HELSINKI – Remember Christian Ruuttu? He was a feisty centre with mostly the Buffalo Sabres and the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1980s and 1990s. He played in eight World Championships for Finland, won two silver medals, and led the team in scoring in the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups.
Famous fathers are often very careful about giving their offspring space to be their own people. That’s easier when the son doesn’t follow in the father’s footprints.
With Alexander and Christian it’s more difficult, because Alexander has chosen the same profession, and because Christian is such a big character in Finnish hockey. And things didn’t get easier when the Phoenix Coyotes drafted Alexander in the second round, 51st overall last summer.
Because at the time, Christian was the Coyotes’ Head European Scout.
To give Alexander more space, and a clean slate to work with, Christian resigned from his post, and is now scouting for the Los Angeles Kings.
Being the son of a famous player surely has its upside - genes come to mind - but there’s also the enhanced scrutiny, and people second guessing whether you’re really as good as they say, or whether the old man’s pulling in some favours.
Not that Alexander Ruuttu has to worry about that. He doesn’t need any favours, the way he’s been playing recently. While he hasn’t been able to secure a regular spot on the Jokerit Helsinki SM-liiga roster, he’s shown he can play at a high level in Mestis, the second-tier league, and has been excellent in the junior league, collecting 14 points in ten games.
And his curve has been upward all season, since an illness sidelined him for weeks early on.
“It was some sort of stomach bacteria, and I was out for three weeks. I lost seven kilos, but I’ve gained it all back, and I’m now back at where I should I be,” he told IIHF.com.
Seven kilos is a lot for a 187-centimetre, 82-kilo young man. Especially for somebody who already said he wants to get stronger.
But he’s back now, and he’s playing well. He’s only recorded 11 games with the big club, scoring one goal, but in his ten games with Kiekko-Vantaa, a Helsinki region club in Mestis, he’s scored 2+6=8 points, and averages over 17 minutes of ice time.
“I’ve become a better player this season, thanks to getting to play a lot in Kiekko-Vantaa, even if I haven’t played much with Jokerit,” he says.
“The next step is to grab that spot in the Jokerit line-up, but I just haven’t been able to do that yet,” he adds.
All in all, the players on the U20 national team have played hundreds of SM-liiga games in total, something head coach Raimo Helminen considers important. In players like Markus Granlund, Joel Armia, Joonas Donskoi, and especially players like Mikael Granlund and Teemu Pulkkinen, both established Finnish league players - and Granlund a superstar and a national hero - the team has the leadership it needs to compete.
And Ruuttu, even if he’s entering his first World Juniors. Last year, Alexander spent his Xmas holidays at home, watching the World Juniors on television.
“I said to myself that next time, I wanted to play in the tournament. Getting there has been one of the main goals of my season,” he says.
There’s something he knows about the tournament from watching TV.
“From what I’ve seen on television, the pace of the game is really fast there, it’s as fast as in the SM-liiga. Also, the tournament is played in a small rink which makes it even more straightforward. There’s no time for drop passes and such,” Ruuttu told Finnish YLE.
One of his main goals in sight, he’s looking forward to be playing on Canadian soil.
“It’s going to be an amazing event, especially with the tournament held in Edmonton and Calgary, two legendary hockey cities,” he tells IIHF.com.
“And we want to win every game,” he adds, and nods.
Spoken like a real... Ruuttu.Notebook:
- Former Finnish national team (and U20 national team) head coach Hannu Aravirta and Kärpät Oulu have agreed to use the option in Aravirta’s contract, giving him an extension over 2012-13. “It was easy because we had agreed on everything, so I just had to make sure it felt right. And it did,” Aravirta said.
- Tappara signed Canadian defenceman Brett Skinner. The Brandon, Manitoba native has played 11 games with the New York Islanders in the NHL, but started this season with Iserlohn in the German DEL.
- Espoo Blues forward Mika Hannula is out 3-4 weeks with a knee injury he suffered in the last game against Ässät Pori just before the international break. Hannula started his season with MODO in the Swedish Elitserien, and signed with the Blues in late November. He has one goal and six points in his eight games with the Espoo club.