Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #14: Roby Järventie
The underrated Finn will be entering his fourth year of pro hockey. He just turned 20 years old.
#14: Roby Järventie (Last Year: 18, Reader Rank: 17)
Sens fans have spent most of their summer in dreamland. After nearly five years of relative suffering, focusing on the draft, and finding silver linings, it’s clear that the organization is ready to take the next step. When trade packages have been floating around, names like Jake Sanderson and Shane Pinto have been regarded as nearly untouchable, and it seems like Ridly Greig has joined that elusive group in the consciousness of most fans after a dynamite World Juniors tournament. Hence, one of the prospects often included in those trade proposals is Roby Järventie — the team’s first second-round pick in 2020.
Dorion says five or six names come up in discussions about trades. Ridly Greig, Shane Pinto, Jake Sanderson and Roby Jarventie are among the names that other GM's ask about. Doesn't want to trade any of those guys. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) August 26, 2022
Let’s dive into why Järventie is, in my opinion, rightly included in this group.
To start, as you may already know, Järventie was one of the youngest players selected in the 2020 draft class — a full seven months younger than J.J. Peterka, Sam Colangelo, and Thomas Bordeleau as the next three non-Russian forwards off the board. While most Finnish players complete their draft season in the country’s top U20 league, 16-year-old Järventie had already put up 31 points in 40 games there a year prior, on top of an astonishing 14 goals and 14 assists in 9 games at the U18 level — fourth in league history among players appearing in at least five games. Hence, he spent his draft year playing against men in Finland’s second-tier Mestis, where his 1.06 points-per-game in 36 games played rank second in league history for draft-eligible players who played at least 5 games. He moved up to Ilves’ Liiga squad the year after, producing at a rate comparable to what Alexandre Texier, Mikko Rantanen, Kasperi Kapanen, Joonas Donskoi, and Arrturi Lehkonen did at 18-years-old. The point is this: Järventie’s always been an advanced player for his age with multiple, good top-nine NHLers as his closest companions, so when he moved over to Belleville at the conclusion of his Liiga season and put up three points in his first four games, there was reason to get excited.
Here’s what Belleville Senators head coach Troy Mann had to say about Järventie before the start of this past season in September 2021 (via The Athletic’s Ian Mendes):
[Järventie] was impressive there in that short two or three week window when he came over. And I do think he left Ottawa in late May knowing that the best course of action for his career was to come over here and play. And it’s not easy because he was just turning 19. There’s going to be some growing pains with him, but the talent, the size and shot — he has it all. I’ve said this to a number of people too: I think his release might even be better than Egor Sokolov’s, just in the way that he gets rid of the puck. There are going to be some highs and lows for him and I’m looking forward to watching him in this camp against some NHL calibre talent. The last player I think I coached who was as young as him was Jakub Vrana in the Washington organization. And it’s not easy because there are not a lot of 19-year-olds who can play in the AHL. But we do believe this is the best course of development for Roby, knowing there are going to be some growing pains along the way. But we’re willing to work with him because he has some special talents.
By all accounts, Järventie responded this season. While 33 points in 70 games doesn’t jump off the page at you, he was only one of 23 skaters 19 and under to suit up in an AHL game, and the only player not picked in the first round who produced more was Peterka. 70 games is by far his career high in terms of games played, and as Troy Mann reported to TSN1200 in March, 19-year-old Järventie was one of Belleville’s best forwards down the stretch — helping lead the BSens to their first ever playoff berth.
The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler on Järventie’s 2022 World Juniors performance
For icing on the cake, this past month was Järventie’s best in a Finland jersey, as he was selected as one of the team’s best three players in the tournament by his coaching staff after recording four goals and nine points in seven games at the rescheduled 2022 World Junior Championships.
Over at The Hockey Writers, Tim Chiasson wrote a wonderful breakdown of Järventie’s night-and-day performance from December 2020 to August 2022; the player himself reflected after the tournament how his full season in the AHL helped prepare him for a breakout performance. He noted that his main areas of focus this offseason was continuing to work on his strength and his defensive zone play in order to be a trusted three-zone player.
At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, there will always be people watching who will want Järventie to embrace his frame as a physical menace, but if you spend all of your time considering what he isn’t, you can miss how he utilizes those same gifts as a puck protector, playmaker, and to generate wicked power behind his shot. By my eye, if he can improve his consistency like he hopes to and his strength work adds a gear to his footspeed, he has a ceiling as a top-six forward: a rare proposition in Ottawa’s current prospect pool.
How will we know if he’s on the right path?
- To see if he’s able to shake off his check and get himself into good areas in the offensive zone through a combination of skating improvements and off-puck reads, I will want to see his shot rate improve from 1.8 shots-per-game up to Sokolov’s team-leading 2021-22 rate of 2.67
- To see if he can earn the trust of his coaches, I’ll be looking to see his ice-time go up from his estimated average of around 14 minutes per game (via Pick224)
- To see his confidence on display, I’m hoping his powerplay production can improve from the three goals and six primary assists he put up in 2021-22. /
This will be the first season of Järventie’s career where he’s expected to play against the same level of competition as the year prior. If it’s anything like his performance for Team Finland at the World Juniors, the Senators might have another special player on their hands.