The Avalanche did finally break out of their shell in the 2018 season and it sure looked good on them. The Avalanche making the playoffs again was sure a refreshing sight to see, certainly giving a lot of hope to their fan base, who have been waiting patiently for all of this to finally come around.
Their superstar, Nathan MacKinnon, finally revived his career and had an MVP-like season, almost making the 100-point mark last year. The combination of him and Mikko Rantanen had gone a long ways last year and there should be little to no reason why they couldn't do it all over again.
There is still a fair bit of new faces and youth on this team, which can be concerning, especially since their last wave of youth that saw them reach the playoffs last, back in 2014, really fizzled and it took them four seasons to get their act back in gear.
Some of those players from 2014 are still around, a little older and much wiser, helping to guide these fresh faces around, so I think there are a lot of lessons to be passed down and I would feel a touch more confident in their ability in 2019.
Table last updated on August 9th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Although my projection may not suggest that exactly, I think the player most suited to possibly breakout for the Avalanche would be defenseman Nikita Zadorov. The 23-year old has been slowly seeing his production increase, along with his playing time and now the Avalanche are getting to the point, where they could really use someone else to step up and be a big part of their blueline.
The 2013 1st round pick certainly has the tools to be a very good defenseman in the NHL and already, he has gained quite a bit of experience. He's definitely one that I will be keeping a close eye on when training camp and preseason games start happening, since the blueline is where you can make a lot of ground, especially late on, in your hockey pool drafts.
First Round Picks
It feels we were all waiting for so long for Nathan MacKinnon to finally make the leap into being worthy of an opening round pick and last year, he broke out in a big way. I think he's here to stay now and he brought a friend with him, as his connection with Mikko Rantanen has emerged as one of the more impressive pairings in the west. MacKinnon will likely go high in most drafts, but Rantanen could be a bargain in the 2nd or 3rd round, depending on how deep your draft goes.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
From the top two, it is a bit of a drop off up front, as Gabriel Landeskog should still be strong in the captain's role, but youth is still trying to bust through in Colorado and for me, that only leaves a few names left to really consider right now, Alexander Kerfoot, Carl Soderberg and Tyson Jost. There are some players who are close and could find their way up, I'm just not sure I am ready to bet on them quite yet.
Other Pool Worthy Defensemen
Tyson Barrie has some real upside after 57 points in 68 games last season and he has the potential to break out a little bit more this season, but my trust in Colorado as a whole is a bit shaky. Erik Johnson and Nikita Zadorov are currently the only other two defenders worthy of taking note of, but if this team fires on all cylinders, you might see one or two more make the jump too.
The pairing in the Avalanche net this coming season will be Semyon Varlamov and Philpp Grubauer, which is an interesting combination. Varlamov is a health risk, year after year, so the addition of Grubauer was to be the insurance policy, if and when their number one goes down with injury. With that being said, both should be worthy of a selection, but don't go too high on them, just in case.
Team to Pick From Late?
There's a lot of youth on this projected roster and that can be quite the risk/reward situation. J.T. Compher or Vladislav Kamenev up front, Samuel Girard on the blueline... these three have the potential to get the points, but are you going to be banking your pool entry fee on these guys? I see the Avalanche to be a middle-of-the-road scoring team this coming season, which could give us a late round gem, but they do look rather top heavy this year.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
Unrestricted free agency cleaned out some names from last year's roster, but the team doesn't have any restricted free agents left to sign. This team appears to be preparing for some bigger contracts down the line, keeping their cap space free this year, leaving $12.2 million on the table today.
More knee problems really hindered the finish to Semyon Varlamov's 2018 campaign, but the reports were that he avoided surgery in the off-season and he should be ready to go for training camp. He is such a risky pick, at best, that it's hard to really get excited about him and his wonky body. High risk, high reward... most definitely!