Looking to make the leap: Mikko Rantanen

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This is part of Colorado Avalanche day at PHT…

Mikko Rantanen was the latest top-10 draft pick to join the Colorado Avalanche in recent years when the team selected him with the No. 10 overall pick in 2015.

They wasted no time giving him his first look in the NHL when he made the opening night roster and ended up playing nine games during the 2015-16 season.

To say he had some growing pains early on would probably be an understatement. He did not record a point, was a minus-7 (the team was outscored 7-0 with him on the ice), and he averaged just under 10 minutes of ice-time per game.

But the fact he was even there to get that experience was impressive enough. It is a huge jump for an 18-year-old to go directly into the NHL, while he was one of just eight players selected in 2015 to appear in the NHL last season. Only four (Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifan, Connor McDavid and Daniel Sprong) played in more games than he did.

In between his initial early season look and a brief late-season callup, Rantanen spent the bulk of his 2015-16 season playing in the AHL for the San Antonio Rampage and showed why the Avalanche selected him early in the first round. Even though he was one of the youngest players in the league and only appeared in 52 games at the level, he was still the ninth leading scorer with 60 points in 52 games (one of only four players in the top-20 in scoring to play in less than 60 games) and finished as San Antonio’s leading scorer with a 15-point lead over the next highest scorer.

It shouldn’t be a concern that he struggled to make an impact early on for the Avalanche. Not every 18-year-old is going to step right into the league and immediately dominate, and the players that do (Crosby, McDavid, Eichel, MacKinnon) are the exception, not the rule.

For most players there is going to be a pretty steep learning curve that takes a bit of time. Keep in mind that in the salary cap player there have only been 27 forwards to play in the NHL at the age of 18, and only eight of them have topped 30 points during that season. Only 13 had more than 10 points.

Because Rantonen was playing in Europe before being drafted he was not subject to the AHL-CHL transfer agreement and was able to get a full season of development at the appropriate level (the AHL). That year of development should serve him well this season as he looks to make a more permanent jump to the NHL and potentially help add some additional scoring to help support the Avalanche’s core group of forwards.