Christian Ruuttu

Christian Ruuttu was quietly overlooked as one of the finest players to ever come out of Finland. He played in relative obscurity in small market Buffalo where he battled for ice time up the middle with the likes of Pierre Turgeon and Benoit Hogue. And despite his fine package of skills, determination and desire, Ruuttu never was able to post the numbers that many thought he should have been capable of.

The bucket-headed Ruuttu was not your stereotypical 1980's Finnish hockey player. He was an exuberant physical player who worked hard on every shift. He was a fine defensive player as well. His quickness and endurance made him not only a tremendous forechecker, but a penalty killer as well. A face-off specialist, Ruuttu combined savvy intelligence and a lunch pail work ethic to excel defensively.

Christian was never able to find the offensive game that the Sabres had hoped he could provide. He had a good start to his career, scoring 22 goals and 65 points as a rookie while improving in year two with a career high 26 goals and 71 points. Injuries shortened Christian's season in 1988-89 but he still had 60 points in 67 games. However he would never really regain solid offensive numbers after that as his coaches used him more for his great defensive instincts more than anything else.

Why wasn't Ruuttu able to produce better numbers? The depth chart had something to do with it for sure, as Turgeon, Hogue and later Dale Hawerchuk grabbed most of the offensive ice time. Christian was also more of a play-maker than a goal scorer, and often would overhandle the puck while waiting to make a picture perfect pass rather than just shoot at the net himself. That was his one particular "European flaw."

Drafted 139th overall by the Sabres in 1983, Ruuttu earned much respect as an NHLer in 6 seasons in Buffalo. He was traded to Chicago in 1992 where he played 2 1/2 seasons before finishing his NHL career as a serviceable center in 25 games with the Vancouver Canucks. He totaled 134 goals and 298 assists for 432 points in 621 games.

Christian continued to play hockey after his NHL days. He spent one year in Sweden before going back to Finland. Christian, who represented Finland in 2 World Junior Championships, 8 World Championships and 3 Canada/World Cups, ranks high among the greatest Finnish hockey players ever produced.


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