The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey writing staff. Our writers, plus a special vote from the readers, ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.
Drafted 10th overall in 2015, there was little doubt about Mikko Rantanen making a career for himself in the NHL. Before being drafted by the Avs, Rantanen had significant professional hockey experience. He played games in the Liiga (Finland’s top hockey league) when he was as young as 16. In full, by draft day he had played 108 games and recorded 40 points. In his draft year he was one of the top scorers for his team TPS. There was little surprise when he started the 2015-16 season with the Avs.
As with many highly touted prospects, Rantanen was given nine NHL games to start off his career with the Avs. The circumstances of his test run were a bit odd with Patrick Roy using him in a 4th line role on his off wing or at center instead of his natural position of right-wing. Unsurprisingly he was sent down to the AHL to allow his ELC to slide for a year. San Antonio is where Rantanen’s North American career took off.
After one game to adjust to the AHL, Rantanen went on a nine-game point streak quickly followed by an eight-game point streak with just one scoreless game separating the two. By the mid-point of the season, it was clear that he was an absolutely dominating force in the AHL. Despite playing only 52 games due to time in the NHL and at the World Junior Championship, Rantanen was still easily the top scorer for the Rampage with 60 points. The next best player for San Antonio had just 45.
Rantanen’s dominance earned him co-Rookie of the Year honors and placed him 7th in the league in points per game (minimum 20 games). There was little doubt he would spend 2016-17 fully in the NHL. Perhaps it was a sign of what was to come for the Avs when Rantanen injured his ankle in the rookie showcase and missed the first seven games of the season. When his ankle had recovered he jumped immediately into the Avs top 6. It took him a bit of time to adjust, scoring just 1 goal and 1 assist in his first nine games. Truly Rantanen never found his footing in a literal sense, he was often found slipping and sliding all over the ice. However, once he had settled in, the points started to flow.
Rantanen led the Avalanche with 20 goals, a testament to his ability to score in a multitude of ways. Slap shot, wrist shot, backhand, deflection, even putting home a rebound Rantanen is a scoring threat in all situations. His 6’4 211 lb frame makes him strong enough to go anywhere he pleases on the ice. Given the disaster that was the Avs last season, Rantanen was quickly placed as the 1st line right wing and he has fully proven that he belongs there. Third on the team in points in 2016-17, Rantanen is poised to have a breakout year if the team around him can even be partially functional.
Rantanen stands uncontested as the best right winger on the Avalanche and an argument could be made that he is the best winger on the team. In the immediate, Rantanen will play a major part in the core of this organization and he looks poised to become a player the Avs can build around for years to come.