The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the RawCharge community. Ten writers and 106 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.
Otto Somppi slots into position #23 in our Top 25 Under 25 rankings for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season. If you look at the voting below, you can see that there was one dummy writer who voted Somppi 17th, that was yours truly.
Last year (his Draft+1 season), the 6’1” (plus or minus an inch, depending on who you ask) center looked like a middle-six forward spinning his wheels on an unimpressive 27-win Halifax Mooseheads club. 41 points in 60 games didn’t knock anyone’s socks off, especially in a league where the top forwards touch 100 points in a 68-game schedule. He made the Finnish World Junior roster, but only recorded one goal in five games.
But then, all of a sudden, a switch flipped.
In his final year in the QMJHL, Tampa Bay’s 206th overall, seventh-round pick put up a banner campaign in his D+2 year for the Mooseheads in 2017-18. As the team’s top-line center, Somppi got to play with some great players — namely Detroit’s top pick in the 2018 NHL Draft Filip Zadina — and proved that he can keep up and succeed with players of that caliber. I have a lot of time for players who were drafted in the 200’s and can put up that kind of production.
Somppi helped lead the Mooseheads to a third-place finish in the entire QMJHL with 93 points, a pace of 112 points in an 82-game schedule. Unfortunately, they were ousted by the Charlottetown Islanders in a sweep in only the second round. Somppi was taken out of the playoffs due to an upper-body injury suffered in Halifax’s first playoff game and didn’t return until their last when he recorded a lone assist in the loss.
The Helsinki, Finland native would then leave his junior club and join the Syracuse Crunch who were in the middle of an emotional playoff round against the eventual Calder Cup Champion Toronto Marlies. Somppi got into three games for the Crunch, filling in for injured forward Matthew Peca. In his first game, head coach Benoit Groulx appreciated that Somppi didn’t show any timidness after being thrown into the fire.
“I really liked Otto tonight. I saw him play a little bit during the year because he’s playing with my son [Benoit-Olivier Groulx, Anaheim Ducks]. This was his first game pro, I thought he was fine, I liked the he tried to make plays. For me, that’s the key. You go out there, you’re coming from junior and you try to play hockey. You try to make plays. That’s what you want to see from your young guys.”
The AHL will be a key spot for Somppi next season. He will be surrounded by a young core (unless they all get traded for Erik Karlsson), a coach with extensive experience with young players, and an up-tempo style of play that should suit him nicely. A full season in the weight room and on the ice against men in the second-best professional league in the world will be a great learning experience for a player who has only had to face U20 and under competition before.
Dobber Prospects echoes what I saw this past season while following Somppi’s production in the “Prospects” section of the “Quick Strikes” series. It appears Somppi has done all he can after a consistent season in the QMJHL. The only thing that can turn this seventh-round extra-base hit into a homerun is seeing him replicate a similar level of success in the AHL. I especially love the attitude the contibutor provides when re-telling the story of his season, so I put my favourite quote below.
“In his final Major-Junior rally, Somppi made significant strides as an offensive weapon with the QMJHL’s perennial gold-standard for prospect development, Halifax Mooseheads. The former seventh-round pick was left off of Finland’s World Junior squad and has since made the decision seem extremely foolish, more than doubling his points-per-game rate from his draft+1 campaign. The Lightning will seek to sign the 20-year old this summer so that the Syracuse Crunch can put him to the test against some more developed competition. His trajectory is looking extremely positive, but so is his competition’s on the Lightning farm, a 2020-21 NHL arrival would be realistic in his current standing.”
Below you can find some more of Somppi’s advanced numbers from junior. As you can see, he has top-tier numbers across the board. The only flaw in these numbers is anything that relates to shooting the puck. Long story short, Somppi didn’t have to shoot very much because he had arguably the best trigger-man in the 2018 Draft in Zadina. There is a small dip in goal production, and an even bigger drop in shots on goal in reaction to Zadina’s ridiculous shot metrics. I wouldn’t be too concerned about that because everything else is top-notch, especially his shot location chart.
Somppi is on an upward-trajectory that started last October. It remains to be seen where his development will peak, but for a player who nearly didn’t get drafted to show the potential for an NHL future as an offensive player. This is a win.