The Colorado Avalanche are in a pickle. They currently sit in one of the Wild Card playoff spots in the Western Conference, but are playing some of their worst hockey of the season. One of the main issues that has been prevalent for the Avalanche is finding one last forward that will solidify the top six forwards. Many potential solutions have been thrown around as to how to solve this problem, including calling up 2015 first-round draft pick, Mikko Rantanen. While Rantanen definitely has the potential to be that guy, the Colorado Avalanche should not make the call to bring Rantanen up, at least not yet.
Rantanen Right Now
Currently, Mikko Rantanen is lighting the AHL on fire. He has 41 points in 32 games, which includes 17 goals and 24 assists. He leads the San Antonio Rampage (Colorado’s AHL affiliate) in goals and scoring and the tender young age of 19. The most impressive part about this is Rantanen holds this team lead having missed several games during the season with injury and also for the World Junior Championships.
Speaking of those World Junior Championships, Rantanen was captain of the gold medal winning Team Finland, scoring some huge goals in the later portion of the tournament. His World Junior performance helped catapult him when he got back, where he scored his first professional hat trick shortly after returning.
There is no doubt that Rantanen has the skill set to be a big contributor at the NHL, but when considering whether or not to bring Rantanen up it’s a question of short-term gain vs. long-term benefit.
Short Term Gain
One of the biggest issues with the Colorado Avalanche today is their scoring. A team that is loaded with natural talent has had a rough time putting the puck in the net, especially since the All-Star Break. Since the All-Star Break, the Avalanche have scored three goals or more just twice. This does not include the shootout victory against Detroit. Rantanen certainly has the offensive ability to make a difference, but the big question that must be answered is exactly how much of a difference could he make? True, Rantanen may be able to add some scoring, and solidify the top six, maybe even enough to help the team clinch a playoff spot. But would this be enough to make a long run into the playoffs? If we’re going to be very honest with ourselves about this, probably not.
The other part about this is that calling up Rantanen now will eliminate the slide option off the first year of his entry level contract. Will it be worth it to burn this extra year of his contract for a few games that might lock the Avalanche into a playoff spot? Maybe, but in my eyes it isn’t quite worth it.
Long Term Gain
Yes, Rantanen is absolutely dominating in the AHL, but there is something to be said for allowing him that full season to continue that domination. Let him continue to get that feeling of playing against seasoned professionals as a 19 year old. True, these aren’t NHL caliber players, but these are guys who have been playing professionally and have the body type that he will be playing against when he does eventually go to the NHL. So let him come into training camp next season with all that experience and all of that confidence, not to mention a little bit bigger and stronger physically, ready to dominate.
What about the playoff push, though? Shouldn’t the Avalanche make use of him for the playoff run if they can? Well they still can. If the Avalanche are able to make the playoffs without Rantanen, they can still call him up for the playoffs and not burn the slide off of his entry level contract. So if he is able to make that difference that so many people believe he can, it will just happen a bit later and still give the Avalanche the benefit of having three full years on his ELC to use.
It may not seem like a huge long term gain, but essentially being granted a free year on the contract can make a big difference in the long term. It gives Rantanen that extra year of development, that extra year of experience; and it gives the Avalanche that extra year without having to worry about re-signing him to a bigger deal. Plus, the Avalanche have absolutely no reason to rush him into the lineup. It could help them, slightly, in the short term; but since taking over, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic have made it clear that they are looking at the long term benefit of this team. So, in the long term, it is better to not call up Mikko Rantanen, just yet.