Here is what you need to know about top-ranked international prospect Mikko Rantanen.
Age on June 26: 18
Birthplace: Nousiainen, Finland
Current team: TPS Turku, Liiga
Position: Right wing
Weight: 211 pounds
NHL Central Scouting rank (international players): 1st
Marek’s Take: Played on an underachieving WJC Team Finland and poor club team in his home country, but was still able to produce. Already has NHL size and a pro release on his shot. Consistent compete level. Big winger who can finish who also draws a lot of penalties because he works hard. Comparable: James van Riemsdyk
Mikko Rantanen can hurt you in a number of ways.
First and foremeost, he’s huge. At 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds, Rantanen already has NHL size. His big frame and long reach allows him to dominate puck battles along the boards and shield the puck from defenders.
But despite his large stature Rantanen isn’t your typical north-south power forward. More playmaker than trigger man, Rantanen’s slick hands, vision and high-end hockey sense make him a dangerous player with the puck on his blade.
Here’s one example of that skill on display:
This is what director of European Scouting Goran Stubb had to say:
“He’s a big, strong, mature, mobile two-way power forward who protects the puck very well, has a great reach and is very strong in battles along the boards and in the corners,” Stubb told NHL.com. “He’s very close to being the complete package.”
The biggest knock on Rantanen, according to most scouts, is that he doesn’t make full use of his size.
Rantanen also needs to improve his shot and, like most big, young players, his skating needs work but he’s made significant strides in that area over the last few years.
In a Liiga of his own
Rantanen already has three years of pro experience under his belt after cutting his teeth with TPS as a 16-year-old. This past season, Rantanen finished second on his team in scoring with 28 points (9-19) in 56 games despite averaging only 16:14 of ice time. That production was tops among all under-20 players in the league.
“Rantanen is in a class of his own at present in Europe,” said Stubb.
As good as he was playing against men in the Finnish League, Rantanen really stood out when facing off against players his own age.
The top-ranked international skater has represented Finland four times on the international stage, and each time he has been first or second in team scoring. He has 24 points in 19 games while wearing his country’s colours.
At the world juniors this past winter, Rantanen’s four goals in five games accounted for half of Finland’s goal production in the tournament.
Comparing players across years is difficult because of the unique circumstances each individual faces. Ice time, quality of competition and linemates and puck luck, among other things, all factor into a player’s production in a given year.
It’s also important to remember that while goals and points are obviously important, they aren’t the only way to measure a player’s impact on the game or his future potential.
So with that in mind, here’s a look at how Rantanen’s numbers stack up to recent first-round picks who played their draft year in the Finnish league:
Mikko Rantanen: nine goals and 28 points in 56 games
Aleksander Barkov (second overall in 2013): 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games.
Joel Armia (16th overall in 2011): 18 goals and 29 points in 48 games.
Mikael Granlund (ninth overall in 2010): 13 goals and 40 points in 43 games.
The more you know…
Of the 182 Finnish players in the NHL, Rantanen could become the first to hail from the small southwest town of Nousiainen, population 4,835.