Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2015 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2015 Draft Articles Click here.
Mikko Rantanen has spent this season playing for HC TPS Turku in the Finnish Sm-Liiga. The 18-year-old is playing against men in the top hockey league in the country, which should come as no surprise as he was getting called up for games in the league when he was just 16 years old. He put up 9 goals and 28 points in 56 games this season, which was his first full season in the SM-Liiga. When TPS’ season was done he went to the Finnish Junior league scoring 14 points in 7 games and leading his club to the Championships. Add this to the four goals in five games at the World Juniors, five points in five games that he scored at the 2014 Under-18 World Championships, and the three goals and seven points in five games that he scored in the 2013 Ivan Hlinka tournament, and you can see that he is a highly effective offensive forward. With an October birthdate he will not be eligible for this year’s Under 18 tournament, but Rantanen could add to his international resume as there is some talk that he could be part of Team Finland at the 2015 Men’s World Championships depending on who is made available from the NHL. He has already played a pair of exhibition games with the team this season.
Centre/Right Wing — shoots Left
Born Oct 29 1996 — Nousiainen, Finland
Height 6.04 — Weight 209 [193 cm/95 kg]
Mikko Rantanen is a big player who plays a power forward style of game. At six-foot-four he has the ideal size that NHL teams crave. He works extremely hard along the boards and is extremely effective at winning battles in international tournaments in his age group. He may not throw huge hits, but he uses his size effectively in the corners and in establishing position in the offensive zone. He also drives the net hard and can finish in close. He could stand to work on his shot though, as he could use more power but already has a very good release. The added power may come with additional upper body strength. This is not to say that his shot is bad not, its not; but it could be elite with a little work. Rantanen controls the puck well down low on the cycle and has the vision to spot open teammates and the passing skill to feather a tape-to-tape pass through the tiniest of openings. He is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer right now, as he often looks to make the pass instead of taking available shots.
Mikko Rantanen’s skating looks awkward, but is more effective than a first look at his short stand-up stride would indicate it should be. He has good top end speed but he can improve his first step and acceleration, which should come through work with a good skating coach. His agility is good for his size. He could add more power and better balance by improving his stride and adding muscle mass. As he moves to smaller rinks, this will help Rantanen in fighting through checks and driving the net, as well as help him win more board battles against older players. Due to the skating, I believe that Rantanen currently projects as a winger instead of a centre at the pro level. He has played some centre in international tournaments, but is mainly at right wing with his club team.
Mikko Rantanen shows good effort at the defensive end and is a solid two-way player. He backchecks hard, and brings his physicality and grit in all three zones. He can use his long stick and big frame to cut down passing lanes and is not afraid to put his body on the line to block shots. Rantanen reads the play well, and plays smart positional hockey.
Rantanen has the potential to be the elite power forward that every NHL team looks for in the draft. He could be a top line right wing, if he develops properly and reaches his potential. While not a talent comparison, his style is reminiscent of Jakub Voracek.
Below are highlights of Rantanen in action.
Check back tomorrow for the #9 Prospect on My NHL Draft Board.