Before Mikko Rantanen had even suited up for the Colorado Avalanche, there was quite a lot of hype surrounding the number 10 overall selection in last year’s draft. How could Colorado Avalanche fans not be excited about a 6-foot-3 playmaking winger who had led Finland at the World Juniors with four goals? The prospect of him playing alongside either Nathan MacKinnon or Matt Duchene, terrorizing the Central Division for years to come, seems almost too good to be true (and very well might be if there’s any substance to the rumors).
While not a human highlight reel, Rantanen’s steady, consistent play can be seen throughout his hockey playing career. While he could stand to use his big frame a little more once he gets to the NHL, his true assets are his playmaking abilities and hockey smarts which coupled with his soft hands could end up making Rantanen one of the premier passers in the game.
For now though, let’s take a look at not only the Avalanche’s top prospect, but a one of the very best prospects in the NHL.
Perhaps the biggest reason Rantanen is such a standout talent comes from the fact that he played with grown men at just 16 years of age for TPS Turko in Finland’s Liiga. From the 2012-2013 season, Rantanen played three separate levels for the TPS organization: U-18, U-20, and fifteen games for their Liiga team where he put up three points as a 16 yer old. The following season he had 5 goals and 9 points in 37 games played. During the 2014-2015 season, Rantanen’s draft eligible year, he played 56 games for TPS in Liiga, amassing 28 points as the teams second leading scorer at just 18 years old.
Internationally, he has represented Finland numerous times, most recently captaining the Finnish U-20 team at the 2016 World Junior Championships to a gold medal over Sweden. In seven games, Rantanen had 2 goals and five points, including a goal in the Championship’s final game.
San Antonio Rampage
Rantanen played 52 games for the San Antonio Rampage, leading the team with 60 points in that span, a full 15 points ahead of the next leading scorer. Here he is scoring a natural hat-trick against the Edmonton Oilers’ affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors.
That third goal is flippin’ gorgeous, but the way he handled himself and the opposition on the first two were what really struck me. For the first one, he builds up some speed and uses a power move to get around the defender with ease before slipping the puck into the net in one fluid motion. His poise alone should be commended, but his skill level to go along with that big frame is just another reason to look forward to this kid. On that second goal, he shows us the one thing you want to see from all your up-and-comers: he never gives up on the play, putting himself in a position to cause the turnover and score.
We saw this kid for nine games this year. Next year, we’ll likely see him a lot more. There have been some significant subtractions from the Avalanche’s top six in recent years, and there may be more to come, but having a gift like this fall to them at number 10 is nothing short of a miracle.
Rantanen is everything you want in a top six forward: Size, skill, and smarts. If he can work on using his weight to his advantage, there’s no doubt he’ll stick around in this league for a long time to come.