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Draft notebook: Rasmussen,Valimaki formed bond as housemates

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

You may have noticed that two prospects who appear back-to-back in Kris Baker's Top 31 list, Michael Rasmussen (No. 14) and Juuso Valimaki (No. 15), happen to be teammates on the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League.

What you may not have known about Rasmussen and Valimaki is that the pair has also spent the past two years living together in Kennewick, Wash., a subject they touched on at the NHL Scouting Combine last week.

The two players were arranged to live together upon joining the Americans for the 2015-16 season. Rasmussen - from British Columbia - helped make the transition easier for Valimaki, who was making the jump to North America from Finland.

The two became so close that when Valimaki's mother and siblings joined him in the United States for his second season, Rasmussen stayed with them as well.

 "He's my best friend," Valimaki said. "He's an amazing person and player. He helped me a lot when I came."

"Me and him have become really close and pretty much best friends," Rasmussen said, echoing Valimaki's sentiment. "It's pretty special."

Rasmussen, a forward, scored 55 points (32+23) in his second season with Tri-City. At 6-feet-5-inches tall and 215 pounds, he's a power forward who has the ability to finish around the net. He models his game after the Florida Panthers' Aleksander Barkov.

"He a rangy player," Rasmussen said. "He's just a big guy who moves well. I think it's good to watch and good to take pieces from, for sure."

Valimaki, meanwhile, is one of a handful of Finnish defensemen expected to go in the early rounds of the draft. He has two-way ability, having scored 61 points (19+42) in 60 games for Tri-City last season in addition to two goals in six games for Finland at the World Junior Championship.

"He's a well-rounded player," Rasmussen said of his teammate. "I think he does everything well - offense, defense. He skates well. He's got a good head for the game. I think he's a good overall player."

While many of his Finnish counterparts chose to stay and play professionally back home, Valimaki made the decision to come to North America in hopes of getting a head start on learning the culture and style of play. Rasmussen attests the smooth transition to Valimaki being a quick learner, but Valimaki pushes at least some of the credit toward their friendship.

"I haven't regretted one second since I left," he said.

 

 

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