HF NHL Prospect of the Month, November, 2015: Rantanen doesn’t let move to AHL deter him

By Chris Roberts
Mikko Rantanen - San Antonio Rampage - HF NHL Prospect of the Month, November, 2015

Photo: San Antonio Rampage forward and Colorado Avalanche prospect Mikko Rantanen (#96) turned in a strong month of November after being sent down to San Antonio by the Avalanche (courtesy of Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)



Mikko Rantanen turned 19 on Oct. 29th. Instead of spending his birthday in the NHL, however, he was gearing up for a California road trip in the AHL. The first round pick began the 2015-16 season with the Colorado Avalanche but, after going pointless through six games, was sent down to the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL.

Fortunately for the Avalanche organization, Rantanen responded well to the demotion, scoring a goal and assist in his first AHL game. But Rantanen took his performance to another level once November rolled around. The Finn was held pointless in just three of 10 November games and recorded 14 points (four goals, 10 assists). His most impressive game came on Nov. 7th against the Texas Stars, in which Rantanen scored twice and added two assists in a 4-3 win. In a rematch 10 days later, Rantanen collected three assists in a 5-2 win. He was a +6 in the momth and recorded 22 shots, including at least one in all 10 games. There are some good young players in the AHL this season, but for Rantanen to do what he is doing at just 19 is surprising.

The Avalanche haven’t exactly been patient with their top prospects in recent years, nor have they needed to be with top-ranked young players like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon being drafted into the organization, so sending Rantanen down to the AHL for seasoning was an interesting move. Through just one month, it also looks like it was the right decision, one that has led to Rantanen being named the Hockey’s Future NHL Prospect of the Month for November of 2015.

Honorable Mentions

William Nylander, C, Toronto Marlies (AHL)

The AHL’s leading point-getter had one of the best months of his pro career in November, recording 16 points in 11 games and leading the Toronto Marlies to a 10-game undefeated stretch before the team dropped its last two games of the month against the St. John’s IceCaps. The Swede scored five goals in the month, all of which were even strength and two of which were game-winning goals. Playing on a line with Richard Panik and Josh Leivo, Nylander continues to test the patience of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have committed to over-seasoning the 2014 first round pick. By most accounts, Nylander should be in the NHL right now and he would certainly offer some life to the Maple Leafs’ offense, but it is likely that he stays in the AHL until January, at least.

Conor Garland, RW, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)

It is hard to imagine Conor Garland exceeding the 129 points he recorded in 67 games last season, but that could very well be the case in 2015-16. The diminutive winger has recorded a point in all 24 games to start the season, with 15 goals and 43 assists. In November, the American recorded 26 points in 10 games; interestingly, he went without a goal until his second last game of the month, where he scored a hat-trick and added two assists against the Victoriaville Tigres. Garland had a four-point night to end the month. Of the 10 games he played in the month, Garland recorded less than seven shots just twice, showing incredible consistency night in and night out. The Arizona Coyotes prospect was left off of the USA’s World Junior team in 2015, but it would be a grave injustice if he doesn’t make the team this year.

Nick Schmaltz, C, University of North Dakota (NCAA)

Through just 16 games this season, one of the Chicago Blawkhawks top prospects has almost reached his point total from his freshman season in 2014-15. Nick Schmaltz scored 26 points in 38 games last season, but already has 21 points through 16 games this season. Primarily a playmaker, Schmaltz only has two goals, but both of them were scored in November, which was by far a more productive month than October. He was held pointless in the first game of November against the University of Wisconsin, but ended the month on a seven-game point streak; in those eight games Schmaltz recorded 15 points, including a four-point game against Miami University on Nov. 13th. He is currently tied for fourth in the nation in scoring.

Thatcher Demko, G, Boston College (NCAA)

Thatcher Demko is enjoying an off-the-charts season in his third year with Boston College. The 6’4″, 195-pound netminder backed the team to two winning seasons the past two years, but is currently enjoying a 12-1-0 record this season to go along with a 1.23 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage. The Vancouver Canucks prospect has six shutouts, three of which came toward the end of October and three in a row that came in early November; in fact, Demko’s six shutouts came in a stretch of seven games. He surrendered 10 goals in his last four games of the month, but still won each game. He has undeniably been the best goaltender in the NCAA in 2015-16.

HF NHL Prospect of the Month, October, 2015

Follow Chris Roberts on Twitter via @ChrisRoberts_7