ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida on June 26-27. Mikko Rantanen is the No. 1-ranked European skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the 10th overall selection at the draft.
Mikko Rantanen is expected to be a high selection in the upcoming 2015 NHL Draft. He’s an athlete who established himself as the clear favorite among European skaters by being a good all-around player.
"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," said Goran Stubb, director of European scouting for NHL Central Scouting. "He's very close to being the complete package.
"Rantanen is in a class of his own at present in Europe. After Mikko you can pick almost anyone for the next spots."
This past season, Rantanen skated for TPS in the Finnish Elite League (Liiga). As an alternate captain on the squad, he totaled nine goals and 19 assists over the course of 56 games.
When the season came to an end, Rantanen joined the TPS junior club to help them in the postseason, and he did that and more. The team went on to win the league championship and Rantanen tallied six goals and eight assists in only seven games. The league also named the young Finnish skater the Best Player of the playoffs.
Prior to the 2015 World Junior Championship, Rantanen didn’t have much experience skating on a smaller rink, but that didn’t stop him from carrying his team the best he could. In five games, he finished with four of Finland’s eight goals at the tournament.
"I learned lot of things playing at World Juniors," Rantanen said to NHL.com. "The game is different on a smaller rink and things happen faster so the game is fast too. I also learned that I have to shoot the puck more from tiny angles."
Stubb said he was impressed by Rantanen’s play in the competition.
"I thought Mikko was the best player on the Finnish team," Stubb said. “His four goals [in the tournament] and effective overall play at World Juniors also proved that he certainly is one of the top prospects in Europe this year."
With a 6-foot-4 frame and weighing 211 pounds, the left-shot forward is not someone to sleep on when he is at the rink because he can make an impact at any point during a game.
"He's… always a consistent threat on the ice," Stubb said of NHL Central Scouting’s No. 1-rated European skater. "He has a combination of hockey sense, smooth hands and an explosive shot. He probably could take better advantage of his size and strength, but overall he's a smart, two-way forward with good decision-making, reliable and a hard competitor."
One hockey player that Rantanen liked to pay attention to as he grew up was former Colorado Avalanche forward and Hockey Hall of Fame member Peter Forsberg. He admired Forsberg’s complete game and tried to mimic what he did out on the ice.
"He was the one NHL player I enjoyed to watch," Rantanen said. "He was such an all-around player, a very strong skater and very skilled. I really liked him."
The young forward has room to grow in all aspects of his game, just like any other potential pick in the upcoming draft. But with promising size and skill, whichever team selects him will have a great young prospect moving forward.