Colorado Avalanche, Editor's Choice, Mikko Rantanen

Avalanche’s Rantanen Delivers Historic Season

For years, Mikko Rantanen has been one of the most consistent offensive players for the Colorado Avalanche. That consistency is still there, but this season isn’t quite the same.

The 26-year-old Finnish forward is turning in one of the all-time great seasons by an Avalanche player. His hat trick on April 6 made him the fifth player in franchise history to score 50 goals in a season, and he sits just two points away from his first 100-point season with five games to play. This puts him in some rarified air amongst the Avalanche greats and is the culmination of the consistency he has shown since his first full season back in 2016-17.

Rantanen’s Steady Career Year

It’s hard to overstate how even Rantanen has kept his play this season. He had four assists on opening night and has 31 games where he has recorded at least two points. That includes his three hat tricks this season – which are the most by an Avs player since Peter Forsberg racked up three in the Stanley Cup-winning 1995-96 season.

Mikko Rantanen Colorado Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Even with all of the multi-point games, there haven’t been too many slumps. He has only one stretch where he went more than two games without scoring a point – and that was a four-game funk all the way back in October. He broke out of that slump by scoring eight goals and 16 points over the next six contests. He hasn’t scored more than 18 points in a given month, but his lowest-scoring month was a 10-point February – where the Avs only played 10 games.

Related: Avalanche’s Rantanen Emerging Into Superstar

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Despite all of the injury problems the Avs have faced, Rantanen has been a constant force throughout. He’s played in every game this season, and the team’s injuries have caused him to play with a whopping 16 different line combinations. Despite that, Rantanen has done the bulk of his damage during the normal run of play. He leads the league with 41 even-strength goals, and 65 of his 98 points have come at even-strength.

Where Rantanen’s Season Stacks Up

Rantanen is the fifth Avs player to hit 50 goals in a season, but the feat has been accomplished nine times. Michel Goulet eclipsed the mark four times for the Quebec Nordiques, and Joe Sakic did it twice. The other two are Jacques Richard with the Nordiques and Milan Hejduk with the Avs. Rantanen’s 50-goal campaign is the first since Hejduk’s back in 2002-03. Hejduk won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy that season – making him the only Avs player to take home that award.

Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche skates with the puck against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

This is just the fourth 50-goal season since the team moved to Denver from Quebec in 1995. Along with Hejduk, Sakic pulled off the feat in both of Colorado’s previous Stanley Cup-winning campaigns (1995-96 and 2000-01). Rantanen also became just the third Finnish-born player to hit 50 goals and the first since Teemu Selanne’s 52-goal campaign in 1998. Jari Kurri is the other Finnish player to accomplish the feat. Oddly enough, both Selanne and Kurri both had brief stops with the Avalanche in their careers.

Related: Hejduk Belongs on List of Avalanche Superstars

The jump to 50 goals is a significant leap for Rantanen. After 29 goals in 2017-28, he hit the 30-goal mark in three of the next four seasons. The only season he failed to hit 30 during that stretch was the COVID-shortened 2019-20 campaign. With a handful of games to go, Rantanen might not be done. Goulet holds the club record for most goals in a season with 57. That number is within striking distance if Rantanen heats up. There are five different occasions this season where Rantanen has scored at least five goals in five games, and April is off to a roaring start. In three games this month, he has four goals and six assists.

What Rantanen Means to the Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon is the franchise’s bona fide superstar, and Gabriel Landeskog is the club’s unquestioned leader, but the Avalanche’s recent run of success doesn’t happen without Rantanen. He’s led the team in scoring in each of the past two seasons and was second on the club in scoring in last season’s playoff run to the Stanley Cup. Only Cale Makar scored more points than Rantanen in those playoffs, and the defenseman was rewarded with the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Colorado Avalanche Mikko Rantanen
Colorado Avalanche left wing Mikko Rantanen (AP Photo/Craig Lassig, File)

This season, Rantanen is currently second on the team in scoring – but MacKinnon has needed his first career 100-point campaign to pass him. Those two milestones aren’t mutually exclusive, as MacKinnon and Rantanen have been linemates for years. Both of them made the All-Star Game this season, and their stellar play has erased the uncertainty that injuries brought to the early part of the season.

Rantanen’s consistency helped the Avs through the bleakest stretches of those injuries, and Colorado looked to be on the brink of missing the playoffs back in January. They’ve righted the ship in spectacular fashion since then and currently lead the Western Conference’s Central Division. Rantanen has been in the thick of that storm, scoring 28 goals since the calendar turned to 2023. After winning the team’s third championship last season, the Avs look like they could be poised for a run at a repeat – and Colorado owes Rantanen a lot of thanks for that.

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