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NHL Draft: Rantanen enjoying the moment as draft day awaits

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

The days leading up to the NHL Draft, which takes place this weekend from the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., are exciting yet nerve-wrecking for the young prospects. With one call of their name, everything in their lives will change.

Although there's plenty of rumors and speculation, no one player has absolute certainty over which team will pick him. For many players, having family and friends by their side can help eliminate the stress and make for a more enjoyable experience.

Finnish prospect Mikko Rantanen, from TPS Turku of the Finnish Liiga, said spending time with his support system in Florida has helped him keep his mind off of the distraction and magnitude of the draft.

“I think family and friends will help with that,” Rantanen said. “They are here, too, so hanging with them helps me to forget this pressure, but it’s nice to be here.”

Rantanen, a highly skilled right-winger in the power forward mold, is expected to be amongst the first 10-15 players selected on Friday night. NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the No. 1 European skater coming into the draft, rising from second position on the midterm rankings.

Despite the high ranking, the 6-foot-4, 196-pound Rantanen said it would be a restless Thursday night for him in anticipation of the big day ahead.

“(I’m) pretty nervous,” Rantanen said. “I think this evening too, (it will be) hard to get sleep and tomorrow is big day for me and once in a lifetime, so I’m excited.”

“It’s nice city and it’s been long waiting to tomorrow, so I’ve been exciting and finally speculation is over and tomorrow, we get the results.”

Although he is unsure of which team will select him, Rantanen said he doesn’t want to make any guesses or over-think the situation.

“I don’t know, actually,” he said. “It comes when it comes and I don’t want to think about too much. (I) just try to be relaxed and enjoy it.”

But, he said, once he is chosen, that’s when the real work starts.

“I think tomorrow I will know the team and what it is and then working starts,” Rantanen said. “It’s only the first step and you have to keep working to be an NHL player. You just have to work hard.”

Some of his role models? Finnish NHL players Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula.

“Those are the players I like to follow and they’re great players,” Rantanen said. “So I try to learn from them.”

Rantanen is 18 years old, but it's safe to say he's on the right track to following in his favorite players' footsteps. Rantanen said playing in the Finnish league against established professionals for two years was a good experience, one that helped improve his game.

“I’m confident about this summer and how I have worked,” Rantanen said. “I know NHL is a tough league and the best league in world, but my goal is to train so hard that I will be ready to fight (for a roster spot) and I will do everything I can to be there.”

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