NEWARK, N.J. – Rasmus Ristolainen figured he would be selected somewhere around the 10th and 15th picks during the NHL Entry Draft this afternoon. So when the Buffalo Sabres called his name with the No. 8 choice, the Finn was a bit stunned.
“I don’t know what I’m thinking when I heard my name,” Ristolainen said inside the Prudential Center. “It’s awesome.”
The 18-year-old, who spent the last two seasons playing with TPS Turki in SM-liiga, a major European men’s league, believes he can step into the NHL right away next season.
Ristolainen, 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds, calls himself a “two-way” defender.
“I have a good shot,” he said. “I play very physically. I can help the team on power play and penalty kill also.”
Ristolainen tries to play like Nashville star Shea Weber.
“He’s like my idol,” he said. “He’s a leader on the ice, plays physical, has a good shot.”
Ristolainen had three goals, 15 points, 32 penalty minutes and a minus-7 rating in 52 games last season. He was world junior teammates with Sabres prospect Joel Armia, who has told him good things about Buffalo.