Plays a great physical game . His outlet passes are much better this year with far more thought put into them. His defensive zone coverage and coverage in front of the net are greatly improved now that we are rid of Housley and his flawed system. Analytics are a tool and helpful but not the only thing to be considered when judging a player
The outlet pass point is interesting. The public stats for zone exits haven't been tracked for a significant amount of games yet this year, but the immediate Corsi numbers are not impressive. (Corsi does a good job estimating moving the puck up the ice, as teams very scarcely log shot attempts from their own zone.) He's last on the team in relative CF%, which would be an indicator that his transition game still needs a ton of work. He's 2nd to last in relative CF/60 and 7th from the bottom in relative CA/60, so the bulk of that is coming from being a drag on offence. Teammate effects probably play a decent part of that, but there isn't a ton of evidence that his teammates are the issue. Jake McCabe's been his most common partner, and their usages are similar, but McCabe's done better overall by on-ice metrics despite having to split his non-Risto time between Dahlin (good) and Scandella (less good), while Risto's non-McCabe time has been mostly Dahlin.
Looking at data from previous years, Risto's historically not had issues entering the offensive zone (his numbers there have usually been average), but exiting the dzone has been a major issue. If that's better this year then he might be due for a breakthrough, but given that most of his on-ice numbers have gotten worse (though with somewhat tougher usage, optimistically we can call it a wash), there's a lot to be said that he's still similar overall. Maybe more passing success but less success carrying it out of the zone in terms of breakouts (this might also fit with improved defensive numbers).
His net-front coverage does actually show up in some of the stats. His xGA RAPM (accounts for shot quality, which is predominantly driven by location) has historically outperformed his CA. His high danger numbers have usually been in line with the team's despite reasonably tough assignments and this year they have improved a lot. So the net front coverage is definitely there, and it has gotten better this year.
The big issue for Risto on D has been defending the blueline. Historically, he's been easier to get an entry with possession on than 80+% of NHL defensemen, which is really bad. Conceding the zone like that gives the opposing offence tons of chances to set up and start generating chances, and has been demonstrated to be one of the worst things a blueliner can do for their defensive results. Playing well in the dzone is good, but not playing in the dzone is always preferable to playing in the dzone, no matter how well, and Risto struggles to avoid getting pinned in there.
On the face of it, I'd say Risto has improved his already strong coverage in front of the net this year, using his physicality effectively to deny high-danger chances to the opposition. However, he struggles to use that physicality to deny the opposition the ability to enter the zone and struggles to escape the zone once they've set up. This means that what he provides in limiting high-danger chances is washed away in an avalanche of low and medium-danger chances for the opposition, making him a minus player on the aggregate.
He's got real talent in the offensive zone, and especially on the powerplay, where he's a legitimately fantastic player. His defensive game has a lot of flash, with big hits and skill in tight, but his less-noticeable issues in transition are his undoing at 5v5. With sheltering, he could be an excellent PP specialist and bottom-4 piece, especially with a partner who exits the zone well. I don't think top-pair talent is realistic unless he fixes at least one of his exit game or his entry denial. Maybe he's making some strides on the exit side, but it doesn't really look like it's come together yet.
Thanks for the answer!