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Draft Central Player Profile: Mikko Rantanen

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

While the McDavid/Eichel head-to-head has been fun for prospect watchers, there hasn't been much doubt over the top name in Europe. Big forward Mikko Rantanen is far and away the top European prospect heading into the 2015 Draft.

Rantanen made the most of his season as an 18-year-old on TPS' senior SM-Liiga squad. He was second on his team in scoring with nine goals and 28 points playing against men on a team that finished 13th in a 14 team league. He led all U-20 players in scoring across Finland's top circuit. When he joined TPS' U-20 squad for their playoff campaign he was dominant, recording six goals and 14 points in just seven games.

At the international level, Rantanen has been a staple for Finland since reaching the U-16 level. Despite a disappointing showing from the Finnish side at this past year's World Juniors, he was a top performer. In five games he recorded four goals for his country and was named a top three player on the team.

The potential for Rantanen to develop into a true top-six power forward is what makes him such an exciting prospect. He stands at roughly 6-foot-4 and weighs 209 pounds, giving him a solid frame. That size coupled with his offensive instincts make him a natural playmaker from the right wing. He protects the puck well when he has it and competes in puck battles to win it back when he's in the defensive end of the rink.

A primary area for Rantanen to improve is his physicality. He leverages his frame to protect the puck well but could stand to do more to use his size as an advantage, particularly once he's playing on a smaller surface. Extra time spent working on his strength will be a key focus to truly maximize his natural ability. Additional focus on his shooting would also fully round out his offensive game at the next level.

Expect Rantanen to be selected in the top half of the first round.

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