Today's profile is on center/right wing Mikko Rantanen from TPS of the Finnish Liiga.
Mikko Rantanen, Center/Right Wing, 6'4", 209lbs, Shoots Left
Mikko Rantanen is another hot prospect coming out of Finland following in the footsteps of Aleksander Barkov, Kasperi Kapanen and others. He's a big player and while he isn't a Canadian style power forward he knows how to use his body to protect the puck.
His natural size acts as a compliment to his extremely skilled play. He still uses the size to crash the net but he has much more in his arsenal. Rantanen has also shown he can dangle his way through the opposition, and regularly displayed his skills in the Liiga. At the World Junior Championships he also made a mark on the tournament.
He's also shown a high level of awareness on the ice and general smart play. He knows where to be on the ice and where to put the puck. His awareness and his hands make him more of a playmakers than a goal scorer.
The two areas of weakness in Rantanen's game are his skating and his defensive play. It's been noted that his skating isn't particularly good and it means that he can't get around the ice as quickly as other players. It isn't a particularly unusual issue for young players of his size to have but it's something that will need to be refined if he wants to make it in the NHL.
The second area is his defensive game, there are mixed reports on this but generally it seems that most agree that it needs work. He shows the effort to help out defensively but whether that actually translates into good defensive play is debatable. Improving his skating will help that but it is still an element of his game that needs work.
What is impressive about Mikko Rantanen is the fact that he has stepped up into a tough adult league, the Liiga, at the age of 16 and hasn't really missed a step. He performed well in his rookie season as a 16-year-old and his draft season he is only going up. While there might be flaws in his overall game to do what he has done at his age in that league is particularly impressive.
It's also worth noting that he's among the older prospects in the draft, with an October birthday. He's got a few more months of development and growth on other prospects who are in the draft.
The Stars have gone to Finland regularly in the draft the past few years, though they've mostly drafted defenseman from the Finnish leagues. Rantanen has a lot going for him with a rare combination of size and skill that isn't common.
Rantanen is likely to be drafted within the top ten though it is possible that he might drop down to the teens. I don't think it is hugely likely unless players like Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor and Travis Konecny get taken late in the top ten. If he is still on the board at 12 I think the Dallas Stars would be very tempted, unless there was a player still available that they had set their heart on.
What do they say around the internet:
A strong three-zone playmaker who is also defensively responsible...has an awkward upright skating stride, but gets from Point A to Point B just fine...not a big "wow" factor to his game, but is a smooth, fluid, big-bodied forward who can be hard to handle...uses his strength and reach, along with his vision and hands, to protect the puck...has good instincts when to pass and when to hold...puck seems to follow him around the ice...good in his own zone and consistently makes himself available for a breakout pass...has impressive hockey sense and awareness...needs to work on his shot and add more muscle mass to his growing frame.
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.