After putting together a late push to secure the final wildcard spot last season, the Colorado Avalanche sent a strong message to the league as one of the top up-and-coming teams when they knocked off the Western Conference leading Calgary Flames in 5 games and then brought the San Jose Sharks all the way to game 7. The Avs have one of the strongest top lines in the league that they’ll lean on to try and put together a stronger finish than their 5th place finish in the Central Division and 17th in the league last season.
Additions: Valeri Nichushkin, Nazem Kadri, Bowen Byram, Andre Burakovsky, Calle Rosen, Joonas Donskoi, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Kevin Connauton
Subtractions: Tyson Barrie, Sven Andrighetto, Alex Kerfoot, Semyon Varlamov, Patrik Nemeth, Derick Brassard, Carl Soderberg, Gabriel Bourque
The Avalanche’s GM Joe Sakic gave up from a position of strength this off-season to add depth behind that incredible line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog. Their forward group ranks 6th in the league and for good reason. Adding Nazem Kadri, a player who scored over 30 goals twice in his career and then filling out their lineup with players like Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi gives them valuable secondary scoring and then giving Valeri Nichushkin a chance to prove he can be a valuable NHL player were shrewd moves. Both their top-6 and bottom-6 now rank in the top-10 of the league.
The Avs gave up Tyson Barrie this summer, who was arguably their best offensive defenseman last season but they’re still stacked on the back-end with young puck-moving defensemen. Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, and Bowen Byram give them an impressive looking future with Makar and Girard expected to be big contributors this season. Even with losing Barrie, the Avs still have a top-5 dcore in the league.
The biggest question mark for the Avs has to be in the net after losing their long-time starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov. Phillip Grubauer showed last season that he was capable of taking over as the starter but he has yet to play a full season as the unquestionable starter. He played some fantastic hockey in the playoffs and will look to keep that going this season.
The Point Prediction:
Lots of people have the Avalanche as a Stanley Cup contender this season and we’re completely on board with it. The retooling of their already strong lineup pushes them from being a playoff contender to winning the Central Division and being a true Stanley Cup contender.
(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)