COLORADO 2017 PREVIEW
Colorado continues with the management mandated youth movement, but the fan base needs to see a drastic improvement from their basement finish last year. So a few big moves occurred to get the fans to fill the arena.
First, the draft was quite exciting as Colorado won the lottery and chose Auston Matthews first overall. He is expected to contribute immediately and Matthews provides the true “superstar” this team has lacked and desperately needed. He is joined by a handful of draft picks that won’t see much ice time this year in second round picks Josh Ho Sang and Michael Matheson. Ho Sang is considered a high risk – high reward type pick while Matheson adds some depth at a weak LD position. Third round pick Nick Schmaltz is another project expected to develop in the farm. Jordan Weal was taken in the fourth round and is expected to be a breakout player this year in Philadelphia. He will get his 23 games in on LW covering for Domi. Ryan Spooner was then moved for another fourth round pick that brought in defensive prospect Anthony DeAngelo. Two fifth round defenseman selections created roster additions of both Scott Mayfield and Markus Nutivaara adding depth to the weakest position on the team.
Secondly, speaking of star power, the Avalanche added a super sniper in Steven Stamkos. Colorado traded two first round draft picks in 2018 for him as the team hopes he can rebound from injury shortened seasons. Although Stamkos can only play in 17 games this year, the team is deep in prospects and needed some immediate help. Stamkos adds a bona fide one –two punch up the middle with Matthews once he recovers from his injuries.
Third, the Avs waved goodbye to first overall pick Nail Yakupov as they released him from contract prior to the free agent draft. Management continued to grow impatient with the young Russian’s development and decided that Yakupov was not involved with the team plan going forward. The additional roster spot was filled by free agent veteran Ron Hainsey to add depth to our defense corps
Trades of forwards Reilly Smith and Alex Killorn will create roster room for the youngster to strut their stuff. The projected first line has newly drafted first overall pick Auston Matthews centering a line of Nik Ehlers on left wing and Jonothan Drouin on the right. The second line will have my cousin Vinnie Trocheck between 30 goal man Rickard Rakell on left and Marcus Johansson on the right side. The third line has Ryan Johansson who loves to dish the puck between 30 plus goal scoring machine Anders Lee and versatile Brock Nelson. The fourth line has RNH centering Max Domi and Sam Reinhart. This youthful group should be able to score goals, although defending could be a bit of an issue as the kids continue to develop.
The defense is also taking shape, although it is more through trade than the farm. Ryan Pulock and Chris Bigras who were drafted last year as well as Derrick Pouliot who was drafted the year previous are taking a little longer to percolate than originally anticipated. Brady Skjei was obtained in a deal for Victor Rask and will pair up on the top d-paining with defensive specialist Adam Larsson. Nik Hjallmarsson obtained in a deal for Alex Killorn will skate on the second pairing with Jared Spurgeon. The third pairing still up for grabs between Barrie, Vatanen, Matheson and possibly Hainsey who figures to get games on both sides of the ice. Maatta will need a year to regain his touch and will see a lot of practice sessions and views from the press box, while Anthony DeAngelo, Markus Nutivaara and Scott Mayfield will all spend a season in the minors to hone their skills. Without any first round picks in 2018 this group of young d-men will need to fast track their development in order to make the jump to the show next season. The Avalanche desperately need them to be ready for action in short order. So overall the Avalanche have an average defensive squad to begin this season, but one that should be better than last year and with lots of promise for the future.
The goalie situation remains the same with Rinne and Rask holding down the fort. Hutton is also still on board as a third stringer should the situation arise.
Management is quite content with the way the team is taking shape but a few pieces are needed to be true contenders. The short term goal is to make a bid for a playoff spot this year and let the kids experience what it takes to play post season hockey. Is this a lofty dream? We will have to wait and see but Coach Roy says “playoffs are in the picture. Anyone who would like to disagree will not be heard, because I have two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears”
Kevin – Colorado Avalanche