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Mikko Rantanen: 2018-19 Season in Review

Forward finished second on the Avalanche in scoring

by Andy Vernier / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Mikko Rantanen's third season with the Colorado Avalanche was one to remember as he put up career highs in every scoring category and made his first appearance at the NHL All-Star Game.

The Nousiainen, Finland, native finished second on the Avalanche in scoring with 87 points, as he tallied 31 goals, 56 assists and four game-winning goals--which were all personal bests. He led the team and finished tied for sixth overall in the NHL with 16 power-play goals, the most in his NHL career.  

Rantanen exploded out of gate by recording points in each of his first nine games from Oct. 4-22, matching Jean-Michael Liles (2010-11) and Nathan MacKinnon (2018-19) for the longest scoring streak to begin a season in Avalanche history. He also tallied an assist in each of his first eight games (Oct. 4-20), the second-longest assist streak to start a campaign in franchise history behind only Liles' mark of nine straight to open the 2010-11 campaign.

In the month of October, Rantanen paced the NHL with 21 points. His five goals and 16 assists in 12 games tied Joe Sakic's Avalanche record for the month of October in both points and assists. With this production, Rantanen was named the NHL's First Star of the Month for October.

"The whole team is playing well. Every line is playing well right now. Our chemistry, our line, is building up from last year." Rantanen said of Colorado's play early in the year. "We played all of last year together. That helps. It's a privilege to play with those guys. We just have to keep going."

From October on, Rantanen never really slowed down as the most games he went without a point was three. He held at least a share of the scoring lead for 66 consecutive days from Oct. 23 to Dec. 27 and was the outright scoring leader for 60 of those days. That includes each of the last 43 days before he was passed by Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who was the eventual winner of the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league with 128 points.

Rantanen was the first NHL player to reach the 30, 40 and 50-point marks this season and reached the 60-point mark just a few hours after Kucherov did on Dec. 27. Additionally, Rantanen was the fastest Avalanche player ever to reach the 60-point (38 team games) and 70-point (47 games) marks.

The Avs forward also registered a career-long, 14-game point streak from Nov. 18 through Dec. 15, which tied for the third-longest in the NHL last season and helped him lead the league with 59 points at the holiday break, joining Peter Forsberg (48 in 1997-98) as the only Avalanche players to lead the NHL in points at Christmas. Then on Jan. 2, Rantanen totaled 62 points to set a new Avs record for points at the midway point of the season, surpassing Peter Forsberg's 60 points in 1995-96.

"He's got so many tools that a lot of guys don't have in this league," MacKinnon said of Rantanen in November. "In the best league in the world ... he's 6-foot-4, he can move like a little guy and he's got really good vision. It's just a treat to play with him."

Those tools led to his impressive production, and his impressive production led to Rantanen being selected to his first career NHL All-Star Game in January, joining fellow linemates MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.

"I think it is pretty special that you have a whole line here," Rantanen said of going to All-Star Weekend with Landeskog and MacKinnon. "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."

Video: Mikko Rantanen heads to the Chel House at All-Star

None of this could have been done without the support of his teammates, especially from MacKinnon and Landeskog.

The dynamic duo of Rantanen and MacKinnon put up some noteworthy numbers as they combined for 186 points (72 goals, 114 assists) throughout the campaign, the highest total by a pair of Avalanche teammates since 2002-03 when Peter Forsberg (106) and Milan Hejduk (98) combined for 204 points. They were the first set of teammates to each have 70 points prior to the All-Star Break since the Pittsburgh Penguins' Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux in 1996-97. Rantanen and MacKinnon also ranked first and second overall in league scoring for 31 consecutive days from Nov. 21 to Dec. 22.

As for the trio, Rantanen, MacKinnon and Landeskog had the most points (167) by three teammates at the halfway point of the season since Lemieux, Jagr and Ron Francis totaled 246 for the 1995-96 Penguins. The Avs trio combined for 261 points, which added up to 41 percent of the team's goals and 55 percent of its points.

"We've known all along [Rantanen] is [going] to be a beast in this league," Landeskog said of his teammate. "He's [kind of] been flying under the radar because his first year our team was so bad, so that took all the headlines. His second year up with us, Nate put up 97 [points], and that took all the headlines. And now people are starting to figure out how good he is."

Rantanen picked up his 100th career assist in a 5-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Nov 23, and he went on to notch an assist in a 5-3 victory on Feb. 22 versus the Chicago Blackhawks for his 200th career NHL point. Almost a month later on March 21, the All-Star suffered an upper-body injury that caused him to miss the final eight games of the regular season.

Despite missing the end of the regular season, Rantanen returned to the lineup just in time for the Avs second-straight Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance, and he didn't disappoint.

Rantanen led the Avalanche in scoring by recording six goals and eight assists for 14 points in 12 postseason contests versus the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks.  

During the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Calgary, the forward tallied nine points, coupling five goals and four assists, to finish tied for third in the NHL in scoring for the round. In the Western Conference second round, Rantanen compiled one goal and four helpers for five points versus San Jose.

Overall, he rounded out his third NHL season with 101 points (87 regular-season points, 14 postseason points) in 86 total games (74 regular-season games, 12 postseason games), a 1.17 points-per-game average.

Rantanen's star-studded talent and notable production has placed him in the limelight on the Avalanche and has put the rest of the NHL on notice. It's likely to stay that way for years to come.

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