Another year older, another year wiser, a little bit more help from some playoff-savvy veterans signed on and this Avalanche team could be ready to turn things around a little bit.
The Avalanche have so much talent and potential on paper, it seems silly that they wouldn't be able to harness it after some growing pains the year before. Those sorts of things happen, but it was good on management, not to panic, not to ship key pieces away, rather they built up upon it and they can see the fruits of their labour ripen this year.
If all of that doesn't work, then maybe you don't have a coach for the job. That's just jumping to conclusions early on though.
Table updated on August 15th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Almost like clockwork, Nathan MacKinnon starts his third season in the NHL and I have a feeling that it will be a good one. The focus is off of him, the team is now under the radar a little, they've added some help in their lineup and it is now his time to shine. The 2014 Calder Trophy winner did have a hiccup season in the 2015 campaign, but his whole team didn't look great after that magical run to those 2014 playoffs. This will be a different team and the scoresheet will be full of MacKinnon points this season.
First Round Picks
Depending on how deep the draft is, the Avalanche potentially have either one good 1st round pick or three. Semyon Varlamov, right smack dab in the middle of the goalie arms race, will definitely be considered a candidate for the pick, while MacKinnon and Matt Duchene will also make good cases to be taken there as well. Now, with the drop off last year, MacKinnon and Duchene could fall down a round, thanks to a lack of confidence, but I think you could get away with it, late in the round.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The other show piece on this team, the captain, Gabriel Landeskog, will certainly be a good option for your team this year, as he'll go just about as far as MacKinnon and Duchene goes. Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay will be looked towards for more offense, as the cagey veterans, while a new face, Carl Soderberg, looks to chip in from the middle.
If you're looking for something in the fringe department, another new acquisition, Mikhail Grigorenko may be someone to look at.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The Avalanche defense is something to behold, led by Tyson Barrie and supported by a cast that includes Erik Johnson, Zach Redmond and that veteran presence of Francois Beauchemin. This top four should be good for a bundle of points, assuming that all goes well with the forwards this year. Between Barrie and Johnson, I think you've got a very solid top pairing or at least an option on either of the top two pairings.
Behind Varlamov, who will be a minute hog as well this year, it looks like the Avalanche are going to remain confident in Reto Berra, who didn't exactly exude confidence from the back end, but still managed a handful of wins. It wouldn't be surprising, if the Avalanche were looking to upgrade the back-up position before too long.
Possible Entries Into the Rookie Race
The Avalanche's depth on the blueline will be the only thing that holds Duncan Siemens back from possibly making a bid for the rookie race this year. With the amount of youth this team already has going for them, it does seem a little over-the-top to add another rookie into the mix, but that's up to the coaching staff and management, I guess.
Team To Pick From Late?
Of course, talking up the Avalanche is a bit of risky business, because there is a chance that they could flop again. With that being said, I might hesitate to jump on some of their depth players late on in the draft. The stars are going to be stars and they'll pick up points, but I don't think I'm too confident in their depth to really go after them this year. They may be better suited for mid-season replacements.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
For the most part, the Colorado Avalanche have done a good job with their free agents, but heading into August, they still had a decent prospect still left unsigned. Defenseman Stefan Elliott is still in need of a new deal, but didn't have arbitration rights, so he has to wait out the club.
The Avalanche are not struggling for cap space, as their projected 21-man roster for the upcoming season still has $11 million worth of space to go, if they wanted to fill them in with a couple of players. These numbers don't include defensemen Nikita Zadorov or Duncan Siemens, nor does it include forward Dennis Everberg. These smaller cap hits would certainly provide some added flexibility to their roster.