The first Avalanche player to don this unique number and hopefully the last, the number 96 belongs to Finn phenom right wing Mikko Rantanen.
Continuing the latest trend of the late 80s and 90s born players to wear their birth year, Rantanen joins Gabe Landeskog (92) as the other Avalanche player to represent the year of their birth with their jersey choice. Rantanen was the only player in the 2017-18 season to wear the great 96 and likely for the upcoming season that holds true as well. In fact, only seven players in NHL history have worn the 96 including legends such as Pavel Bure, Phil Housley and Tomas Holmstrom. Nice company to keep.
Rantanen has enjoyed a storied career thus far at just 21 years of age. After becoming the 10th overall selection for the Avalanche in the 2015 entry draft, for 2015-16 he spent the majority of the season in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage. There he would make the all-star team and score 60 points in 52 games on the way to winning a co-share of the Dudley “Red” Garret Memorial trophy for AHL rookie of the year. Oh, and he captained Finland’s World Junior team to a gold medal too.
The next season saw the Avalanche test the depths of dispair in 2016-17 with their memorable 48 point campaign. Rantanen posted a reasonable 38 points in 75 games in his first full year in the NHL. While that doesn’t look mindblowing in the boxscore, the context often gets lost with that point total as a rookie he was tied for third on the team in scoring and was the only Avalanche player to score 20 goals that season.
Rantanen was primed for his breakout and in the 2017-18 season he exploded for 84 points including 29 goals in 81 games. That mark was good for share of 16th in league scoring and is a threshhold that many high-end young players have yet to see in their careers. His season ranks 16th all-time for the Avalanche and Rantanen is only the seventh player in franchise history to break the 80 point mark. Also, Rantanen had the best season by any Finnish player since Teemu Selänne scored 94 points in 2006-07 and is only the fourth Finn in the history of the NHL to score 80 points. That’s kinda good.
In his young career, Rantanen has amassed a total of 122 points including 49 goals in 165 games, each are good for fourth among the spectacular 2015 draft class. The accolades are just beginning for this special player and what a treat for Avalanche fans to watch him accomplish them in a burgundy 96.