It is not unheard of for a young professional to struggle a bit in their second season in the NHL, in fact it is almost expected. With increased ice time and responsibility also comes expectations at a time when the league has the book on said young player's tricks of the trade. It is almost more noteworthy when a second-year NHL player bucks the trend and here is where Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen enters the picture.
A fixture on the top line in tandem with Nathan MacKinnon is where Rantanen can be found. They have been a pair since camp but the duo began in earnest last season and they have seen a whopping 153 minutes of even strength time on the ice together already in this 2017-18 campaign. They are a nice compliment to each other and MacKinnon being the more playmaker with Rantanen becoming the shooter. With great opportunity comes the accountability.
Digging into Rantanen's game individually, he leads the team in even strength ice time for forwards at 13:47 per game and is third overall in total. He also leads the team in power play time on ice with 4:08 on average. Rantanen does not see any shorthanded time, which is why he comes in at fifth in total team time on ice at an average of 17:56 per game. Still, this is a lot of ice time for a player who began the season at just 20 years old.
For all the time on ice afforded to Mikko Rantanen, he has yielded the results. Currently, he is tied for second on the team in points with 12 and tied for team lead in goals with five. He is third in points per 60 at 2.87 just behind Nathan MacKinnon and sneaky productive rookie Alexander Kerfoot. Rantanen just recently ended a goal per game streak at three but still has managed to find the back of the net four times in the last four games. Rantanen also added the team's lone game-deciding shootout goal against the Philadelphia Flyers for good measure as well.
Broadening the lens, Rantanen stacks up well compared to his peers around the league. Looking at the 2015 draft class and those who are all beyond their rookie seasons in the league, Rantanen comes in at third in production just behind the expected producers in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. They lead with 17 and 14 points respectively and Rantanen holds in third place with 12. Holding near the top of the leaderboard against his Avalanche and NHL peers is in just his second season is showing what special things Rantanen is capable of.
Points are why what's needed to win games and Rantanen has shown he can put production on the board but he has held up his end of the bargain in the possession game as well. He is currently holding the third best CF% at 48.47 for Colorado and he and his linemates generally see opponents top lines and defense pairings. Eight of Rantanen's 12 points have come on the power play and while that production is important, he could become a bit more assertive and give more at even strength.
A very encouraging start to his sophomore campaign for Mikko Rantanen. All signs point to the success continuing and the Avalanche will directly reap the benefits. Hopefully, more widespread recognition follows as well.