The Avalanche are a very intriguing team, going into the 2014 season, as they have some real potential on paper, so it will be most interesting to see if they can translate that into some quality hockey on the ice.
Looking at the team table below, I am getting the feeling that this team will be good for scoring goals, but they will also be liable in their own end, having trouble keeping the puck out of their own net. Without a dominating blueliner to take on the job of leading this team, the Avalanche's best defense will be a good offense and that they could possibly have in spades.
If the Avalanche are going to have problems keeping the puck out of their own net, their offense will be very dependent on scoring the first goal each night, as their confidence will be tested, especially if they aren't able to get on the board before their opponents.
Team Table (Players sorted by 2013 points)
Pool Worthy Forwards (35+ Points)
Well, it looks like there is just enough space in the forward line-up for the 1st overall pick in this past Summer's draft, Nathan MacKinnon, who had shown that he has the speed and strength to be an NHL-player in last season's junior campaign, so it will be up to you to decide how high you would take McKinnon in your pool draft. Given the team's strengths, he may feature quite well.
Beyond MacKinnon, there is a great deal of talent up front and choosing between it will be difficult, but that's why you do projections to start the year. Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly, PA Parenteau, Alex Tanguay and Paul Stastny... these guys will all be looking to put up some points and the biggest thing they will have to face in the year is their own health issues. The Avalanche have all kinds of talent, but they have also been known to be some soft players, spending time on the injured reserve from time to time. This has to be a real concern going forward as well.
Pool Worthy Defensemen (20+ Points)
If the forwards are going to get points and surely they will, then it only seems likely that the defensemen will too, get on the board. The question will be how often and will someone step up to the plate and do most of the damage?
Between Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Ryan Wilson and Stefan Elliott, I think there is some real potential to get that blueliner to do the job, but no one immediately stands out as the guy that is going to do it for me. All four of these defenders all line up as one of my last defensemen to take in the draft, but all four could also be big steals, if they are chosen late and decide to score.
I'm not keen on putting too much stock into these guys early on, but I don't think I would say that they're far away from doing real damage.
Pool Worthy Goalies (25+ Points)
If the Avalanche are not going to be defensively sound, goaltending will be the first casualty of that pitfall. Semyon Varlamov will start and play a lot, so it will be up to him to play well enough to earn points. Varlamov will be the first player to see an increase in pool points, if the Avalanche improve their overall game at any point during the regular season, but I don't think he is quite good enough to do it himself.
If you get deep into the draft and need one more goalie, J-S Giguere may be a decent pick-up, because if Varlamov does struggle behind some porous defense, Giguere will find some more starts.
I think we can easily point out MacKinnon as a possible breakout player, but I think the guy to remember will be Steve Downie, who came over to the Avalanche before the shortened 2013 season, but his season was cut short to injury and he'll have a shot to breakout with a young and exciting Avalanche team. Do you fancy taking a chance on Downie to be a good pool player? I might.
One restricted free agent left, Tomas Vincour, but he won't likely play into any hockey pool decisions.