Continuing on looking at the prospects added to the organization after detailing Nikolai Kovalenko here, next up is the Colorado Avalanche’s newest Finn. Selected at 78th overall in the third round of the 2018 NHL entry draft in Dallas, Sampo Ranta has already had an interesting journey in his young career.
Ranta is a 6’1.5 200 lbs left shot right winger who was born on May 31, 2000 in Finland. He grew up in the same TPS system that Mikko Rantanen did but at the age of 15 decided to leave the country and Finnish system for better development opportunities away from home.
First stop for Ranta was the Red Bull Academy in Salzburg, Austria. A program which is gaining more attention as a youth development destination particularly after New York Islanders 12th overall selection Noah Dobson attended the program. Coincidentally Dobson was a teammate of Ranta’s in his time at the Academy on the U18 team in 2015-16. Ranta has a great account of his experience detailed HERE.
After his year in Austria Ranta then decided to follow in the footsteps of his good friend Eeli Tolvanen and cross the pond to play in the USHL and even signed on to the same team in the Sioux City Musketeers as they played together in 2016-17. That first year Ranta dealt with a broken kneecap sustained in preseason and recovered for the first three months of the season but has remained healthy since. He scored nine points including six goals in 30 games in his first year with Sioux City.
The second year went much better for Ranta as he increased his production to 37 points including 23 goals in 53 games. He was the second leading scorer for Sioux City who had a tough year by finishing second to the last in their conference and out of the playoffs as one of the lowest scoring teams. Ranta was a big part of the team in his second season and even wore an alternate captain letter by the end of the campaign. Ranta saw another future familiar face as another Avalanche prospect Nate Clurman joined the Sioux City on his third stop in the USHL.
Ranta has also been a part of the Finland national teams as he competed in both the Ivan Hlinka tournament and the U18 championship in which he won a gold medal. In each tournament Ranta put up two points in a secondary scoring role. The next challenge for Ranta will be to make the World Junior Championship team and he is one step closer to that goal as he has been invited to Finland’s camp, along with fellow Avalanche prospect goaltender Justus Annunen, at the World Junior Summer Showcase against the US, Canada and Sweden in Kamloops, BC in Canada at the end end of July.
Heading into the draft opinions were all over the place in regards to Ranta. There was thought he could sneak into the first round after NHL Central Scouting ranked him 18th among North American skaters. Independent lists were not as bullish on Ranta as most had him in the 50-60 range with TSN’s Bob McKenzie slotting him at 63rd in the scouts poll and HockeyProspect.com had a near match with his eventual 78th overall selection as they had Ranta ranked 76th.
At the combine Ranta was impressive and finished top ten in VO2 duration and agility drills as well as top 25 in several other events including long, squat and vertical jump and grip strength. At the USHL Top Prospects game Ranta did well in the on-ice testing events including top five scores in weave and transition agility, 30M forward skate and first in 30M forward skate with the puck.
The athletic gifts Ranta possesses are easy to see and the testing scores reflect that power and agility the eye test shows. He’s near ideal NHL size with still some room to fill out and get stronger. He’s an excellent skater and has a blistering shot and knows his talents are first and foremost as a shooter and he isn’t afraid to show it by averaging over three and a half shots per game with Sioux City as one of the top volume shooters in the USHL. The drawbacks to his game are hockey sense and on the defensive end. The Avalanche are banking on maturity and NCAA development will help Ranta in these aspects of his toolset when he begins at Wisconsin in the fall under Tony Granato.
At development camp Ranta showed off his heavy shot and the highlight of his week was when he won the shootout contest for his team by ripping the puck through the net as seen below. Ranta looked his age at times, which certainly isn’t unusual at first development camps right after the draft. He had some stand out moments by using his speed in the 3-on-3 game on a couple breakaways with Travis Barron and eventually fed him a slick pass for an easy goal.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 29, 2018
The bottom line on Ranta is this is a prospect with a lot of talent and NHL quality aspects to his game. There’s more than ample time to let Ranta mature a few years in college and his timeline will become clearer once he begins at Wisconsin. Ranta projects to be a scoring winger if he can round out his game and his upside will be determined by how consistent that scoring touch can become. If Ranta can find more physicality in the NCAA and learn how to use his big frame coupled with his speed and attacking nature he could turn into a sniping power forward. The talent is evident and Ranta’s game is still a bit raw but time and patience are on his side.
Finally, a look at Ranta’s game in the USHL in shift by shift fashion thanks to Rudo3.