Only two years later, the NHL’s 2015 draft class is looking like it could be one of the best of all time. Connor McDavid, Zach Werenski, Mitch Marner, Jack Eichel, and Mathew Barzal are just a few of the young stars that came out of the first round. That year, the Colorado Avalanche selected Mikko Rantanen 10th overall, and midway through his second NHL season, he is showing that he could be one of the best in the group.
Fans outside of Denver might not know just how good Rantanen has been. Though, given his pedigree, the fact that he’s on an 80 point pace in his sophomore season shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
The top-ranked European skater in the draft, Rantanen had been playing professional hockey in Finland’s top league since he was 16. By the time he was drafted, Rantanen already had two full seasons in SM-Liiga under his belt and had taken a leadership role as an assistant captain on his TPS team.
Being one of the older players in the class, and having a ton of professional experience, Rantanen was able to come over to North America in the first season after his draft. After a nine-game tryout with the Avalanche - in which he had zero points - Rantanen went down to San Antonio where he produced at a rate rarely seen for a player his age. He scored 24 goals and put up 60 points in 54 AHL games as a 19-year old and showed the Avalanche that he was clearly ready for the NHL in 2016-17.
In a dismal season for the Avs Rantanen had a terrific rookie campaign. He was the Avs only 20-goal scorer and finished fifth in the NHL for goals by a rookie.
Overshadowed by Nathan MacKinnon’s Hart Trophy-worthy play, Rantanen is having a breakout year of his own this season. He is second on the team in scoring with 41 points through 42 games and currently sits in the top-20 in the NHL for point production.
The most amazing part of Rantanen’s production this season is his consistency. He hasn’t gone more than two consecutive games without recording a point. Even Nathan MacKinnon went three games without registering a point back in October. Not Rantanen - he doesn’t slump.
The thing about Rantanen is that his impressive play goes far beyond point production.
Rantanen has been the team’s best defensive forward so far this season. He leads the team in CF%, CA/60 and scoring-chances against/60. All this while lining up against the opposition’s top line almost every night.
His 17.91 relCF% in all situations leads the entire NHL. He has been simply incredible from a possession standpoint. Put that together with his point production and defensive play and he has been one of the best all-around players in the league this season.
It’s been one hell of a season for the young Finn and there’s a strong chance it can only get better.
He has turned into the perfect compliment for Nathan MacKinnon. Good teams are able to partner their superstar with a worthy sidekick. Mikko Rantanen is definitely that and at 21-years old, we likely haven't seen him reach his full potential yet.