The Below the Ice crew brings you NHL: 31 for 31.
This year as the clock ticks down towards the NHL season, the writers here at BTI will be bringing you our preview of all 31 NHL teams, in 31 days.
Home to more than just than just the small quiet mountain town of South Park, Denver is also home to the Colorado Avalanche.
Coming off a rough 2016-17 in which Colorado finished last in their division with only 22 wins not many expectations were put on the Avalanches season.
Anticipated to be none contenders Colorado GM Joe Sakic stood firm on his position to move Matt Duchene, but not till the right deal was in place.
Finally on November 5, after what 18 months of trade speculation Duchene, was dealt to the Ottawa Senators, in a 3-way trade that saw the Senators, Kyle Turris, go to Nashville while Sam Girard and Ottawa’s 1st, (2019 deferred) and 3rd, (Justus Anunen, 64th) picks go to the Avalanche, among other pieces.
On December 7, just over a month after trading Duchene, coming off an embarrassing 5-2 loss to the Lightning, the Avalanche had lost 4 straight, with a record of 4-7-2 since his departure. The Av’s sat last in Central, 14 points back of the division leading Blues.
The Avalanche season would not be lost though, as they would rattle off 10 straight victories coming out of the Christmas break, outscoring opponents 41-16. Hart finalist Nathan MacKinnon would pick up 19 points over that stretch (8G, 11A).
After scoring only 53 points the year before, former 1st-overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, would cement himself as a force to be reckoned with. Scoring 97 points, nearly doubling his last years totals, his 39 goals and 58 assists were both career highs as well.
The Avalanche would go on to make the playoffs as the surprise 8-seed, after multiple young players stepped up and had career years, including; JT Compher, Mikko Rantanen, Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Jost.
- May 1, Signed KHL Goalie, Pavel Francouz 1-year $690,000
- June 22, Traded a 2018 2nd-round pick for (G) Philipp Grubauer and Brookes Orpik
- July 1, Signed Ian Cole 3-years,$4.25AAV
- July 1, Signed Matt Calvert 3-years, $2.85AAV
- July 4, Signed 2018 First-round pick Martin Kraut to an entry level contract
Philipp Grubauer, Ian Cole, Matt Calvert, Martin Kraut,
Nail Yakupov, Andrew Hammond, Joe Colbourne, Blake Comeau, Jonathon Bernier
OFFSEASON GRADE: C
After losing Semyon Varlamov last year before the post-season, Colorado’s goaltending depth showed. They sured that up by trading for Philipp Grubauer who last arguably the best goalie in the second half of the NHL last year, outplaying Brayden Holtby. They lose Hammond and Bernier but also add a possible hidden gem in goal, Pavel Francouz.
Colorado signing Ian Cole adds a top for defensemen, who is more defensive minded, allowing him to most likely play on the second pairing with Tyson Barrie. The only question with the signing is that Ian Cole plays on the left side and Colorado is now loaded with six left defensemen on their roster and only two righties.
The addition of Matt Calvert gives Colorado a solid option on 3rd-line C, and makes up for the loss of Blake Comeau. The Avalanche have a lot of young players that should take even bigger steps than last year , most of whom need to be re-signed after the season, IE. Kerfoot, Compher, Rantanen, Zadorov.
Best of luck to Nail Yakupov who is now playing with CKSA in the KHL.
36GP: 8G, 33A (OHL Sault Ste. Marie)
I’ve been a huge fan of Conor Timmins since I got my first real look at him during last years under-20 World Junior Championship, he was one of Canada’s best defensemen leading Canada to gold.
The former second-round pick has one of the best shots to make the team in October because of the advantage he has being a right shot.
Back in February, TSN, had Timmins listed as the 34th best prospect outside of the NHL. With a summer to workout and mature expect Timmins to crack the roster out of training camp and most likely start the year on the 3rd pairing with a rotating; Nemeth, Girard and Lindholm.
Timing breaking out means sticking in the NHL, points don’t have to come immediately for Timmins and with a lot of young defensemen, Colorado will give him time to develop.
2018-19 Projection: 50GP 6G, 12A
69GP 13G, 10A
JT Compher while still technically a rookie last season pulled up his socks for the Colorado Avalanche.
Last year Compher started more than 50% of his shifts in the defensive zone, which showed the rookies grit and tenacity, as most are not trusted to have such a grip on the defensive side of the game so early.
Compher should be a lock to play on the second line this year giving him more offensive opportunities but also more defensive responsibility having to play most of his minutes against top competition.
The one part of the game I would like to see Compher improve is putting more pucks more pucks towards the net. Last season Compher shot less than 2 shots per game (131 shots in 69GP) while shooting 9.9%. If he can up his production to 2.5 shots from 1.8, less than a shot a game Compher could finish with 20 goals easily playing in a full season.
2018-19 Projection: 23G, 18A
DUE TO REGRESS:
79GP, 19G, 24A
Last year Kerfoot had an amazing coming out party as a rookie but I don’t believe that production is sustainable.
Kerfoots 19 goals last season on a shockingly low 81 shots, meaning that last season he shot an outworldly 23.5%. I believe both those numbers are set to take a major hit this season because In order to score in the NHL, you need to shoot.
The average for shooting on any giving season is anywhere from 10-13% so lets say 11.5%, which means Kerfoot essentially doubled the leagues average and that is not maintainable. At just over 1 shot per game, Kerfoot would need to more than double his total shots to maintain his goal pace at the leageus average.
Playing on a young talented Colorado squad Kerfoot will still have an opportunity to collect points, bouncing between the 2nd and 3rd lines.
2018-19 Projection: 13G, 20A
4th in the Central, 9th in the West, 96 points
Good, but just not good enough for the Avalanche this season.
Colorado will be a bubble team all season in the West, after an incredible year last year, it will be hard to repeat the individual success of everyone again. MacKinnon was a Hart finalist last year but what should we expect from him this year round? The success of the Avalanche, fair or not, lives and dies with their superstar.
The question for the Avalanche is if they can handle the depth in their own division, Nashville and Winnipeg are essentially locks to make the playoffs and the Blues after shooting themselves in the foot near the end of the season last year will be looking to bounce back.
Even if Colorado fails to make the post-season this year, they will still have many kicks at the can left. They are a young budding team that will also have a chance at the #1 pick in this years draft.