SAN JOSE, Calif.--The Colorado Avalanche stands out among the 31 teams represented at the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend with three players invited to take part in the festivities in Northern California.
Colorado is one of three clubs that had three players named to All-Star rosters, joining the Tampa Bay Lightning and host San Jose Sharks. Though what makes the Avs truly unique to this year's winter showcase is that all three players skate on the same line.
Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen all play on Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar's top unit, and their play together makes the honor of joining the NHL's other elite players in San Jose more than deserving.
"I think it is pretty special that you have a whole line here," Rantanen said. "It says a lot about the consistency that we have had. We've been together for a long time now… It makes playing easier, but it is a lot of fun when you have your linemates here."
The trio was first put together early during the 2017-18 campaign and soon became known as one of the toughest lines for opposing teams to keep off the scoresheet. The threesome has taken it to another level this year in Colorado's first 50 games.
Video: MacKinnon, Rantanen Landeskog representing the Avs
Rantanen leads the Avalanche and is second in the NHL in scoring with 74 points and third in assists with 51.
MacKinnon ranks in the top 10 in the league in goals (27), assists (44) and points (71) and joins Rantanen as one of five NHL players to have already eclipsed the 70-point threshold this year. The duo is the first set of teammates to each have 70 or more points prior at the All-Star Break since the Pittsburgh Penguins' Mario Lemieux (79) and Jaromir Jagr (72) in 1996-97.
MacKinnon and Rantanen have also both been involved in a goal 55 times this year, the NHL's most frequent point pairing.
Landeskog has already tallied a career-high 29 goals this season, tied for fifth most in the league. He also has eight game-winning markers--an NHL and career high--and has set a new personal best with 10 power-play goals as well. An impressive note about Landeskog's 29 tallies is that 17 have come in the third period, which is also the most in the NHL.
Video: Gabriel Landeskog at the 2019 NHL All-Star Weekend
The left wing was voted by the fans as the "Last Man In" for the Central Division, completing Colorado's All-Star trifecta. MacKinnon is going to his third winter showcase, but his first after being chosen as the captain of the Central by a fan vote, while Rantanen is heading to his first All-Star Game.
"To go with Mikko and Nate, it should be a lot of fun," Landeskog said. "I've never been before. I went my rookie year and just did the young guns skill competition, and that was it. I'm very grateful and happy that the fans voted me in. It's something that I take a lot of pride in, and I'm very excited about. It should be a good time."
Together the three forwards have combined for 199 points (79 goals and 120 assists) this season, the second most of any three teammates in the league. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning's trio of Nikita Kucherov (78), Brayden Point (65) and Steven Stamkos (57) has recorded more with 200 total points.
However for Tampa, Point isn't at All-Star Weekend as Kucherov, Stamkos and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy were the ones chosen to compete in San Jose.
That makes it even more special that the three Avs linemates were picked.
"It's going to be cool to meet some of the players that you play against on a nightly basis, and guys that you look up to," Landeskog said. "It should be a fun experience, and to share it with Mikko and Nate, it should be the icing on top."
Video: Mikko Rantanen at 2019 All-Star Weekend Media Day
It's hard to argue against the chemistry that the Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen line has. The players have factored in on 100 of 169 Avalanche goals this season (59 percent) and have each recorded a point on the same goal 22 times. At least two of them have picked up a point on 78 goals this year.
In fact, since first being put together on Oct. 28, 2017, the trio has totaled 167 goals, 257 assists and 424 points. Mikko Rantanen has played in 121 of a possible 122 games during that stretch, while Landeskog has skated in 118 contests and MacKinnon in 114 outings.
MacKinnon leads the group with 163 points (65 goals and 98 assists), second most in the league in that time frame behind the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (171 points). However, MacKinnon has a higher points-per-game output (1.43) than McDavid does (1.40).
So how rare is it to have three Avalanche players at All-Star Weekend?
The last time the team did it was 15 years ago when Rob Blake, Joe Sakic and Alex Tanguay skated for the Western Conference at the 2004 event in Minnesota.
"We're very fortunate that we get to spend it together," MacKinnon said. "I'm not sure it's going to happen again in our careers, the three of us going to the All-Star Game. We're all good friends, so hopefully we have some good memories and take some pictures together and enjoy it."
For Colorado's whole line to do it in today's games, it's a truly remarkable feat.