Mikko Rantanen: 2015 NHL Draft’s Top European Prospect

by Eldon MacDonald (edited by @ChrisRalphTHW)

NHL Draft War Room: Mikko Rantanen

Ranked #7 – March 2015 THW’s War Room Rankings

2015 NHL Draft logo

 

  • Hashtag: #TheFinnishHavoc
  • Team: #96, TPS, Liiga
  • Position: Centre/Right Wing
  • Shoots: Left
  • Height: 6’4
  • Weight: 209 lbs.
  • Born: Nousiainen, Finland, 29-Oct-96
  • Twitter: n/a

Stats


 

Other Rankings

  • 7 – SN – Damien Cox, Feb-14 – Top 30
  • 8 – ISS – Top 30, Mar-14
  • 9 – TSN – Bob McKenzie’s Poll of NHL Scouts – Top 60 – Mid, Jan-14
  • 11 – FC – Top 30, Mar-14
  • 12 – McKeens – Top 30, Mar-14
  • 12 – THW – Christopher Ralph, Top 30, Mid, Feb-14
  • 12 – TSN – Craig Button – Top 100, Mar-14
  • 13 – THN – Ryan Kennedy – Top 30, Jan-14
  • 19 – HP – Top 60, Feb-14
  • 19 – NHL Combined – Top 305, Mid, Jan-14

THW’s Draft War Room: The Finnish Havoc

How Much Havoc Can One Finnish Guy Create?

Eldon MacDonald, THW:  A few words on Mikko Rantanen:

The Finnish Havoc – Question: Why do coaches love big guys who run over people (like defensemen), big guys who take parking places (on the ice) not reserved for them (like in front of the net) or big guys who take things others feel belongs to them (like the puck)? Answer: It’s the havoc. Havoc not only creates opportunity it also removes any control the opposition thinks it may have. North American Coaches will absolutely love Mikko Rantanen.

Mikko Rantanen
Mikko Rantanen (Photo: TPS)

Five Reasons Why Mikko Rantanen Will Be the First European Player Chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft

  • Herd Skating: No, opposition defensemen do not have to put an ear to the tundra (tundra derives from the Finnish word, tunturia, meaning treeless plain) to hear Mikko Rantanen approaching. They do, however, sense the shock wave coming as he advances upon them like a herd of reindeer in full flight. They often feel the bruises too as he barrels over them in an all-out, full afterburn drive to the net.
  • Havoc Creator: Take compete, add drive, add size, add reach, add skating prowess, add puck protection, add a need to be in the action and a need to control – take all of that and throw it down low and watch the ensuing havoc develop – Havoc from a net drive, a net presence or a puck battle. It is fun to watch. He doesn’t give up on the play.
  • Domination: Shows that big-man dominance in board and puck battles or in establishing net presence.
  • Leadership: Assistant Captain of TPS at 17 probably tells it all.
  • Team First: Whatever hockey coach or hockey school that gave Mikko the lesson on “Team First” knew what they were doing. I bet Mikko still has the gold star from that lesson.

Offense

  • Vision – Elite.
  • Mental Prowess – Processes the game at a high rate so he can physically play the game at a fast pace and still be control.
  • Skating – Reindeer-like. Reindeer think with their noses, not the eyes. They go with the wind. Mikko also possesses very good agility and the ability for quick stops that he uses to his advantage in working down low.
  • Passing – Physical ability to make great passes and the mental ability to know when and where to make them. A strength.
  • Stickhandling – Mikko uses his size and decent hands to work magic at high speed and in traffic. He also possesses the confidence to execute difficult rushes and has the ability to draw the opposition to him allowing his teammates the get the freedom they need to be open for his passes.

Defense: Does he block shots – yes? Is he good on the forecheck – yes? Will he hold back and assist in the breakout – yes? In short, Mikko is a defensively responsible player that you are happy with in all areas of the ice. Mikko could also be a good player for the PK down the road.

Awards and Achievements

  • 2011-12: Jr B SM-sarja – Bronze Medal
  • 2013-14: IIHF U18 – Team Finland – Top 3 Player
  • 2014-15: IIHF U20 – Team Finland – Top 3 Player

Improvements to make – The first two things coaches will likely ask him to work on when he comes to North America are:

  • Complete your physical domination game – While Mikko can be a wrecking ball in driving through opposition defensemen, he is yet not known for throwing physically imposing checks that the big-boys in North America use to complete the domination and intimidation side to their game.
  • Shoot more – Mikko will need to move from the pass first mentality prevalent in Europe to the more “shoot where possible” mentality of North America. The quality of his shots are good; it is just the quantity that he needs to work on.

NHL Projection: This is the type of guy that every team wants to have as their big power forward that they generally don’t have – big-man size, high energy, high compete, high-end drive to the net, willingness to create havoc along with high-end physical skills. Yes, he will need to learn to deliver punishing body checks but that can come later. I see him as a first line power forward, most likely on the wing.

Draft placement: Those who watched the IIHF World U20 Tournament knows Mikko Rantanen had a great tournament and put himself into contention to be a high draft choice in 2015. However, most thought he would go back to Finland and more or less get lost on a very poor TPS team in the Liiga (top Finnish professional league) and probably not get much ice time anyways so he would eventually drop in the rankings. Nobody could have told Mikko Rantanen this or, if they did, he didn’t listen. What happened was Mikko Rantanen went back to Finland and turned up his game about five notches and became about the only reason to go to TPS games. So instead of falling, Mikko should be rising in the rankings for 2015. I have him in the top 10 at number 7. Most others have him in the 7 to 13 range.

Quotable

  • Quote 1: NHL.com – Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting, “He’s a big, strong and mobile power forward that is always a consistent threat on the ice. He has a combination of hockey sense, smooth hands and an explosive shot. He probably could take better advantage of his size (6-foot-4, 209 pounds) and strength, but overall he’s a smart, two-way forward with good decision-making, reliable and a hard competitor.”
  • Quote 2: TSN.ca – Dennis MacInnis, Scouting Director for ISS, “Big winger, good offensive skills, lots of upside, a great shot. He scored half of Finland’s goals in this tournament (IHHF U20). He really impressed all the scouts.”
  • Quote 3: NHL.com – Adam Kimmelman, NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor, “The 6-4, 209-pound power forward debuted in Liiga last season as a 17-year-old and has excelled there this season. Scouts love his skating, especially for a player of his size. Physical play doesn’t seem to bother him which means he could make a quick adjustment to North American hockey. Was Finland’s best player at World Juniors.”
  • Quote 4: Last Word on Sports – Ben Kerr, “Rantanen is a big player who plays a power forward style of game.  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 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. Rantanen’s skating is decent. He has good top end speed but he can improve his first step and acceleration. He shows good effort at the defensive end and is a solid two-way player.”
  • Quote 5: Aamuset.fi – Ilkka Lappi, “After the World Junior Championships, Rantanen’s game rose to a new level. During the spring part of the season, he has, at times, been the only reason for the fans to stay at the Turkuhallin Arena.” (With assistance from Google translate)

 

Interview

Profiles

  • NHL.com – Mike G. Morreale – 29-Jan-15
  • Draftsite.com – Bill Placzek

Videos

  • Video 1: Sick goal:
YouTube player
  • Video 2: 2015 IIHF U20 Highlights – BigWhite06