After the New York Islanders famously took seven defenseman in the 2012 NHL Draft, you might reasonably hope they'll go with a forward in the first round of 2013. The way the pre-draft rankings stack up, that seems likely.
But there are a few exceptions where even the most cock-sure Islanders fan could forgive them for going back to the blueline once again.
Rasmus Ristolainen is one such exception: He's very unlikely to fall all the way to 15 -- though if the Isles really coveted him, they could always look into trading up -- but if he did fall that far then he'd be hard to pass up. (Where the Europe-based prospects will be selected is sometimes harder to predict, particularly so with defensemen. But not many rankings have Ristolainen around at 15.)
Nonetheless, as a big, right-handed, multi-tooled defenseman, the TPS Turku defenseman is a fun prospect to consider.
22: The Hockey News
8: Hockey Prospectus (Pronman)
4 (Europe skaters): Central Scouting
9: The Scouting Report
Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus:
...often logged tough, heavy minutes for TPS. That is an impressive role for an 18-year-old defenseman in that league. He is not a flashy player, but he does everything well. He best skill is his hockey sense. He thinks the game at a level well beyond his years, and he does not make many mistakes on the ice. He is an aware, effective defenseman who can close gaps with his body or with his stick. With the puck, he shows calmness, but he can process the game quickly when the situation calls for it. He can man the point on the power play...
The Scouting Report:
Where a team will probably have to be more patient with Nikita Zadorov, many feel that Rasmus Ristolainen could crack an NHL roster as early as next season. A 1994 birthdate, Ristolainen has already logged two full seasons in the SM-Liiga with TPS and has the body frame to play in the NHL as a teenager.
Ristolainen is a mobile defenseman who is effective in the transition game and not out of place offensively. He does a good job of identifying passing lanes and also has the ability to jump into the rush when he sees an opportunity. How much upside Ristolainen ultimately has is a question mark...
Trent Klatt, Islanders Player Development:
Rasmus Ristolainen is a big, powerful Finn. He plays with an edge and makes his opponents earn possession and space against him. He's a tough character to play against and has a little nastiness to his game. Ristolainen possesses a good shot from the point.
The Hockey News Draft Preview:
The big-bodied Ristolainen has played against men for a couple years now ... "He's been on the board for three years," one scout said. "He has size and skating. He's steady. He doesn't wow me, but he has all the tools."
... "He has more value as a solid two-way guy -- he's not Erik Karlsson," the scout said. "But he'll be fine."
On the one hand, you can worry that the 6'4 defenseman has benefited from being big, early, and so the upside potential might not be there. On the other hand, you can conclude that big, right-shooting, all-around defensemen are hard to come by, so the potential that's already there is worth a first-half first-round pick.
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