A 2020 draft pick, Raivis Ansons returns to our ‘Top 25 Under 25’ countdown for the second straight season, rising seven spots as he prepares to make the leap to the pro game beginning this season.
#12: Raivis Ansons - RW/LW
Age: 20 (January 29, 2002)
Height/Weight: 6’1”/ 190 lbs.
2021 T25U25 Ranking: #19
Acquired Via: Drafted, fifth round 2020
After COVID spoiled most of his prior season, 2020 fifth round draft pick Raivis Ansons returned to the QMJHL this past season and didn’t appear to miss a beat. Splitting time between Baie-Comeau Drakkar and the St. John Sea Dogs, Ansons posted his best season to date and sees himself climb in our rankings.
With Drakkar, Ansons posted 24 points in 19 games, then added another 36 points in 37 games following his move to St. John. He helped the Sea Dogs qualify for the QMJHL playoffs where he recorded five points in as many games.
St. John qualified for the Memorial Cup as hosts where they went on to win the title with Ansons once again providing the offense, posting five points in four games.
This play was eventually changed to an assists for Ansons as the puck bounced off his teammate into the net, but it’s a good demonstration of how he uses his size and speed on the ice to make an impact.
Raivis Ansons with the primary assist here.— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) June 21, 2022
Ansons now has three points (one goal, two primary assists) through two periods in the opening game of the Memorial Cup.
Saint John leads 4-1.pic.twitter.com/Vdm4WpLKoD
Ansons also made a major impact for his native Latvia on the international level last season. In the Division 1 level of the World Juniors, Ansons led his Latvian side to a second overall finish behind Belarus. Due to Belarus being banned from international play following their support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Latvia was promoted over them and into this summer’s delayed World Junior Championships.
During Division 1 play that took place back in December 2021, Ansons tore it up for Latvia, scoring nine points in five games, good to lead his team and for second overall amongst all players. His four goals were tied for most in the round robin tournament.
With Latvia elevated to the top division and the World Junior Championships rescheduled for August, Ansons was expected to play for Latvia and feature as one of their most important players. He was included on their preliminary roster for the tournament but decided against playing in the end.
Most recently, Ansons was in Pittsburgh taking part in the Penguins annual development camp where his performance turned more than a few heads. While he still has some developing left to do, he’s already drawing comparisons to a fellow countryman who is already on the Penguins roster.
Everything I've seen/heard on Raivis Ansons makes him seem like a Teddy Blueger clone turned into a winger.— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) July 14, 2022
Coaches everywhere love him. Director of player development Tom Kostopoulos sounded like he could have talked about Ansons for hours if they let him. https://t.co/67mAzww17P pic.twitter.com/oqUNRwkWPZ
One of the most important figures in Ansons’ future development in the Penguins system will be Director of Player of Development Tom Kostopoulos who, as quoted above, loves what he is seeing from the Latvian.
Listen to @Penguins Director of Player Development Tom Kostopoulos talk about prospect Raivis Ansons, who recently won the Memorial Cup and could be suiting up for #WBSPens in the near future.— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) July 18, 2022
More coverage from the recently completed development camp: https://t.co/FUNL1Y5SGq pic.twitter.com/WLaNlKbEQR
Now that his time at the junior level is done, Ansons will take the next step in his development by turning pro for the upcoming season. Ansons signed his first pro contract with the Penguins back in May prior to winning the Memorial Cup. It’s three-year entry level deal that runs through the 2024-25 season.
It’s expected he will begin the season at the AHL level with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and likely remain there as his game continues to develop and he becomes more comfortable at the pro level.
While he did post solid offensive numbers at the junior level, the key to his success at the pro level will be defense, similar to what his countrymate Blueger has done in his time with the Penguins.
It seems kind of lazy to compare him to fellow Latvian Teddy Blueger just based on their common heritage, but there is a path to the NHL that Blueger blazed which Ansons can follow.
That’s to say he can use his large frame and skating ability to establish himself as a defensive presence in the NHL and find work as a bottom-six forward capable of playing either wing. Blessed with some size and strength, he is fierce on the walls with regard to puck battles.
While he has put up solid numbers in the junior ranks, he’s not skilled enough to become a top-six winger as a professional. Defense will be his path to the NHL.
This coming season will be one of growth and development for the young Latvian who is hoping to make an impact at the NHL level not only for himself, but for his country as well. Though they carry a proud hockey history, the list of native Latvian players to make it to the highest level is short.
Ansons relishes the opportunity to be the next one.
“That would mean a lot,” Ansons said. “There’s not a lot of Latvian players. Just kind of take pride if you’re here. You have to work hard to get here. … They’re all hard workers. They’re just doing their thing, making it happen. They make you proud to be a Latvian.”
This marks the second time Ansons has made our countdown since being drafted back in 2020, and his seven spot jump from last year makes him the biggest mover on this year’s list.
Given what we have seen from Ansons this past season and the hype building around him, it’s no surprise to see him climb in our rankings. Let’s hope he can keep climbing all the way to the NHL in the coming years.