored to announce my commitment to @BCHockey. Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way. #GoEagles

"I was talking to a lot of schools, a lot of great schools and then ended up visiting (University of) Denver, Harvard (University) and BC," Rasanen said about the recruitment process. "I thought BC offered a good combination of high-level hockey and high-end academics and that's what I was looking for."

The influx of Finnish talent should add to the program's offence. The established familiarity for Rasanen will assist in an easy transition, too.

"I feel well-suited there, like that was the best fit for me."

Rasanen will also join Oilers prospect Graham McPhee - son of Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee - with the club.

"We played national team games a few times against each other and then I met him at the draft," said Rasanen. "When I was visiting BC, I met him there."

Before joining the Eagles in the fall, however, Rasanen will support his Musketeers' quest for USHL glory. He'll continue being a major part of their playoff push and continue playing alongside Tolvanen.

Taking in the experience along the way. 

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