The 2016 NHL draft remains a point of contention among Oiler fans. The team saw Jesse Puljujarvi slip to them, a player many pegged as a slam-dunk top-three player, only to watch him fail to make an meaningful impact some four years later. Yet, that is a discussion for another day but the player I’m covering in today’s article shares two similarities: They were drafted by the Oilers in 2016 and they are Finnish.
Let’s take a look at how our panel of experts ranked Aapelli Rasanen on this year’s top 25 under 25 list:
As you can see, Rasanen lands right near this year’s cutoff with four of the six voters having him squeak in. This ranking shows some improvement in Rasanen’s standing in the organization, having moved up three spots from 27 in 2019’s ranking.
Who Is Aapelli Rasanen?:
Rasanen is a Finnish centerman who worked his way through the Finnish junior leagues before getting drafted #156 overall by the Oilers in 2016. He made the move to North America in the year after being drafted, moving to the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL. It was a pretty successful debut for Rasanen, putting up 25 points in 38 games.
In 2017/18 Rasanen would move up a tier to the NCAA, where he would spend three full seasons. His first year of college hockey showed lots of promise. He came in as a rookie and put up a respectable 16 points in 32 games. Not eye-popping numbers but respectable. This performance had many thinking there might be a NHL role for him sometime in the future. Unfortunately, a rotten sophomore year saw those expectations dashed as his boxcar’s plummeted to just 7 points in 33 games. His career path officially hit rollercoaster status this past year where he put up career highs with Boston, skyrocketing from time 7 points in 2018/19 to 24 in 2019/20. This bump in points was enough to get him on this year’s list, albeit barely.
With COVID-19 ravaging North America, Rasanen has turned pro in his homeland. He is currently playing with Kalpa Kuopio of the SM-Liiga. He is playing in a third-line center role and has had some success. In 11 games so far, Rasanen has put up 6 points and has helped his team to a 7-4-0 start.
Where Does He Go From Here?:
Rasanen’s career to date has more positives than negatives. Since being drafted he has steadily improved his boxcar totals. The one exception seems to be that terrible sophomore NCAA season in 2018/19, which honestly seems like an outlier. He has gotten back on track and is stringing together a few good seasons, one of them at the pro level.
He might have been even higher on this list if it wasn’t for that one blip on the radar. At this moment I can’t really see a clear path for Rasanen to the NHL. The team has plenty of better options bubbling up in the AHL and he would have to leapfrog a few players if he wanted a chance at cracking the roster in the next two to three years. At the age of 22, however, you can never say never. Rasanen seems to be getting better with age and if it continues he could potentially carve out a role as a bottom six forward eventually. That’s wishful thinking at this point.
Expect him to continue to hone his craft in Finland for the foreseeable future.