Will Mikko Rantanen Make The Avalanche Out Of Camp?


With the tenth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche selected Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen. The 6-foot-4 forward, who was the No. 1 ranked European skater, can play center as well as on the wing and had his first pro appearances when he was 16. But is he ready for the NHL?

The European Colorado Avalanche fan club had a first interview with Rantanen. From the interview:

"“My goal is to train as hard as possible during the summer, because the NHL’s a tough league. It’s the best league in the world, but my goal is to prove that I can play in the NHL and I’m ready to fight for my spot in the Avalanche’s lineup. You have to work really hard to get there and I’m ready and willing to do that.” — Mikko Rantanen"

He has sure got one thing right — the NHL is tough and you have to work harder than hard if you want to make it. Rantanen seems to be dedicated to that task as he says his “work ethic is a big asset of mine, because I always try to work and practice as hard as I can both on and off the ice.” He will have to prove that in the Avalanche’s development camp next week — and then what?

After development camp, Rantanen says he will go back home and continue his training, before returning for the main training camp in September, where he wants to fight for a roster spot. With the departure of Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn, his chances likely got a little bit better. However, the top six seems to be set with Matt Duchene, Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Carl Soderberg, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.

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Therefore, Mikko Rantanen will most likely be looking into earning a bottom-six spot, alongside center John Mitchell, or maybe even take Mitchell’s spot as the No. 3 center in the lineup. Now, it is often said that bottom-six minutes are rather bad for a players development, especially on a team that is not particularly great. The same thing has applied to Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton, who eventually got sent back to the WHL, after playing around nine minutes a game in the NHL.

So what would be other options? We could start with the fact that Rantanen may well be a better player than Draisaitl, although he was picked seven spots later than the German last year. Rantanen has been playing professional hockey for three years now and is competitive against men. His skating is good enough for the NHL, he has the physical tools — although he will have to utilize them more — and he has the skill.

With Tanguay aging and Soderberg maybe not being ready for a second-line role, Rantanen could get the chance to be thrown into that ice cold lake that is playing top-six minutes in the NHL. That is rather unlikely as of now, though it is an option. One of the most likely scenarios, however, is the Avalanche giving him more time to develop outside of the NHL.

“I’m ready to do everything I can to make it into the NHL.” — Mikko Rantanen

Mikko Rantanen was drafted right out of Europe, which makes him eligible for the AHL. He would likely be the San Antonio Rampage’s best player and being the leader of a team in North America could be great for his development. Another option for him would be to go back to Finland and take a leadership role with his current team there.

“I don’t really know if I’d go back home to play in the Liiga or go to the AHL”, Rantanen says. “It would have to be a place where I could play as much as I can, so that I could be a better player come next year. I’m ready to do everything I can to make it into the NHL.” The important part here is that last sentence — he is ready to do everything he can to make it to the NHL.

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The easiest way for him to do that would be to come over to North America and stay there. Get used to the smaller ice surface — although he said he liked that in the World Juniors — and to the different style of hockey. That would likely be the best thing to do for his development.

Another very important factor is the affiliation of the NHL and AHL. If Rantanen decides to stay in Finland, he is out for the season. If he stays in North America, he can start in the AHL and join the Avalanche whenever the coaches think he is ready.

As you can see, there are a few options for him and everything will unfold in training camp. Waiting is no fun, but we will wait until September and see how he decides. Mikko Rantanen will be a great player no matter what his decision will be.

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