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Leafs select Eemeli Rasanen with 59th overall pick

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Another European defenseman, but this one is a giant

2017 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game
Gabriel Vilardi #13 of Team Cherry and Eemeli Rasanen #77 of Team Orr collide during the third period.
Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

The first round catches all the attention, but what a team does in rounds 2-7 can be of critical importance. Whether it’s unearthing a late star, or even acquiring a competent NHLer, late round hits can provide a huge boost to your team. Under Mark Hunter, picks after the first round have been a bit of a mixed bag. But after the Leafs made the simple and solid move of grabbing Timothy Liljegren at #17, there’s a lot of optimism about their outlook for the rest of the draft. While it’s overly reductive to make broad inferences about a team’s drafting process based on a single pick, it’s the hope of many fans that the Liljegren pick signified that the Leafs are prioritizing puck skills, skating, and offensive talent.

In drafting Eemeli Rasanen at 59th overall, the Leafs take another European right-handed defenseman, though one with notably less skill than Liljegren. The most obvious thing about Rasanen is his size. At 6’7”, he is a large 18 year old. He’s not a coke machine either, as he put up 39 points in 66 games for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. He evidently has some skill, which is nice to see, though his skating appears to be panned across the board. From reading about him, he appears to have a nice shot, and handles the puck well. At such a young age, you always expect guys like this to a be a little Bambi-like, which seems to be the case for Rasanen, given the discussion about his skating. Here’s to hoping he can iron that out over the coming years.

Rasanen was projected to go in the late 2nd or early 3rd, so this isn’t a huge steal by that measure, nor is it a massive reach. Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings had Rasanen in the late 60s, but evidently, Mark Hunter and his team liked him enough to take him at 59.

As always, we turn to Kevin Papetti for his take:

Rasanen is essentially the complete opposite of Liljegren. The Leafs take the best skating defenceman in the first round, and one of the worst skating defenceman in the second round. Adding depth on the right side of the blueline continues. This feels somewhat similar to the Andrew Nielsen pick. A big, physical defenceman with some decent offensive tools. He doesn't have to skate like Liljegren or Gardiner to become a NHL regular, but he needs to improve his footwork dramatically

You can check out his stats below. But head over to Elite Prospects to learn how to say his name!

Eemeli Rasanen via Elite Prospects

Season Team League GP G A TP PIM Playoffs GP G A TP PIM
Season Team League GP G A TP PIM Playoffs GP G A TP PIM
2013-2014 Jokipojat U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 7 1 0 1 2
Jokipojat U16 Jr. C Mestis 11 0 9 9 6
Jokipojat U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 13 6 3 9 18
Jokipojat U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 4 0 1 1 0
2014-2015 Jokipojat U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 4 1 4 5 12
Jokipojat U18 Jr. B Mestis 22 8 8 16 16 Playoffs 1 0 0 0 0
Jokipojat U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 15 1 3 4 10 Relegation 3 0 2 2 0
Finland U16 (all) International-Jr 8 0 2 2 4
2015-2016 Ässät U18 Jr. B Mestis Q 7 1 7 8 2
Ässät U18 Jr. B Mestis 8 1 9 10 6
Ässät U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 13 0 3 3 4
Ässät U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 4 0 0 0 4
Finland U17 WHC-17 5 0 0 0 2
2016-2017 Kingston Frontenacs OHL 66 6 33 39 41 Playoffs 11 1 4 5 4
Finland U18 Hlinka Memorial 4 0 1 1 2
Finland U18 WJC-18 6 1 0 1 2
Finland U18 (all) International-Jr 4 0 1 1 2

Finn Prospects have a page on Rasanen, and they have some mixed reviews.

Miika Arponen is tepid with some praise:

Räsänen is a hulking defenseman with a bomb of a shot and a good frame to play physical game. He has relatively good hockey IQ and has decent puck-handling skills to make plays and to join rushes from time to time.

He also mentions that Rasanen has improved his skating of late. But Asko Huuki with a report from the U18 had this to say:

Räsänen clearly likes physical game and he is extremely tough to beat in front of the net. However he often goes out of position when he is trying to make more physical play. Also his skating is a big issue. Räsänen is not slow but he is clumsy and both his acceleration and agility still needs huge amount of work as he has a lot of trouble in transitions.

The expectation is that Rasanen will play an overage year in the OHL. And with this pick, the last piece of the Phaneuf trade is in place.