Small but mighty: the Finnish forward shows great potential, but future is unclear
Our 2022 Buffalo Sabres player report cards move along with Finnish center Arttu Ruotsalainen.
Total Season Stats (Sabres): 18 GP | 2 G | 2 A | 4 PTS
Total Season Stats (Rochester Americans): 57 GP | 18 G | 33 A | 51 PTS
Contract Status: RFA ($925,000/season)
Arttu Ruotsalainen is an interesting player to take a look at because he has gained such a variety of playing experiences in just a few short years. Debuting as Finland’s team captain during the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup – an under-18 international tournament – he earned one goal and one assist in four games. This opportunity prepared him for the following year, where he contributed two assists during the 2015 under-18 World Championship in Switzerland and helped lead his team to a silver medal.
Ruotsalainen continued the momentum as he was tied for seventh in goals among his fellow rookies and ranked 15th in points in the 2016 Finnish Elite League. He also appeared in six games with the Finnish National Team for their annual Karjala Tournament in 2018.
During his rookie debut with the Sabres last season, he was called up for the final 17 games of the year and dispensed five goals.
Fast forward to this season: the forward tallied 18 goals and 33 assists in 51 games with the Rochester Americans. He earned a brief roster spot (16 games) with the Sabres at the beginning of the season and again for a pair of games later in the season during a COVID surge that left Buffalo depleted and in need of players. During this NHL tenure, he had two goals and two assists before spending the rest of the season in the AHL to develop more. His Sabres stint even included this nifty shootout goal:
How did he do the rest of the season with the Amerks? In a word: exceptional. After a slow start to the season, he gradually developed into an offensive threat and gained some confidence, especially during the Calder Cup playoffs. In 10 games, he recorded an impressive eight goals (two of which were game-winners) and four assists – averaging 1.2 points per game with a +2 rating. Though not the biggest player in size, his speed and competitive nature are big positives as he works hard on and off the ice to keep improving.
“I just have to do everything I can in practice and the gym and whatever it takes. I just try to build my habits to be a pro…I think that’s building me to get confidence and all the success on the ice.” – Arttu Ruotsalainen
The future for Ruotsalainen is a question mark, though. His entry-level contract is upon expiration, and though he has said he wants to be in Buffalo and in the NHL, the possibility of him playing in Switzerland instead is still looming. I imagine many of us will be curious to see what happens in the next few months. Regardless, he has been fun to watch despite his limited ice time with the Sabres this season.
Season Grade: B