The signing of the Chicago Blackhawks’
top prospect Tuomo
Ruutu yesterday brings them a step closer to finally reaping benefits from
drafts under GM Mike Smith. Drafted
ninth overall in 2001, Ruutu is the first player
in a decade
that the fans will be able to see a young player who they can be excited about.
The contract negotiations took a long time this summer, but with them finally
over, the question now is what Ruutu’s immediate impact will be on the team.
What does Tuomo Ruutu bring to the Hawks?
He has great upper body strength. When playing against players of his own
age, he is able to move them, control where he wants to go on offense, and win
battles along the walls, corners, and in front while skating around and through
He understands all phases of the game. He thinks defense, but attacks
whenever in the offensive zone. He barrels in, looking for the unfortunate
defenseman who might be in the corner with the puck, and buries them.
He is versatile. Besides playing center, Ruutu can easily move to either
He is a good special teams player. He killed penalties from the
forward position but blocked more shots than any defenseman. He is up and right
into the play afterward, never missing a beat.
On the power play, he can play anywhere, and has spent time on the point, not
necessarily as a gun, but as a moving quarterback, and you never know where he
is going with the puck.
He is the all around package. The Blackhawks weakness is that many of their forwards lack size, or skill, or
finesse, and do not bring the “whole package” when they step on the
ice. Ruutu is a solid 200 pound, 6’2″ 20-year-old who does.
With time he may be a dominating presence.
Although many Europeans spend time in the AHL before breaking into the NHL, in
Ruutu’s case that is unlikely, especially since the Hawks are in need of
immediate help. As for what line he plays on for the Blackhawks, he will start out
playing wherever Coach Sutter plays him, but he will have more duties added very
quickly. If Tyler Arnason is considered the second line center, he will be looking
over his shoulder very quickly as this Ruutu has many of the attributes and
skills that the Hawks are praying Arnason is willing to develop.
Ruutu is a special player, but it’s unrealistic to expect superstar numbers early. That will
come after years of demonstrating he can continually play the style he already
does, as well as stay healthy.
Ruutu’s contract will pay him a base salary of $1.1 million and up to an extra $3 million the first year, if individual performance bonuses are met. If over the three years of the contract, he meets all individual bonuses, the contract reaches $13 million dollars, and tops out if at $15 million if he is picked for the All-Star game in each year.