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Game #79 – Hawks vs. Avalanche Spotlight: The Next Mikko Suave

It’s hard to have a quiet, point-per-game-plus season, but that’s what happens when your linemate has channeled the power of the sun. Mikko Rantanen has 80 points, and you probably didn’t now it. But someone has to benefit from whatever Nathan MacKinnon isn’t scoring himself, and he’s done that quite well.

The 80 points at the age of 21, however it came about, is a huge landmark that should have Avalanche fans (all eight of ’em) spraying their drawers. Since 2000, here’s the list of players that have 80+ point seasons at the age of 21: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Eric Staal, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Nicklas Backstrom, and Rantanen. That’s four Hart Trophy winners, a couple other finalists, and Rantanen. So yeah, there should be big things in store for Mikko in the future.

The first thing that jumps out about Rantanen is his size, as he checks in at 6-4 and 211 pounds. So you’d assume that he’s a power forward who is just banging home rebounds from three feet and in, getting the put-backs and hustle baskets.  So his 16.1 SH% wouldn’t seem that lucky, given where  you’d assume he’s shooting from. Not so. Rantanen is hardly strong, at least not yet, and can be knocked around pretty easily. Secondly, Rantanen likes to play in space and the outside more than you’d guess, and probably more than the Avs would honestly like.

Rantanen’s individual expected goals for at evens is only 8.6, and he’s topped that by scoring 14 even-strength goals. When comparing what players “should” score and what they have actually scored, Rantanen’s in the top 20 in terms of “luckiest.” Clearly the 10 power play goals have helped. But even there he’s way out-shooting what he “should” score, with a near 19% shooting-percentage on the man-advantage.

When you look at players that earn their high shooting-percentages because they’re basically making opposing goalies smell what they had on the pregame spread, you see individual expected goals like James Van Riemsdyk’s 16.8, or Blake Wheeler’s 11.2, or Hornqvist’s 15.7. Rantanen just hasn’t gotten there yet.

Which doesn’t mean he won’t. Those names mentioned above suggest Rantanen can continue to try and create and be in space and he’s going to score a fuckton and ain’t nobody going to care that he doesn’t do it from dunk range. And a few of those names up there outscored their xGF, too. The Avs might be better off just finding someone else to do it on that line with him and MacKinnon. Still, the warning signs of benefitting from a horseshoe up his ass is something that should be paid attention to.

Which leads you to believe that despite their best efforts, the Avs have a pretty bright future ahead. Rantanen is 21. Kerfoot and Jost are 23 and 20. Kamenev is 21. There are a bevy of kids coming in the next two years. If they find a defense, then the Avs might be around here a while. And it will be annoying.

 

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