The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eight writers and 320 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2018 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
In a word, Sampo Ranta is a shooter.
As a 17-year-old for his entire season with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, the 78th overall draft pick by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2018 NHL Draft will be heading to the University of Wisconsin for the upcoming season, and most likely for the next four years.
The 6’2” 190-pound Finn also carries a strong skating stride to go along with his above-average shot. In a Q&A on the league website, Ranta sees a lot of Jack Eichel in his own game. “Big body, skates well, shoots well, a lot of skill. I love watching him, he’s a player I kind of want to play the same way as because he’s a great player.”
“There’s a lot of guys who can skate fast, but there’s a big difference between guys who can skate fast and make plays at that pace with the puck. If you watch a NHL game you see a player like Connor McDavid. He skates fast, but is just as fast, if not faster, with the puck. He plays the game at a high pace. I think that is something that Sampo does from when we’ve played against him.” – Anthony Noreen/Tri-City Storm head coach
Ranta is still a very raw talent, looking at his goal ratios (courtesy of Prospect-Stats) from his final year in the USHL, it’s not very good at all. However, as a 17-year-old only having just turned 18 and heading into a 4-year NCAA program, he will have ample opportunity to learn a 200-foot game. What’s important here with this young prospect is the talent he shows in the areas he has figured out.
US: did he just do that?— USHL (@USHL) September 30, 2017
SAMPO RANTA: yup
Ranta’s Sioux City Musketeers missed the playoffs after an underwhelming 26-26-8 record in the regular season, but he did get a chance to play tournament hockey as he helped Finland’s U18 squad win gold at the U18 World Juniors. His team was led by Montreal’s top pick in Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Los Angeles’ first rounder Rasmus Kupari.
Ranta only had two points playing on a lower line in the tournament’s seven games, but he has two chances to make the U20 World Juniors rosters for Finland in the coming years. If he can show a better all-around game in his freshman season at Wisconsin, he has a fighting chance to make the premier prospect tournament in December of 2019.
Despite being the third-youngest player on his USHL team, Ranta led his team with eight power play goals. Fun fact: three of those goals came on 5-on-3 power plays, which led the league. His big slapper from the top of the circle is his primary weapon, and it is damn good.
The next two clips are prime examples of this. I especially like his ability to find the soft areas of the ice. His quick feet help him get set quicker and sooner than the defenders are comfortable with. You notice this a lot more with the young shooters in the NHL; the Patrik Laine’s, the Auston Matthews’, the Brock Boeser’s. They are all able to take the shot sooner than the Shea Webers of the world because their feet help them get set faster.
In terms of NHL future, it’s really hard to tell where he will come out after going through the NCAA machine. If everything falls his way, we might have a top-6 scoring winger here. But that’s only if everything falls his way. At this point, it’s impossible to know what his game (or the league) will look like in 2022-23 when Ranta is most likely to start his professional career.
However, something that we do know is that if the Avalanche keep up their upward trajectory, Colorado could be getting very close to the salary cap ceiling in the coming years. With players like Gabriel Landeskog, Nikita Zadorov, Samuel Girard, and eventually Nathan MacKinnon all needing contracts in the next five years, we might find ourselves in need of some cost-controlled complimentary players in the middle of the forward group. Hopefully Ranta, and a few of the players in the coming drafts are able to unlock an NHL future and provide an answer to those questions.