Mikko Rantanen combines size, skill, skating, vision and hockey intelligence, which would make him an ideal fit for the Flyers. Chris Pryor, director of scouting for the Flyers, is high on the 6’4” 211 pound forward, who can play both the center and wing position, on either side.
So will the Flyers call Rantanen’s name when Hextall steps up to the podium to make the 7th pick of the draft? Let’s take a closer look.
Rantanen, ranked as the top international skater by CSS, has been playing in TPS, Findland’s top league, since he was 16. Translation: he has been playing against men far out of his age bracket for two years. He has definitely held his own. He is patient with the puck and he uses his exceptional size and reach when shielding the puck with his body.
And he’s very fast. He has been known to draw penalties from players who have to compensate for his speed. Of course, it’s a much faster game at the NHL level. To me, the biggest concern with Rantanen is that he does not take full advantage of his big, physical frame. “I should hit more and use my body more. I am a physical player who is good at protecting the puck. I should hit more. That’s something I want to improve,” he mentioned to CSN Philly’s Russ Cohen.
SCOUTING REPORT (via Elite Prospects)
“An exceptionally talented playmaker and always a consistent threat on the ice; Rantanen is a combination of elite-level hockey sense, silky smooth hands, and nimble skating. Needs to improve his shot and physical play, as he doesn’t take advantage of his size in many situations. All-in-all, an intelligent, big-bodied forward that oozes skill.”
ACCOLADES (via NHL.com)
“Rantanen, known for his playmaking ability, skated this season for TPS of the Finnish Elite League, where he recorded 9-19—29 in 56 games as an alternate captain. He also played for the club’s junior team in the playoffs, recording 6-8—14 in seven games en route to a league championship and Playoffs Best Player honors.
Internationally, Rantanen has represented Finland at the 2015 World Junior Championship (4-0—4 in 5 GP) and the 2014 Under-18 World Junior Championship (3 2—5 in 5 GP) and was named a Top Three Player on his team in both tournaments. He recorded seven points (3-4—7) in five games to lead Finland at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial and seven points (2-5—7) in five games at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Video here.
He patterns his style of play after Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Mikko Koivu of the Minnesota Wild.”
DRAFT DAY DECISION
Of the prospects we have profiled the past two weeks, all of them will be available when it’s the Flyers’ turn at the podium. The difference with Rantanen and the final prospect we will highlight on Thursday is that they very well might be off the board by the time the Flyers are set to make their selection.
A big advantage to selecting Rantanen is that he is not affiliated with any CHL team, so he can play for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms next year, if he doesn’t make the club out of training camp and does not return to Finland. This is a long shot, of course, given that Hextall prefers that prospects develop fully before making the big club. Rantanen is projected to be NHL ready by the 2017-18 season.
There’s no doubt that Rantanen fills the Flyers organizational need, as he comfortably plays both center and either wing. I can see Rantanen playing on the wing with Giroux and Voracek or opposite of Wayne Simmonds on the second line, and my head starts spinning.
Hextall and the Flyers have said that the team will take the best player available, and if the top two defensemen are gone by the time the Flyers pick at seven, there’s no doubt that the best available player will be Rantanen.
See Rantanen’s highlight reel here.