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Finland's Rantanen put on show at World Juniors

by Mike G. Morreale

Finland didn't do much celebrating at the conclusion of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

After winning a gold medal at the 2014 WJC, Finland struggled to find any level of consistency at this year's tournament and finished seventh.

However, forward Mikko Rantanen made quite the impression as one of the youngest players on the team.

In the eyes of some scouts, the 18-year-old left-shot right wing was Finland's best player. He had four of Finland's eight goals at the WJC, and proved to be fast, energetic and reliable player at each end of the ice for Finland.

"I thought Mikko was the best player on the Finnish team," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told "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."

Mikko Rantanen is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of international skaters. (Photo: Getty Images)

Rantanen is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of international skaters eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.

"I can't really think about my game at the tournament since we lost the last game and were out of the medal round," Rantanen said following a 6-3 loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals. "It's a team game. I was told I'm sometimes too much of a passer; I should probably shoot more."

Rantanen took 13 shots on goal in five games, and played mostly on a line with Juuso Ikonen and Roope Hintz.

"I learned lot of things playing at World Juniors," Rantanen said. "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."

Rantanen rejoined TPS in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, three days after the loss to Sweden and resumed his top-line role, and scored a goal in his first game back. In 37 games with TPS he has four goals and 15 points, and despite his age is an alternate captain.

"He's a big, strong and mobile power forward that is always a consistent threat on the ice," Stubb said. "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."

It's amazing to think Rantanen was able to gain that competitive edge growing up with two sisters in Nousiainen, a province of Western Finland. Rantanen is the middle child, with older sister Laura and younger sister Noora.

"Growing up with two sisters was pretty funny I think," Rantanen said. "We're still very close and I think a big reason for that is because we have all been involved in sports as kids.

"But there was a lot teasing going on; I think me and Laura teased Noora a little bit more because she was the youngest but she understands why we did it and is not bitter anymore."

Rantanen began playing on outdoor rinks with his sisters when he was 3 years old, and began playing hockey when he was 4.

"I've always been a forward, either a wing or center," he said. "I just had to learn how to use my size to an advantage. It's something I know I need to get accustomed to doing at the next level."

Rantanen studied with great interest Hockey Hall of Fame member Peter Forsberg. Despite being a rival Swede, Forsberg was a player Rantanen looked to emulate as a youngster.

"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."


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