In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Seventeenth up are the Colorado Avalanche who are in their 24th season as an NHL team. They made the playoffs each of the last two seasons after previously making it just once between 2010 and 2017.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 17th (8th in Western Conference)
- Goals for Rank: 10th
- Goals against Rank: 16th
- PP Rank: 7th
- PK Rank: 25th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 13th
- Western Conference Standings: 6th
- Central Division Standings: 4th
- Coach: Jared Bednar (Entering fourth season with the Avalanche; 103-116-27 regular season; 9-9 playoffs)
On offense, the top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen has emerged as one of the five best lines in the NHL. Nathan MacKinnon has the third most points in the NHL over the last two seasons behind Nikita Kucherov and Connor McDavid. Mikko Rantanen has the 16th most points in the NHL over the last two seasons among players such as John Tavares, Evgeni Malkin and Artemi Panarin. My issue with Colorado is that after this insane first line there is a size-able drop off. Their top line accounts for 38% of the teams points. Furthermore, this team had the 7th best Power Play last year, this line accounted for 60% of the power play goals. In FACT, the top line scored as many points as the next seven top players on the team combined (Tyson Barrie, Carl Soderberg, Alexander Kerfoot, J.T. Compher, Colin Wilson, Samuel Girard, and Matt Calvert). One additional area of concern is that Mikko scored at a 16% and Gabriel at 14% shooting last year and that is unlikely to repeat.
Defensively, this team struggles a bit, they allowed the 10th most shots against last year and the 16th most goals against. Top scoring defensemen Tyson Barrie (59 points last season) was traded to Toronto along with Alexander Kerfoot for Nazem Kadri and a first round pick. The Avalanche feel confident in their young talent at defense namely Cale Makar (who traveled directly from the NCAA championship loss to play with Colorado where he went on to score a goal in his first shot in a playoff game no less) as well as Samuel Girard who was drafted 47th overall in 2016 and seems to be on the rise each year currently entering his third season in the NHL. Between these two, Ryan Graves and Nikita Zadorov (both under 25) I feel confident long term in the Avalanche defense but I think there will be a learning curve with some ups and downs this year and next.
In net, Semyon Varlamov is gone (New York Islanders) and backup Philipp Grubauer steps into the limelight. He had a 2.64 GAA (20th in NHL) and a .917 SV% (13th in the NHL) last season which represented a career high 37 starts. I imagine he will see even more this year with backup Pavel Francouz starting maybe about 20% of the time. Grubauer had career worst numbers last season but with additional starts that should be expected, I would anticipate he ends up being an average goalie this season for the Avalanche.
Behind the bench, Jared Bednar signed a two year contract extension in the offseason. He is known to have a strong report with the players and bringing the team back into playoff contention the last two years has earned praise from Jim Sakic. He is very poised on the bench rarely yelling and it seems to be going far with the current players. I think his style fits well what the Avalanche need right now.
- Nazem Kadri
- Valeri Nichushkin
- Tyson Barrie
- Alexander Kerfoot
- Semyon Varlamov
Prospects and Picks
Bowen Byram — Despite making the playoffs Colorado had Ottawa Senators 1st round pick from the Matt Duchene trade (which seems like 10 years ago now that Matt has been on two new teams and ironically reunited with Kyle Turris who was part of the three team trade – Nashville Predators) which they used to select Bowen fourth overall. Last season in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants he scored 26 goals and 71 points across 67 games. Bowen is solid all around, he will block shots, he moves the puck up ice well and knows how to handle the puck in the offensive zone, I think he starts in the AHL with the Colorado Eagles while the team gauges how NHL ready he is.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Cale Makar — Depending on who you follow this could be a sleeper or well known at this point. He played in 10 NHL PLAYOFF games last year directly out of NCAA and scored 1 goal and six points during that time. He reminds me a lot of Zach Werenski who seemed to jump right into the NHL from college (with VERY minimal AHL help) with few hiccups. I could see Cale being a top 25 defensemen scoring 45+ points this season.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$65.9MM Spent; $15.6MM in Cap room; 23 players signed.