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Future Sabres: Arttu Ruotsalainen

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By Warren Kozireski —

The Hockey News just released their Future Watch edition, which lists the top-ten prospects in every National Hockey League organization. Players such as Own Power, Jack Quinn, JJ Peterka and goaltenders Devon Levi and Erik Portillo are among those listed for the Buffalo Sabres. But the name of forward Arttu Ruotsalainen does not…and that may be shortsighted.

After making the Sabres roster out of training camp, the Finland native scored two goals with two assists in 18 games before being sent to Rochester Thanksgiving weekend.

After garnering just two assists over his first seven games in an Amerks uniform, Ruotsalainen has been one of Rochester’s main scoring threats since the calendar turned 2022 with 16 goals and 24 assists in 37 games to the end of March.

“He’s an unbelievable shooter, great playmaker, skater and an unbelievable player,” often linemate Brett Murray said.

The 5’9”, 185 lb. 24-year-old maybe be slight in stature, but isn’t afraid to find space around the net perimeter.

“I learned that and you have to be there if you want to score goals, so it’s a big thing to be around the net and read the play and where the puck is going to go.

“He is playing great hockey for us,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said. “Comes to work every day, plays the right way and is playing outstanding hockey. His work ethic is high end; it’s elite. On a team of workers at a high level of work ethic and competitiveness, he is in the top ten percent of that.

“He just shows up every day and has a real intent of getting better, puts a lot of extra time in from a conditioning standpoint and he’s looking quicker and faster which, on top of his strength and competitiveness has allowed him to have a really good run right now.”

Not that offense has not been part of his game in the past, but his well on pace for his career best in goals and points since he was a young teenager.

Ruotsalainen is also one of the Amerks key penalty killers using both his speed and hockey sense to get in passing lanes and disrupt the offensive flow.

But, as with many players especially from Scandinavia, his is loath to give himself accolades.

“I try to do all the little things right and obviously it helps to play with good linemates; I like to play with Murray and Linus (Weissbach),” Ruotsalainen said. “I think we have great balance and I think we’re getting to the areas for good scoring chances a lot. It feels pretty good…and we are finding each other of the ice pretty easily.

“All three are good players and we’ve scored a couple of goals on the rush, but we just try to keep it simple and that has worked.

“Some nights we get more space when (Murray) is in front of the net and he has two guys with him, me and Linus have more time and space, so it’s good for us.

“We have a good group of guys and everything is possible when we are playing the right way. The little things matter and you have to find a way to do the right things out there.”

Even if he doesn’t produce offense at the same pace at the NHL level, his skill set killing penalties, his game-by-game improvement winning faceoffs and, as he put it, “doing the little things,” can help his team win no matter whether it’s among the top six forwards or the bottom six.

And, after a brief lull, he hasn’t let getting sent to down from Buffalo stop him from producing and fighting his way back.

“At first it was tough and I was struggling a little bit, but as the season went on, I got better and better and I’m feeling pretty good right now. I just tried to keep focusing on myself and put the hard work in on and off the ice and we will see what happens.”

(Rochester Amerks Photo)

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