NHL fans have spoken: Avalanche forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are All-Stars.
The Avalanche duo, added to the Central Division roster Thursday night, were two of 12 final players selected for the 2023 game in an online vote. They join defenseman Cale Makar as Colorado’s three representatives at the upcoming league showcase (Feb. 3-4) held in Sunrise, Fla.
Rantanen, 26, is now a two-time NHL All-Star. MacKinnon, 27, has been invited for six consecutive seasons.
“I don’t really ever think about that,” Rantanen told The Denver Gazette earlier this month when asked about the possibility of being picked. “If I get selected, it’s a big honor, obviously, to be a part of those guys. There are a lot of good players there. But I don’t ever think about it like I need to go there, or I should be there.
“If I get the rest, it’s probably better.”
Yet the distinction is still well deserved.
Rantanen has carried the Avalanche this season at a historic pace. He surpassed Joe Sakic in two all-time statistical categories this season: most goals at the midway point of a Colorado season (29) and the fastest player to reach 30 goals in a season (43 games). Rantanen appreciates the Sakic comparison with one major exception.
“I don’t know. He still has two (Stanley) Cups. That’s the difference,” Rantanen said. “It’s an honor, obviously. … But you can’t do it alone. Linemates are helping me a lot.”
Rantanen has 25 assists and 31 goals on the year entering a Friday night road game in Vancouver. MacKinnon has 13 goals and 36 assists.
No. 900 for EJ
Defenseman Erik Johnson, the longest tenured active professional athlete in Denver, reached a major career milestone this week: 900 career NHL games played.
He did it in Wednesday’s road win over the Calgary Flames. Johnson, 34, is in his 13th season in Colorado with 697 of those 900 games as a member of the Avalanche.
“I was a young coach when I came to Denver and (Johnson) was one of the veteran guys,” coach Jared Bednar said. “I like a lot of things that Erik does both on the ice and off the ice. He’s just a great person and a great teammate. He always comes to the rink with a smile on his face.”
Rantanen added: “He’s always been a good mentor. He really takes care of the young guys. … A funny guy off the ice, but also, 900 games is a lot of games. I’m happy for him. He’s playing at a good level right now.”
What’s next: The Avalanche (23-17-3) play the Vancouver Canucks, 8 p.m. Friday (Altitude TV) at Rogers Arena.