The Colorado Avalanche announced on Monday that the club has called up top prospect Mikko Rantanen from the San Antonio Rampage. This of course, is not surprising in the least. Rantanen was slated to start his first NHL season with Colorado, however he suffered an ankle injury which occurred during the preseason, sidelining the big Finn for weeks.
The Avalanche made the decision to send Rantanen down to the AHL to gather some game time, as well as learn Jared Bednar’s new systems. After four games played down in San Antonio and notching two assists, Rantanen is now up with the big boys and taking advantage of their five-day break to get even more comfortable with his new coach and teammates.
The Avalanche were poor in two of their four games on the road, so calling up Rantanen could turn out to be that secret ingredient for the team overall.
Where Does Mikko Fit?
Why would Rantanen be Colorado’s secret ingredient? Because inserting a player of his talent level makes every single line better, without question. During practice, Rantanen has been skating as the right-wing, on a line with Mikhail Grigorenko and Nathan MacKinnon.
Both MacKinnon and Grigorenko are performing at a nice level, and have contributed to the team’s success thus far, now adding Rantanen to that new pairing could make for some exciting hockey.
Coach Bednar stated Matt Duchene is now being used at his natural center position, which turns the Avalanche back into a team that’s very solid down the middle. When you’re strong down the middle, and can roll four lines, you become an extremely difficult opponent to play against.
These are how Colorado’s forward lines might look now that Rantanen has joined the fray:
- Landeskog – Duchene – Colborne/Iginla
- Grigorenko – MacKinnon – Rantanen
- Comeau – Soderberg – Iginla/Colborne
- Martinsen/McLeod/Bourque – Mitchell – Bourque
The Next Step
Rantanen has proved his skill at the pro level, having won co-rookie of the year last season in the AHL, his first in North America. Now he has that next step to take in order to establish himself as a full-time NHLer with the Avalanche.
‘Hot Wheels’ will be surrounded by elite hockey players so he could very well hit the ground running. Most importantly however, the fans and the team need to give him time to acclimate. With his size and skill, the points should come rather soon, but he must be given the time to adjust to his new surroundings yet again. The past three years have seen Rantanen move from Finland to San Antonio, and now at last, Colorado.
They want offense, and I’m ready for it. Now I just have to show it.
As you can see in the projected lines, Rantanen brings versatility to the team, he can play both wings and center. Therefore, Bednar can really tinker with different combinations and roll a very deep group of forwards. This should excite the organization from top to bottom, because he should immediately make the Avalanche even faster, and more potent offensively, something they absolutely need in order to make the playoffs.
Focusing on his defensive play first will be paramount and allow all of that to come to fruition.
Colorado’s long break comes to an end on Friday, when they host the Winnipeg Jets in a very important Central Division showdown. Rantanen, the 10th overall pick in 2015 will be in the lineup against his fellow Finn, Patrick Laine, for the first time this year, adding another talented rookie to keep your eye on during the contest.
With a victory, Colorado will be all smiles, having come off possibly their most challenging start to an NHL season in their entire history with a 4 and 2 record.
Drop the puck already!
Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble