The Colorado Avalanche have important decisions to address regarding their restricted free agents this offseason. Despite not being priority No. 1, 22-year-old restricted free agent Tyson Jost deserves considerable attention.
The former 10th overall pick has struggled to succeed at the NHL level, contributing to only 72 points in 208 games. Being a skilled forward with tremendous skating abilities and quick hands, this type of production falls well short of expectations. However, he is still far from a finished product.
Success in Juniors
Though his lack of production with the Avalanche might be alarming, Jost is too talented to give up on. Throughout his junior career, found success at every single level leading up to the NHL. In his second season as a 17-year-old in the BCHL, he tallied up 104 points in just 48 games for the Penticton Vees as the captain of the team.
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During the following 2016-17 season, he attended the University of North Dakota in the NCAA where he posted a very respectable 35 points in 33 games. His solid play earned him a place on the NCHC All-Rookie team.
“Everywhere he’s gone he’s been a leader. Just by listening to him talk, he commands a lot of respect. He’s just a natural leader. He’s captain material.”Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic Following the 2016 NHL Draft
Early NHL Struggles
With such potential and success in his early career, the Avalanche made Jost a regular in the lineup very quickly. Following his one-year stint in North Dakota, Jost made his NHL debut on March 31, 2017, at the age of 18. During the Avs’ abysmal 2016-17 campaign in which they finished last in the NHL by a landslide, Jost made six appearances for the club.
His rookie season officially took place in 2017-18. He started on the third line as a center but was moved frequently throughout the lineup as a winger. At the time, Colorado had significant depth issues that put extra pressure on the 19-year-old to produce offensively from the very beginning.
Unfortunately, in the seventh game of the season against the St. Louis Blues, the rookie suffered a lower-body injury. It proved to be a massive blow as he missed 14 consecutive games. Upon his return, Jost was unable to get comfortable, finishing the season with limited success. He tallied 22 points in 65 games to wrap up his rookie campaign.
Despite a disappointing first season partly due to injuries, optimism heading into the 2018-19 season was very high. Yet again, injury struck early on. In the 11th game of the season, Jost suffered a head injury, causing him to miss two weeks of play and four regular-season games. This pattern was all too familiar for Jost.
Upon his return to the lineup in November, the second-year forward had the best month of his young NHL career with three goals and five assists in 11 games. However, he cooled off and lacked consistency, eventually being demoted to the AHL by mid-December, where he spent just shy of a month. Come the new year, Jost rejoined the Avalanche, netting 11 goals and 15 assists in 70 total games.
Many were expecting Jost to break out in the 2019-20 season. Yet, for the third year running, he left us wanting more. Looking at his first two seasons with the Avalanche, lack of experience and injuries could explain his poor production. However, it was not the case during the 2019-20 season, given he played 67 of a possible 70 games. So what could have possibly gone so wrong?
First, the front office added numerous talented forwards in the lineup to shore up Colorado’s continuous lack of depth offensively. With the addition of André Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, and Vladislav Namestnikov via trade, plus the signings of Joonas Donskoi, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Valeri Nichushkin, the Avalanche added six key forwards. These additions directly impacted the opportunities for Jost to blossom. His ice-time dipped to a career-low at 12:46 minutes per game. It ranked him 13th amongst the team’s forwards.
Likewise, his role diminished yet again come playoff time. Throughout the Avalanche’s brief postseason run, he scored only one goal in 11 games while averaging 11:26 per night. Perhaps the optimism surrounding potential is quickly fading.
Where Do They Go From Here?
With the recent announcement regarding next season’s flat cap of $81.5 million, general manager Joe Sakic now has $22.4 million to work with this offseason. In the case of Jost, there are three possible routes the front office could choose.
The first one – opt into his one-year qualifying offer at $915,000. It’s a cheap low-risk option that gives Jost one more year to prove himself.
The second option is to let him walk away and sign elsewhere. Although some may not be believers in Jost anymore, he is still only 22 years old and can still improve.
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Finally, the third option is signing Jost to a longer-term deal in the range of two to three years. At this point in his career, given his early struggles, he won’t have a high asking price. Therefore, this deal in the range of $1.5 million per year could prove to be a bargain, given Jost is only 22 years old. He remains a talented forward despite his early struggles in recent years. It’s still too early to give up on him.