CENTENNIAL, Colo.--It's been a process for Mikko Rantanen in his recovery from an ankle injury, and Saturday was another step forward in his rehab as he took part in the Colorado Avalanche's morning skate practice at Family Sports Center.
Rantanen wasn't a full participant in the on-ice session, as he only did non-contact drills, but it was a good sign that the team's 2015 first-round draft pick was out with his teammates after being on the shelf for three weeks.
"I felt pretty good with the ankle. It was a good day, let's keep it that way," Rantanen said after the Avs' drills.
The Nousiainen, Finland, native's camp was paused nearly as quickly as it began. He got hurt late in the third period of the Avalanche's Rookie Showcase game on Sept. 17 against the San Jose Sharks after a hit near the benches.
That began the course of daily trips to the team's training room to help him get on the mend. It's not the way Rantanen wanted to begin the 2016-17 campaign--one where many people thought he could stay in the NHL for the entire season.
"That is not what you're hoping when you come to the camp, injured in the first game," Rantanen said. "It was unfortunate, but that's how hockey sometimes goes. You're unlucky and you get hurt. It was good that it wasn't that serious."
Rantanen has skated by himself for the past few days, testing the ankle. If it felt good enough, he would continue to progress to the next stage in the rehab, which would conclude with contact in a team practice and a game.
"It is going to depend on how he feels every morning when he comes in," Colorado head coach Jared Bednar said on Rantanen's recovery on Friday. "Sometimes you push it, and you have to take a step back. Sometimes if it feels good, you can keep going."
The ankle felt good enough after his solo skate on Saturday for him to do some individual drills with assistant coach Tim Army before joining the rest of the club as it prepares for this evening's preseason finale in Las Vegas against the Los Angeles Kings.
"It was a really good feeling after three weeks of being on my own," Rantanen said. "Like this week on the ice, I was alone, and now I can be with the team. Obviously, it's a lot different and it's more fun, for sure. It was a good day."
The original diagnosis on Rantanen was for him to be out two-to-four weeks, the later part of the time frame being the team's season-opening game against the Dallas Stars next Saturday.
Rantanen still might be on the ice for the opener, but Bednar said he wasn't going to set that date in stone for the forward's return.
In the meantime, Rantanen will keep working in the training room, gym and on the ice to get healthy and try to make the Avalanche's opening roster for the second year in a row.
"Just work hard and rehab my ankle and be ready to do my best," he said. "That's what I do, and that's my goal."