Welcome to our first player profile for the 2015 Draft. There will be several of these coming in the near future and leading up to the draft. Each profile will document a 2015-draft eligible player that the Panthers could pick based on their likely draft position.
Today, we’ll highlight Mikko Rantanen, a right-winger for TPS of the Finnish Elite League (Liiga). Read on for a look at the number one ranked European skater in this year’s draft.
Another draft year, and yet another Finnish forward is projected to go somewhere near the beginning of the first round, anywhere from 6th or 7th or 11th or 12th depending on how the top 10 pans out (and which mock draft you look at). Last year saw forward Kasperi Kapanen sit as the #1 European skater, and the year before that had Florida’s own Aleksander Barkov go #2 overall. This year, it’s right-winger Mikko Rantanen.
Rantanen played 4 years of junior hockey and all with TPS, starting with the U16 team. He averaged just about a point per game during his U16 and U18 career and just under that pace as a U20 player with TPS. Rantanen made his Liiga debut during the 2012-13 season with TPS and totaled 3 points in 15 games before heading back to the U20 junior team where he put up 24 points in 35 games. The 18-year-old would go on to play 37 games for TPS during the 2013-14 season, however he only put up 9 points, and he again went back to the U20 junior team where he tallied 18 points in 17 games.
This year, Rantanen was the assistant captain of TPS and the second leading scorer with 28 points in 56 games (9 goals, 19 assists), which is pretty good considering TPS finished the season with a dismal record of 17-32-3-8 (wins-losses-overtimes wins-overtime losses). At the conclusion of the season, he returned to the U20 junior team for the playoffs where he notched 14 points in 7 games with a +9 rating. Playing for the Finnish U18 national team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament last year, he lead the team with 7 points in 4 games, which is one more point than Panthers’ 2014 3rd round draft pick Juho Lammikko. Rantanen sat third in the entire tournament, although he played one less game that the two players above him. Rantanen also participated in this year’s World Junior Championship U20 tournament and was arguably the best player for Finland. He scored 4 goals in the 5 games he played, which led the team in goals and points (4). No other player on the team scored more than 1 goal, and he was also tied for 2nd in the entire tournament in goals behind guys like Curtis Lazar, Sam Reinhart, and Max Domi (each had 5).
Skill-wise, Rantanen comes as advertised as well. He’s got a large frame, measuring in at 6’4″, 209 pounds, and he uses it well, whether it be by shielding the puck or by getting past defenders. He likes to drive hard to the net, and his size helps him accomplish this. Despite his size, he’s a surprisingly good skater with average speed and quick hands which makes him an asset around the goal line and in the corners. Many have said that he’s the winger version of Aleksander Barkov in that he’s got a high hockey IQ with good vision and plays a strong defensive game. His shot isn’t overpowering but it certainly isn’t weak, however, he doesn’t use it as often as you’d like him to. He is effective on the forecheck and has been used on the penalty kill often. Overall, he’s flown a bit under the radar and could easily go top 8, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he fell to around 10th or 11th. The Panthers are without a doubt looking to add to their right wing depth, so Rantanen should most certainly be near the top of their list.