If you want to know Sampo Ranta’s story, just look at his ink. The left winger has an impressive array of tattoos on his left arm, and the meanings behind them are pretty interesting. For example, he has all his career jersey numbers. There’s a lion and also a fraternity-style symbol that he and a couple close friends all have to show their bond. He also has a series of numbers that represent the latitude and longitude of significant towns in Ranta’s life: Naantali, Finland, is his hometown; Salzburg, Austria, is where he played for Red Bull Academy’s under-18 team; and Sioux City, Iowa, is where he played for the USHL’s Musketeers for two seasons. In his second year with the Musketeers, he caught the eye of the Avalanche, who took him in the third round of the 2018 draft.
Now, Ranta is in his second year at the University of Minnesota. He’s the second Finn to play for the program – Erik Haula was the first – and Ranta was pretty good as a freshman, notching 16 points in 36 games. “It’s a great league and a tough league to play in,” Ranta said. “A lot of skill, a lot of speed. For me, it’s a great place to be. I have a big body with good skating, so I can play my game there. It’s a good step to go from college to the NHL.”
A growing number of Europeans are choosing the NCAA for development, and although the academic side of the equation has sidetracked a few, Ranta was in an American high school for two years in Sioux City, which helped him get the requisite grades.
The key for Ranta is to add more offense to his game, because he certainly has the size and skill. He came achingly close to a spot on Finland’s gold-medal team from the 2019 world juniors, and he’s ready for his shot this year. “I was the last cut last year,” Ranta said. “It was tough. I was in Victoria for the first three games. It took a few weeks to get over, but it happens. That’s hockey. I want to be a huge player for the team this year.” – Ryan Kennedy