The Colorado Avalanche have an outstanding prospect in Mikko Rantanen, one who could be a dark horse candidate to come into the NHL this coming campaign and snatch up the Calder Trophy. However, Rantanen’s chase for top rookie honors might be delayed.
Rantanen was injured over the weekend during a rookie showcase tournament game against the San Jose Sharks, and the 19-year-old Finnish winger was favoring his right leg as he was helped off the ice late in the third period of the contest.
Rantanen didn't return to the game, but the initial word from the Avalanche was that Rantanen's injury was "nothing serious," and he had suffered an ankle sprain, according to the Denver Post’s Mike Chambers. However, Rantanen missed the following game against the Anaheim Ducks and, after he was seen on crutches and in a walking boot, it was announced that he’s expected to miss anywhere from 2-4 weeks.
While the ankle sprain is no doubt better than the alternative, a break, the timeline for Rantanen’s return puts much of his training camp and possibly his ability to play in the season-opener in question. Even returning in two weeks’ time would mean Rantanen is back in action less than two weeks before the start of the campaign. That would give him a chance to get into some pre-season action, but wouldn’t give the Avalanche rookie as much time to get prepared to full speed as the team may have wanted.
The good thing for the Avalanche is that this won’t be Rantanen’s first go-round in the NHL. Though he’s still considered a rookie, Rantanen got into nine games this past season in Colorado, even if he only played sparingly in those outings. His biggest game was an October game against the Carolina Hurricanes in which he played 10:44, but that was his final game in the NHL until a call-up from the AHL in March. He played three games in the lead-up to the end of the campaign, but finished the season in the AHL.
Even if his NHL stay was rocky at best in 2015-16, Rantanen's AHL campaign was outstanding. He made the immediate jump from the 2015 draft, where he was selected 10th overall by Colorado, into the San Antonio Rampage lineup and notched 24 goals and 60 points in 52 AHL outings. His performance was enough for him to get a nod for the All-Rookie Team, second All-Star Team and Rookie of the Year honors, which he shared with Boston Bruins youngster Frank Vatrano.
It’s expected that Rantanen — when healthy — will push for a spot in the top six in Colorado, which means there’s a good chance he’ll skate with either Nathan MacKinnon or Matt Duchene down the middle. Giving Rantanen a set-up man of that quality could pay dividends for the Avalanche, and Rantanen should be able to use his 6-foot-4, 211-pound frame to make a difference offensively.
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