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All-Star Game

Rantanen, Aho lead new wave of All-Stars from Finland

Forwards have memorable time together with rookie defenseman Heiskanen, veteran goalie Rinne in San Jose

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

SAN JOSE -- Mikko Rantanen and Sebastian Aho had their first of likely many memorable All-Star games together at SAP Center on Saturday.

Aho, a 21-year-old forward for the Carolina Hurricanes, combined for three points (two goals, one assist) to help the Metropolitan Division win the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game with victories against the Atlantic Division and Central Division.

Video: MET@CEN: Aho scores on breakaway to extend lead

Rantanen, a 22-year-old forward with the Colorado Avalanche, had six points (four goals, two assists) in two games for the Central Division. He's second in the NHL and leads all Finland-born skaters with 74 points (23 goals, 51 assists). Aho is second in scoring among players from Finland and tied for 14th in the NHL with 57 points (22 goals, 35 assists).

"It was a lot of fun -- I know [Aho] really well, so it makes it a little bit easier and more fun when you play against some of your friends," Rantanen said. "He's been great this season, like he's shown. I hope for the best for him in Carolina. You're always rooting for your friends."

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (Kempele, Finland) and Dallas Stars rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen (Espoo) joined Rantanen (Nousiainen) on the Central Division team, which lost 10-5 in the final.

"It was a lot of fun this weekend having two Finnish guys on my team and then playing against Sebastian," Rantanen said. "We were obviously chirping a little bit and saying some stuff, but it was all good heart and a lot of fun."

Rantanen, Aho and Heiskanen each played in their first NHL All-Star Game, and Rinne was chosen for the fourth time. Aho, a native of Rauma, was ready to book a table for four after the game.

"I think we all did pretty good," Aho said of his countrymen. "I guess I have to take them out for dinner -- if they want to come with me."

All-Star forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog had high praise for their Avalanche teammate.

Video: MET@CEN: Landeskog sets up Rantanen's second goal

"[Rantanen] is amazing and such a dominant player -- so big and strong," said MacKinnon, who was an assistant coach for the Central Division because he missed the game with a bruised left foot. "He's [going to] be a special player in this league for a long time. We're lucky we have him on our team."

Rantanen was also better than a point per game (84 points in 81 games) last season but is now beginning to garner more attention as one of the elite players in the NHL.

"We've known all along [Rantanen] is [going] to be a beast in this league," Landeskog said. "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."

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