The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eight writers have ranked players under the age of 25 as of July 1, 2021 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.
Sampo Ranta wasn’t supposed to be a big prospect for the Colorado Avalanche. Drafted at #78 overall in the third round of the 2018 draft, the Finnish forward looked to have the AHL as his ceiling on draft day. Fast forward three years of rapid growth and development at the University of Minnesota and now the 6’2” winger looks to be a solid bet to become a regular in the Colorado middle-six. Does Ranta have the right skill set to justify his lofty ranking amongst a deep Avalanche prospect pool?
Path to Colorado
Ranta was drafted by Colorado after a solid season in the USHL, playing for the Sioux City Musketeers and putting up 37 points in 53 games played during his draft season. Ranta’s physicality and size played well in juniors, earning his draft spot and a trip to Minnesota to develop with the Golden Gophers in the NCAA.
Once arriving on campus, Ranta saw great growth in his game throughout his three seasons in Minneapolis. His Freshman year saw the winger skate in 36 games, putting up 16 points (6G, 10A) displaying a strong - if under-utilized - shot. Ranta parlayed his strong Freshman season into a spot on Finland’s World Junior Summer Showcase. This tournament catapulted Ranta’s ranks amongst Avalanche prospects with a strong showing that highlighted his ability to finish plays along with his shot.
Things start really progressing for Ranta during his Sophomore season at U of Minnesota. His power-play time goes up as does his confidence, leading Ranta to shoot the puck with far more regularity than during his Freshman season. Ranta doubled his goals from the previous season and registered a six-game point streak, ending the season with 20 points (including 12 goals). He would parlay his strong season into an Academic All-Big Ten spot as well as a chance to represent Finland at the World Junior Championship in 2020.
While starting the tournament in the bottom six for a strong Finland squad, Ranta would impress his coaches, moving up the lineup and injuries played a role for Finland at the tournament. Ranta would finish with six points in seven games for the fourth-place finishers.
The strong showing at WJC would be a springboard for Ranta heading into his Junior season at U of M. By taking a big leap in his skating, Ranta lit up the Big Ten, earning first-team honors after scoring 19 goals (31 points). After completing his collegiate season, the winger impressed Joe Sakic and Avalanche brass enough to get put on the Eagles roster in the AHL. Ranta continued his impressive run of play by scoring seven points in 14 games (as well as two points in two playoff games) in Loveland and earning his first NHL appearance, a call-up during the first round of the playoffs against St. Louis. While he didn’t get on the NHL scoresheet, Ranta didn’t look overmatched in limited action.
Ranta has made his name with two-plus attributes - his size and his shot. At 6’2” and 200lbs, the young Finn has prototypical size for a two-way winger at the NHL level. While his skating was a big question mark upon drafting, Ranta has worked extremely hard throughout his time in Minneapolis to improve this aspect of his game. While he will never be a burner, Ranta skates hard and may see slightly more improvement in this aspect, as he’s shown to be willing to put in the off-season work. A bit of a late-bloomer (as are many larger forwards), Ranta has shown improvement in each of his post-draft seasons. Ranta seems to grow into each step of his development, a testament to his work ethic and strong hockey IQ.
With Colorado, Ranta will have a shot to claim a bottom-six role out of training camp after an extremely strong 2020-21 season that saw his NHL playoff debut. A more likely scenario sees Ranta back with the Eagles and claiming top-six minutes with some potential power-play time. Still only 21 and having taken massive leaps in development, Ranta has seen his stock rise from a fringe AHL/NHL prospect to a potential middle-six forward with 20 goals a season upside. With his plus size and shot combined with his proven desire to sand the rough edges to his game, Ranta may prove to be one of the better mid-round picks made in quite some time for Colorado.
#9 Martin Kaut
t10 Jean-Luc Foudy
t10 Logan O’Connor
#12 Justus Annunen
#13: Oskar Olausson
#14: Shane Bowers
#15: Drew Helleson
#16: Sean Behrens
#17: Mikhail Maltsev
#18: Alex Beaucage
#19: Trent Miner
#20: Colby Ambrosio
#21: Dennis Gilbert
#22: Daniil Zhuravlyov
#23: Tyler Weiss
#24: Nikolai Kovalenko
#25: Nick Henry