CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Mikko Rantanen stepped onto the Colorado Avalanche's practice ice and was greeted with an ovation of sticktaps and raucous cheers from his teammates on Monday.
Rantanen didn't necessarily want that spotlight, but he was excited to be back on the ice with the Avs squad.
"It's funny, that's funny I think. I don't really want that but that is what the guys do," Rantanen said of the way he was welcomed with. "It was pretty funny, so we got a good laugh about it."
It marked the first time this year that Rantanen has skated with Colorado after he signed a six-year contract with the team on Saturday night and arrived in Denver late on Sunday.
"It feels great, I have been waiting for this pretty much since training camp started," said Rantanen. "I know the negotiation, it is all business, but I am really happy to be here… I felt pretty good actually, I came in last night at 8:30 so I was expecting a little less energy today, but I felt surprisingly good."
Video: Rantanen re-joins the Avs after signing new deal
Reports started to come out that a deal was getting finalized between the Avalanche and Rantanen during Colorado's final contest of the 2019 preseason at the Dallas Stars on Saturday, with the agreement becoming official during the third period of the exhibition outing.
"It's nice to have the Big Moose back on the ice. I thought he was making plays, he had lots of jump," head coach Jared Bednar said of having Rantanen at practice. "Obviously there is a little of adrenaline going. Hopefully he has the same energy tomorrow and leads into Thursday."
Although Rantanen wasn't with the team prior to Monday, he was still preparing for the start of the 2019-20 campaign. He had been practicing with SC Bern of the Swiss pro league before returning to his native Finland on Friday.
"I have been still skating a lot with some team practices," Rantanen said of his training. "Obviously it is a lot different than playing in a game, but still get some good practices, 5-on-5 stuff, so that is probably the most important thing."
In 2018-19, Rantanen posted personal bests of 31 goals, 56 assists and 87 points. He surpassed the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career and joined Chris Drury as the only players in Colorado history (since 1995) to score 20-plus goals in each of his first three NHL season.
Video: NYR@COL: MacKinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog shine in win
He was named to his first NHL All-Star Game last January and represented the Avalanche at the event with his teammates--and his linemates for the majority of the last two season--Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. The trio combined for 106 goals and 261 points during the year, and the three were reunited during the session at Family Sports Center on Monday.
"He is an elite player and you slot him in on the first line and everyone gets bumped down a little bit and it makes not just our first line better--it makes all of our lines better," Bednar said of reinserting Rantanen to the lineup. "We love him as a person, love him as a teammate. He is excited to be here long term and all the guys that play with him and are teammates and coaching staff, everyone is excited to have him back."
Video: Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar after practice
In addition to his play on this ice, the 22-year-old brings a liveliness to the locker room with his ever-present smile that spreads from stall to stall.
"He is a big part of our team, no doubt about it. And on top of just being a good player and having one of your top players back, it is a good friend that comes back as well," Landeskog said of Rantanen. "I think that is the main thing. He does a lot for our comradery here in the locker room, I mean he is a guy that is well liked from everybody. Like I have said before, he brings a smile on everybody's face as he comes in here, he is a happy-go-lucky guy. It means a lot to the group, and it is good to just be able to focus here on three days of practice and get ready for Thursday."
Although Rantanen was not able to join the squad during the preseason, he is in Colorado now and should be ready to compete with his teammates when the puck drops to open the 2019-20 season against the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on Thursday.
"Really excited, I have been waiting to play some games," Rantanen said of the season opener. "Guys have been playing some preseason games, so I have been watching those. [I am looking forward to] getting the feeling of it, how it feels to play in Pepsi Center again. I am really excited."