Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux... and Mikko Rantanen?
With 52 points through just 31 games this season, the Colorado Avalanche winger is on pace to become just the third NHL player to post more than 130 points in a season in the past 30 years.
Following a four-point performance against the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night, Rantanen has 13 goals and 39 assists on the year. Based on his torrid start, the 22-year-old is projected to record 138 points, which would be the most since Mario Lemieux posted 161 points in the 1995-96 season.
Once considered a beneficiary of linemate Nathan MacKinnon, Rantanen is proving to be a dominant force on his own and could become the first player since the 2004 lockout to top 125 points, while MacKinnon is currently on track for 124 points of his own.
Most Points since a season 2004 lockout
Chasing History: 2018-19 Point Projections (courtesy of ESPN)
*Projected based on stats to date this season
Rantanen’s prolific start to the season has players around the league taking notice. The Athletic asked players around the league to share their thoughts on the budding star.
“I am not surprised he’s playing really well. He sees the ice so well you know he’s gonna score some goals or get some assists,” Florida Panthers centre Aleksander Barkov said of his fellow Finn.
"Well, he thinks the game at a high level obviously… I see Rantanen. He has a good ability to find those little plays to beat a guy and then find either [Gabriel] Landeskog or MacKinnon open,” Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “That’s the name of the game. You gotta beat one guy, make another guy commit to you and then that’s when those guys get open.”
St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said Rantanen, who stands at 6-foot-4 and is listed at 211 pounds, presents a challenge for defenceman.
“I think when you have as much skill as he does and you’re 220 pounds, you can protect the puck with your body,” Pietrangelo said. “When you get guys like him — guys capable of making plays in any situation — that’s when it kind of makes you hesitate and think twice about the route that you’re taking or how aggressive you want to be.”
The 2015 first-round pick posted 84 points in 81 games last season, but flew under the radar as MacKinnon was named a Hart Trophy finalist. MacKinnon told The Athletic he believes Rantanen is just settling in to the league.
“He’s always had it. He just looks like it’s easy for him,” MacKinnon said. “His confidence has grown. I think he’s got more coordinated. He’s a big guy. He was a little clumsy, I think, when he was 19, 20. Now that he’s 22, he just seems like he’s more coordinated than ever.”
Rantanen is currently riding a 12-game point streak and has 13 multi-point performances this season. If he can record two points on Friday against the St. Louis Blues, he'll be halfway to Connor McDavid's 108 points from a season ago – with 50 games to go.