Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen had a good rookie season. His sophomore season might be even better.
The Colorado Avalanche have taught us that preseason success doesn’t predict what happens in the regular season. After all, the team swept last year’s preseason with forward Mikhail Grigorenko leading the way.
Grigorenko went on to score only 10 goals in 75 games, and the team managed only 22 wins on the season.
Let’s not dwell on the past. Last year there was one shining spot — the play of rookie Mikko Rantanen. He led the entire team in scoring goals with 20 — he was the only Avs player to score 20 goals. His 38 total points were good for third on the team, after only Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene.
In fact, Rantanen spent the majority of last season on a line with MacKinnon. According to Nathan, he and Mikko feel “really comfortable” with each other.
The duo are back together. They skated together a lot in camp. They also boosted each other in their preseason games together. Rantanen scored three goals, and MacKinnon assisted on two of them.
Here’s the one from last night:
The third man on that line is Sven Andrighetto, who played a lot with Rantanen and MacKinnon once he joined the Colorado Avalanche last year. Looks like their chemistry is persisting into this season.
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No one, not even Rantanen, was pleased with how last season went. During a post-season interview, he acknowledged that he got to play a lot and escaped injuries. However, he added, “But it’s tough when you lose that many games … 60 games you lose. It’s tough for any team, and any guy.”
All of the players worked hard over the summer and did some soul-searching on how they could come back better for the team. Rantanen intends to expand his role, to be a “big piece for the team.” His goal was to take on a bigger role as an even better player.
His teammates definitely see potential in the big Finn. Duchene remarked that he thought Rantanen would be “an elite player” in the NHL. He added:
"“He’s so big (6-foot-4, 211 pounds) and strong. He’s got great hands, great speed and great vision. I think as he gets older he’ll learn to use his size even better than he does already. He’s just a horse of a kid already. He’s going to be a great player for a long time.”"
(“Horse of a kid” — let’s take a moment to celebrate another Dutchyism.)
Defenseman Tyson Barrie was another player who was impressed with Rantanen’s size and skill:
"“He’s such a big body. He’s so smart with the puck. It was cool to see him kind of progress. It’s scary the way he can hold onto the puck and makes everyone around him better.”"
Barrie considers Rantanen can be a full-on superstar one day.
There certainly is potential in a player the Colorado Avalanche absolutely stole at #10 a couple years ago. Every year he’s continued to make strides in his development.
Can he continue to do so this year, the dreaded year a sophomore slump might hit? Well, it’s true he’s still something of a kid. However, he’s about to turn 21 and has been playing in men’s leagues since he was a teenager. He took the expected year to get used to North American play two seasons ago.
And he was the lone 20-goal scorer on a very bad Colorado Avalanche team.
Hopefully he gets to stay with linemate Nathan MacKinnon. Clearly the two complement each other. Whether his other winger is Landeskog or Andrighetto, I think Rantanen will adapt just fine.
And hopefully other Colorado Avalanche players take a page from his book in the persistence department.