Cage Match: Mikko Rantanen vs. Sebastian Aho

Rick Roos

2018-11-07

 

As the 2018-19 season unfolds, we see changes in fantasy status of many players, from former stars now barely deserving of a roster spot, to youngsters coming into their own. Perhaps the most significant is players graduating from being very good fantasy assets to true fantasy studs. That’s what appears to be happening with this week’s combatants – Mikko Rantanen and Sebastian Aho. Which one projects to have a more successful 2018-19, and who stands to be better long term? Cage match is on the case!

Career Path and Contract Status

Rantanen, 21, was the 10th overall selection in the 2015 draft and starred in the AHL (60 points in 52 games) that same season after a nine-game trial with the Avs. For 2016-17 he averaged barely better than a point per every other game (38 points in 75 contests); but half of those points came in his final 33 games, leading many to expect a progression in production for 2017-18. What he did instead was break out big time, tallying 84 points after finding great chemistry with Nathan MacKinnon, but concerningly faltering (three points in eight games) when MacKinnon was out of the lineup. Yet so far this season he’s been nothing short of spectacular, currently sitting atop the NHL’s scoring leaders.

Aho, also 21, was selected 35th overall in the same 2015 draft and came stateside following a point per game (45 points in as many games) in his age-18 season in the Finnish Elite League. Aho spent no time in the AHL, suiting up for the Canes for 2016-17 and posting 49 points, with 15 coming in his final 23 games such that there were high expectations for him as well going into last season. And although Aho didn’t explode to the extent Rantanen did, he did post 65 points in 78 games, with 61 coming in his final 69 contests. That alone would’ve had poolies expecting great things from Aho this season; however, it was his 18 points in eight games performance at the spring IIHF World Championships that led many to expect him to have a truly elite 2018-19, which has indeed been the case thus far as he had the NHL’s longest streak of games (12) with at least one point to start the 2018-19 campaign.

Both players are in the last season of their ELCs, before becoming non-arbitration eligible RFAs, with Aho earning slightly more ($0.925M vs. $0.894M) this season as compared to Rantanen.

Ice Time (Data for 2018-19 in this and the other tables reflects games played through November 5)

Season

Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)