When the Avalanche took big Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen 10th overall at this year’s draft, they — knowingly or not — put a fair bit of pressure on the kid.
This is a club, after all, with a history of not just throwing its top picks straight into the mix, but also getting great results from it:
— Matt Duchene, taken 3rd overall in ’09, finished as a Calder finalist for rookie of the year.
— Gabriel Landeskog, taken 2nd overall in ’11, won the Calder.
— Nathan MacKinnon, taken 1st overall in ’13, won the Calder.
This puts a fairly big spotlight on Rantanen as Colorado’s camp opens this week. The 18-year-old, who already has three years of professional hockey experience under his belt (with TPS Turku of the Finnish league), inked his entry-level deal in July and is now focused on sticking in Denver.
“I have to show them I’m worth the signing, and do everything I can to make the lineup,” Rantanen said, per the Post. “They basically said, ‘Let’s see how the camp goes,’ and of course there are big exhibition games to come.
“There has not been big talk yet.”
At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Rantanen was seen by pundits as one of the most NHL-ready players eligible at the draft.
The Avs were surprised to see him fall to No. 10 — per the Post, GM Joe Sakic figured he’d go in the top eight — and there does appear to be minutes available at Rantanen’s preferred right wing position, though he can also play the middle.