We have the first true winger put on our community draft board at the No. 8 spot, where Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen has grabbed the first position "beyond" the Flyers' No. 7 spot by collecting 41 percent of the vote amongst a crowded field of candidates yesterday.
Rantanen is, by most accounts, the top European skater in the draft, and most places you look have him as either the first or second-best pure winger on the board (the other being Kingston's Lawson Crouse). He's spent this season almost entirely at Finland's top league, the Liiga, after splitting time between the Liiga and its under-20 league during the two seasons prior. So amongst the draft's top prospects, he's one of the only ones who's spent extensive time playing in a league against adults.
He's a big winger, at 6'4", and he uses that size to his advantage around the net and on the boards. He flashes a fair amount of skill for a guy at his size, as well, as he's a solid passer with good vision. He's a decent skater, though how good of one he is can depend on who exactly you're talking to -- he seems to be a decent one on tape, but in describing his skating ability, various scouting reports range him from "good" to "roughly average".
Rantanen's production this year -- nine goals and 19 assists in 56 games with TPS, exactly half a point per game -- wasn't necessarily bad, but it wasn't particularly impressive. To compare his age-18 seasons to a pair of recent highly-ranked draft picks out of the same league, Teuvo Teravainen put up 31 points in 43 games (.72 per game) during the 2012-13 season, while Mikael Granlund had .93 per game (40 points in 43 games) during his draft year in 2009-10. Both came in well above where Rantanen was this past year, and neither of them had the benefit of being in their third season of playing against men. (Though, in Rantanen's defense, his team was towards the bottom of the standings in its league this year, and it certainly sounds like he improved as the year went on.)
More comparable to Rantanen's performance this year may be that of Penguins prospect Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen, who's only three months older than Rantanen, was pretty highly regarded coming into his draft season but had a rough draft year, scoring just 14 points in 47 games and falling on draft night before being grabbed by Pittsburgh at No. 22 last year. He spent most of this season in Finland, putting up 21 points in 41 games (right around Rantanen's .5-points-per-game mark) before coming over to Pittsburgh to briefly play for their AHL team towards the end of the season and in the playoffs.
He's on the fringe to start this year in the NHL or AHL, but from the sounds of things, Pittsburgh would likely prefer for him to get some more extensive AHL time before calling him up, at least for the sake of getting used to North American ice and bulking up a bit (s/t Mike Darnay of Pensburgh for the input on that). Rantanen probably doesn't need to worry about adding much weight to his 6'4", 210-pound frame, but he will likely still need some adjustment time in the AHL to get used to playing in North America whenever it is he comes across the pond.
In any case, with Rantanen, you're betting on him taking all of the abilities that he flashes at times -- elements of a power forward and a skilled winger who can pass and score -- and putting them together into a dominant package. Which, in fairness, is true of a lot of the guys who are still on the board, so who knows.
The Flyers do have a bit of a weakness on the wings in their system, which is why so many folks out there have pegged Rantanen as a possible pick for the Flyers at No. 7. He does mostly play on the right side, where the Flyers are currently much deeper compared to the left. So that's a hurdle they'll have to clear if he were to make the NHL fairly soon.
But he'd be one of their best prospects right away, almost certainly their best forward prospect, and the Flyers may even be able to send him right to the AHL since he's not bound by a CHL transfer agreement. So that's a plus.
The board otherwise stays the same. We'll add a few new options tomorrow. Until then, No. 9 is up for grabs. Who should it be?
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The 2015 BSH Community NHL Draft Board
- Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL)
- Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA)
- Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL) (45% of the vote)
- Mitch Marner, C/RW, London (OHL) (54%)
- Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA) (77%)
- Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon (WHL) (45%)
- Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL) (39%)
- Mikko Rantanen, LW, TPS (Liiga) (41%)
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As always, please use your vote below to answer the following question: If all of the players listed were available when the Flyers were on the clock, who would you want them to pick?