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World Championship

Mikko Rantanen wants to get Avalanche on right track

Rookie forward playing for Finland at World Championship, hoping for bright future for self, Colorado

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

PARIS -- Forward Mikko Rantanen feels he had a successful rookie season for the Colorado Avalanche, but he is far from satisfied with the performance of the team.

Rantanen, who had 38 points (20 goals, 18 assists) in 75 games this season, hopes he can be part of a turnaround for Colorado, which finished 30th in the NHL standings with 48 points (22-56-4). It was the worst finish in an 82-game season since the franchise moved to Colorado from Quebec in 1995.

"It was a tough year for the team," said Rantanen, 20, who leads Finland with seven points (two goals, five assists) in six games at the 2017 IIHF World Championship. "I got to play a lot and didn't have a lot of injuries. In that way it was a good year for me. But it's tough when you lose that many games … 60 games you lose. It's tough for any team, and any guy."

Rantanen said he tried to absorb all he could through the struggles.

"You learn every game when you play your first full season in the NHL," he said. "It was a good year to learn. There's some things, of course, to learn. I learned new things and it's made me ready next year."

He said playing alongside forwards Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene was a big help in learning how to be an NHL player.

"They're great guys on the team," Rantanen said. "They're a bit older so they're helping me a lot. That's helping any rookie. It's a big thing for me to get to know those guys quick. They brought me in well."

Landeskog, MacKinnon and Duchene all know how difficult breaking in as a rookie can be, and like Rantanen each also found personal success in their first full season with Colorado.

MacKinnon scored 24 goals as a rookie in 2013-14, Landeskog had 22 in 2011-12, his first season, and Duchene had 24 goals as a rookie in 2009-10.

They were quick to pass on the lessons they learned.

Video: COL@STL: Rantanen uses quick hands to beat Allen

"I think the hardest part is just the consistency … bringing it every single night," Duchene said. "That's something every young player struggles with a little bit at times. He played on, obviously, a really bad team this year with our team. He still shined through.

"There's nothing but great thing coming for him in his career."

Those great things could come as soon as next season, Duchene said.

"I mean, he's going to be an elite player for a long time in the League," Duchene said. "He's so big (6-foot-4, 211 pounds) and strong. He's got great hands, great speed and great vision. I think as he gets older he'll learn to use his size even better than he does already. He's just a horse of a kid already. He's going to be a great player for a long time."

Duchene isn't the only one expecting Rantanen to take another step. Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie saw Rantanen's evolution through a trying season up close.

"Mikko is a great kid and he's a great player," Barrie said. "He's such a big body. He's so smart with the puck. It was cool to see him kind of progress. It's scary the way he can hold onto the puck and makes everyone around him better.

"To me at least it looks like he's going to be a full-on superstar. That's a huge bright spot for us in Colorado. We're really looking forward to seeing that."

Rantanen is too.

"Of course I'll try to be a big piece for the team and try to help the team even more," he said. "But next year is next year. Of course I want to take on a bigger role on next year's team and be an even better player."


Other results from Monday:

Canada 5, Norway 0: Defenseman Colton Parayko (St. Louis Blues) scored two power play goals, and goalie Chad Johnson (Calgary Flames) made 10 saves for the shutout in the Group B preliminary game at AccorHotels Arena in Paris. Canada, coming off an overtime loss to Switzerland, went 4-for-5 on the power play, with Brayden Schenn (Philadelphia Flyers) and Ryan O'Reilly (Buffalo Sabres) also scoring with the man advantage. Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets) also scored for Canada, which leads Group B with 16 points (5-0-1-0). The loss means Norway cannot advance to the quarterfinal round. Canada finishes the preliminary round against Finland on Tuesday.

Denmark 2, Italy 0: Nichlas Hardt broke a scoreless tie at 17:36 of the third period and Peter Regin was credited with a goal after Italy put the puck into its own net at 18:47 in a Group B preliminary game at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany. Neither team can qualify for the quarterfinals.

Russia 5, Latvia 0: Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning) had a goal and two assists and Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks) had three assists. Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders) made 24 saves for the shutout in a Group A preliminary-round game at Lanxess Arena. Russia leads Group A with 17 points (5-1-0-0), two points ahead of the United States. Latvia is fourth with nine points (3-0-0-3).

France 4, Slovenia 1: Antoine Roussel (Dallas Stars) had a hat trick plus an assist in a Group B preliminary-round game at AccorHotels Arena. Goaltender Cristobal Huet made 26 saves. France is fifth in Group B with 10 points (2-2-0-3). Slovenia is last among the eight teams in the Group with one point (0-0-1-6).

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