Each year around the NHL, and sports in general, there are players who aren’t necessarily expected to be difference makers, who then step up their game to become an important part of team success.
There could be multiple reasons why player X wouldn’t be counted on to change the game, whether it be age, experience, talent, etc. Though once that guy elevates his game when no one sees it coming, he goes from player X to X factor.
Every single team usually needs at least a few X factors within their respective rosters to make a real push for the Cup. X factors are defined as a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome.
For the Colorado Avalanche it’s no surprise that most of these potential X factors are young with very little experience in the NHL. They are after all, one of the league’s youngest teams.
With so much change, youth, and potential this year, Colorado could have multiple X factors this season.
Mikko Rantanen is the first no brainer choice as an X factor for the Avalanche. Rantanen was a top 10 pick in last year’s draft and was already been playing against men in Finland. This will give him an edge when training camp comes around and he’s battling for a roster spot.
If Rantanen does impress and proves he can make the jump to the NHL, his addition would possibly create one of the league’s best offenses. Rantanen has very high hockey IQ and that should definitely help him grab a spot on the team.
Rantanen’s career international numbers for Finland speak for themselves. Now he’ll have to translate his game to the North American ice, how quickly he will be able to do so is the question.
Potential X factor number two is newly acquired Mikhail Grigorenko. A former junior star playing under Patrick Roy for the Quebec Remparts, Grigorenko has all the skill you could want. There is no doubt that Roy wanted to coach him again and he definitely is a big part of the package acquired for Ryan O’Reilly.
Grigorenko is still very raw however, and only 21 years old. He has top end skill with a high ceiling, making him a huge potential X factor for the Avalanche going forward.
Grigorenko could end up on any of the top 3 lines, or completely flop. Time will only tell. Though if Roy can get ‘Grigs’ playing at his best, Colorado becomes even scarier and much deeper up front.
Brought over last season from Sweden’s second division, Dennis Everberg made it very tough for Roy to send him down at the start of the season. Everberg however, soon made it very easy for Roy to call him back up after impressing down in the AHL.
He along with John Mitchell and Alex Tanguay formed a great third line until Everberg’s great start to life in North America was cut short through injury. Coming from the larger ice sheet in Sweden’s second division straight to the NHL and not looking out-of-place whatsoever is a very promising sign for Everberg and the Avs.
There’s every reason to believe that Everberg will only improve with more and more experience. If so Everberg makes the bottom six much more well-rounded in every area, as he has shown good signs of physicality, finesse, poise, and hockey intelligence.
Nikita Zadorov was obviously a target for Colorado and served as the starting point in the O’Reilly trade package. The Avalanche needed a potential top pairing defender that plays on the left and Zadorov fits that perfectly.
No doubt, Zadorov is Colorado’s biggest X factor. The talented Russian was one of the Sabres’ top prospects, now he will look to slot next to Tyson Barrie, forming a very dynamic pairing on the second defensive line for the Avalanche.
Everyone knows that Colorado’s problems lie on the defensive side of the game. With the addition of Zadorov, the Avalanche now have a very nice core of defenseman.
This kid oozes talent, the Avalanche’s defensive problems could be coming to an end.
Last on my list of X factors for the Colorado Avalanche this upcoming season could be veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin. Signed as a free agent, Beauchemin led the Anaheim Ducks in ice time for defenseman and was a big part of their success all these years.
A lot of people say he is too old and cannot keep up his level of play for much longer, I guess Mr.Beauchemin will decide that. Regardless of his age, he instantly improves the porous Avalanche defense. Beauchemin also brings bags of experience with him, some of which was gained winning a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.
He is penciled in to partner Erik Johnson on the first pairing in Colorado. This will be Johnson’s best defensive parter yet, let’s see if they can mesh well together and take the Avalanche back into the playoffs.
So there it is, my list of five potential X factors for the Colorado Avalanche. These players could make all the difference to Colorado’s season, and I don’t think they’ll disappoint.
Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble