Colorado Avalanche: Mikko Rantanen is Questionable Roster Addition

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen returned to practice on Saturday wearing an orange non-contact jersey. With Rantanen close to returning, it’s worth questioning whether or not he’d be better off starting in the AHL.

Colorado Avalanche fans have been lauding Mikko Rantanen’s skill, and heralding him as the roster savior of top six forward deficiency ever since his dominant AHL season.

Unfortunately, Rantanen is currently shackled by an ankle injury, shrouding his immediate future on the Avs roster with a thick fog.

In other words, Rantanen might benefit from a short conditioning stint in the AHL because he’s missed the entire preseason — to put it bluntly.

To bring back the fog — the way he talks about opening night would lead any bystander to believe that he will be with the team when they play the Stars.

"We just want to go day to day now. It’s still one week ’til the opening night … We have to be smart with it."

Maybe I’m just reading into that too much, but he did go on to say that he’s “physically and mentally ready to play in the NHL,“ emphasizing the need, “to first put [his] ankle at 100 percent and then show what [he] can do.”

Maybe that ankle rehab just means a few early season scratches. However, Rantanen could benefit more from a short stint in the AHL, doing stuff like this:

Rantanen simply hasn’t had any time to build line chemistry with the players currently on the roster. That lack of playing time with current roster players might factor into his demotion.

Nonetheless, there is a week left before opening night, and Rantanen has some time to at least practice with some of those players before the season starts.

Rantanen’s Precarious Situation

As I mentioned earlier, Rantanen has some big shoes to fill because he’s essentially — by fans (myself included) — expected to be a key piece in the lineup this year.

There’s a lot of merit to that argument based on his AHL production – 60 points in 52 games. However, his injury makes things complicated.

The coaching staff hasn’t had any game time to assess whether or not Rantanen would be better on the wing or at center. They haven’t evaluated — a Bednaristic slogan — what teammates Rantanen plays the best with. They haven’t even really seen if he’s ready for NHL competition because he’s yet to play against that level of competition this season.

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But I can hear the revolting chorus, and they are saying “but he’s already proven his dominance over the AHL, where is his home now?” 

A valid point.

Rantanen just needs time for conditioning in the AHL, an incremental re-acclimation to pro-hockey speed, and a consolatory confidence booster.

Unfortunately, this maneuver would create a big hole in the perceived opening night lineup.

Where Does Rantanen Factor into the Lineup?

I’ve seen a ton of line projections over the last few weeks, and I can’t really come to any consensus.

Another question is: where should Rantanen play in the lineup, and what position should he inhabit?

Should he play wing or center, and on what line?

To me, put the unproven rookie on the third line with Mikhail Grigorenko at center, and Blake Comeau on the left wing. Unfortunately, Comeau is also currently injured, so I believe this will all come to fruition later in the year.

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The injuries — Comeau, Rantanen and John Mitchell — are going to cause some issues with lineup cohesion as the season begins.

And with Gabriel Bourque and Rene Bourque on the roster still I just don’t see a spot for Rantanen to start the season.

Nonetheless, I don’t believe that any roster demotion for Rantanen is going to have any sort of permanency to it. I just think that Bednar and the organization might send him down there for a conditioning assignment. While simultaneously evaluating the many roster uncertainties accumulating at the start of this season.


Mikko Rantanen has a bright future with the Avalanche. However, that future might have unfortunately been delayed by his early season injury.

Fortunately, any demotion to the AHL should not be prolonged, and might end up benefiting his development.

The uncertainty of injury is not a good situation for Rantanen and the coaches, and making the correct decision has to be a priority.

Rantanen is a young star for the Avalanche. And, he does have the capability to remedy the top six deficiency the Avs have on the wing.

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Unfortunately, Rantanen’s injury put a strain on his seamless transition from the Rookie Showcase forward into the NHL. In other words, Rantanen’s lack of game experience within the new system puts his roster spot in question.

I’m hoping just as much as the rest of you that Rantanen is able to make the most out of this practice time with the team over the next week, and solidify a spot on the roster. However, I honestly believe that a short-lived conditioning stint in the AHL — while the big club figures out its roster — would not be a bad thing for Rants.

The season is nigh, and the final preseason game is set to be played Saturday night. These roster decisions will be made soon enough.

That’s all for today folks, thank you for stopping by.