The Philadelphia Flyers hold the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held on June 26 in Sunrise, Fl. With such a high pick in what is one of the deepest draft classes in history, there are many directions the Flyers can go.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be bringing you up to the draft with several prospects that the Flyers could select with the seventh pick. From this point on, there will be no mention of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. It would take a miraculous trade for the Flyers to move up to get one of them. But from picks 3 to 7 and beyond, there are many prospects up for grabs. We will be looking at them.
Our first installment is Finnish right wing Mikko Rantanen.
The 6-foot-4, 209-pound forward was a point-per-game player at juniors before registering 28 points in 56 games in the Finnish Elite League, where he was an assistant captain for TPS Turku.
The first thing you notice about Rantanen is his net presence. It seems like on every shift in the offensive zone, he goes right to the areas where scoring can be done. He's great along the boards, behind the net and knows how to jump in front to grab a goal, though he has a nice mix of power meets skill for a forward.
His skating is subject at times but certainly nothing that will hold him back in development. Rantanen also has strong two-way skills that make him effective in the defensive zone. He's not much of a penalty kill player – he didn't kill penalties as part of Team Finland at World Juniors – but he could grow into that role with time and development.
The Flyers need a winger, and Ron Hextall wants to add a scoring forward to join his top lines. Interestingly enough, one area where a lot of scouts say Rantanen needs work is his shot.
Rantanen will put up points, he will make plays and he possesses immense hockey knowledge. But the two things scouts believe need work are his shot and his size – scouts say he needs to build more muscle to reach the full potential of a player with his size.
Part of the reason Rantanen could succeed as a scoring forward is because of his skill in front of the net. If he's not working the boards or leading a rush up ice, in an effort to set up a scoring chance, he's going to the net to look for one. And he does score a lot from in close on a goalie.
Another impressive part of Rantanen's game is his stick-handling. He's very smooth and agile with his ability to carry the puck and has great hands to boot.
Perhaps the one thing that could benefit the Flyers almost immediately is Rantanen's competitiveness and leadership. He was the player to watch for Finland at World Juniors in 2014 and had already assumed an assistant captain role in the Finnish Elite League. And he's just 18 years old.
If the Flyers are looking for a player that can handle all situations, keep cool on the ice even in trying situations and grow as a leader and character player for the team in the long run, this may be the guy. And chances are, he wouldn't need much time to reach the NHL.
This may be the most important part for the Flyers. With McDavid and Eichel going at the top and several other forwards and defensemen ranking slightly higher, Rantanen's projected draft slot is late in the Top-10, right around picks 7 or 8.
It wouldn't be a shock to see Hextall pull the trigger on the Finnish winger on Draft night.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.