Who Is Mikko Rantanen?

Earlier today, Juha Hiitelä of Ilta Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, reported about a rumour that the Leafs brought Mikko Rantanen, the highest rated European player in this draft, to Toronto for an interview. According to the article, which took some time to translate into English mind you, said that the team brought Rantanen for an interview and a tour of the ACC and MasterCard Center, as well as a meet with some personnel before returning to Finland

While this rumour sounded intriguing to me, it brought about the question: were the Leafs doing their jobs or were they interviewing their newest player?

What Has He Done?

Here are his stats, as provided by Eliteprospects.com:

HEIGHT193 cm / 6'4"WEIGHT96 kg / 212 lbs
NHL DRAFTTop Prospect eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
RANKINGSRanked #19 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked #9 by ISS Hockey
Ranked #8 by Future Considerations
Ranked #8 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked #1 by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)


 2010-11 TPS U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q1077148|
 TPS U16 Jr. C SM-sarja19415198| Playoffs102684
 2011-12 TPS U16  Jr. C SM-sarja Q8611176|
 TPS U16 Jr. C I-divisioona8711182|
 TPS U18 Jr. B SM-sarja2258136| Playoffs71122
 Finland U16 (all) International-Jr40000-1|
 2012-13 TPS U18 Jr. B SM-sarja52680| Playoffs11010
 TPS U20 Jr. A SM-liiga3510142414-9| Playoffs92464-3 
 TPS Liiga152134-1|
 Finland U17 WHC-17525722|
 Finland U17 (all) International-Jr624624|
 2013-14 TPS U18 Jr. B SM-sarja20220|
 TPS U20 Jr. A SM-liiga1751318812| Playoffs32130
 TPS Liiga3754910-11|
 Finland U18  WJC-18532502|
 Finland U18 (all)  International-Jr16128200|
 2014-15 TPS U20 Jr. A SM-liiga00000| Playoffs768142
 TPS  Liiga569192822-1|
 Finland U20 WJC-20540423|
 Finland U20 (all) International-Jr1040460|
 Finland (all) International400002|
 2015-16 TPS Liiga-----|
 2012-13 TPS ET20000|
 2013-14 TPS ET50000|
 Finland U18 Hlinka Memorial434702|
 2014-15 TPS Champions HL6202290|
From the looks of these stats, it seems clear that he is going to be a huge two-way forward that can hit and score. Corey Perry is the NHL player that comes to mind for a comparison.

Here is a video of what he did at this years World Junior Championship.

What Do The Scouts Say About Him?

Goran Stubb - Director of European Scouting:"He’s a physically strong power forward with very good playmaking abilities, smart, active and involved on every shift. He has very good speed and quickness for a big man and plays with authority. He’s difficult to check, protects the puck well and has good hands."

Adam Kimelman of NHL.com (Apr.20th): "A giant power forward (6-4, 211) is well-equipped for the North American game. The 18-year-old led all under-20 players in scoring in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, and was Finland's best player the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. He skates well for a player his size and wasn’t intimidated playing against older competition."

Mike Morreale of NHL.com (Apr.20th): "Was considered by many observers to be the best player for Finland at the 2015 World Junior Championship, where he had a team-high four goals. The 6-3, 211-pound left-shot forward averaged more than 16 minutes of ice time per game with TPS and is effective on the power play. He has a good combination of hockey sense, hands and an explosive shot."

Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst: "Rantanen is most certainly a skilled power forward, but not in the physical sense. He has an NHL build and he uses his size to protect the puck as good as anyone in the draft, but he’s also a very good playmaker who sees the ice exceptionally well and can draw opponents towards him before hitting the open man; an underrated aspect of his game. He’s is definitely a thinking man’s power forward in that he does not necessarily rely on brute force to make plays. Rantanen is also a highly opportunistic and low-maintenance goal scorer. He has to be because he does not possess nor rely on one signature move or asset — he scores goals any which way he can. His shot is above average but he makes up for it with a very quick and effortless release."

Should the Leafs Pursue?

There is many good things that Mikko has done up to this point, especially since he played well against men much older than him (Nylander anyone?). But it comes down to whether or not the Leafs should take him. While many fans point to Mitch Marner as the obvious candidate for the pick and this next statement may seem a bit extreme, but is it possible that the Leafs really want to draft Rantanen and make him a better center men? 

It would make sense as it is has been noted by hockey insiders that the Coyotes seem certain to draft Dylan Strome at 3rd overall. While there are the obvious connections between Marner and Mark Hunter and the Leafs apparent draft day plan, if they really want a big center, who else would they take? Rantanen would be the only large center available available by the time it gets to four, so if they have strong interest in him, then go for it. While he is slated as a winger as well as a center men, they should take the risk of bringing him in with the idea of converting him to a potential first line center men.

One other thing to note is that this rumoured meet comes just a day after the Leafs revealed they are OK with trading down the 4th overall pick if it made sense. Some people could put two and two together and conclude that the Leafs want to draft Rantanen and will do so by trading down. That makes sense, based on his rankings mentioned above, but it leaves some questions: Who would they trade with? If the trade goes through, what happens if he is taken early? 

Both these questions made me come to this idea: If the Leafs want him so much, why not just draft him at 4th overall?

Now, this may seem a bit on the controversial side, but let me say this. If the Leafs are trying to change the direction of the team and make a different approach to the team they want to build, then they need to get creative. While Don Cherry will get mad should the Leafs take him, there is the thought that if all goes to plan, he may (and I really mean may) become the next Mats Sundin.

I also think back to last year when the Leafs picked Nylander at 8th overall. At the time, the pick confused fans who insisted that they would draft Nick Ritchie as a big power forward who was also Canadian. But they drafted Nylander instead, and Dave Nonis, former GM, went on to call him "the most skilled player in the draft." One year later, and we can't get enough of "Snizzybone" (my apoligizes if I spelled it wrong) who has made huge strides in his first year in North America and played very well for the Marlies. We can't wait to see him in the NHL soon, and it is starting to look like his a steal.

One last thing I should note is that the scouts can get it wrong with prospects in seeing their rankings (see Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Giroux, Subban, etc). Just because Rantanen is slated to go in the top 10 does not mean he can't become an all-star. Remember, scouts in 2005 thought that Benoit Pouliot would be a better player than Carey Price, Anze Kopitar, and Mark Staal. Look how that turned out.

Final Verdict

I think the Leafs should consider Rantanen as a possible draft pick. They could trade for another first round pick,trade down, or stay at 4th to acquire his services. It may be a risky move in the immediate future, but it could pay off in the long run if all goes according to plan. 



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