The Colorado Avalanche have added depth in all positions this offseason. That depth is currently battling it out in training camp to see who will stay and who will go.
Every NHL team that wishes to compete and go far into the playoffs needs that organizational depth in all positions. If someone goes down injured or isn’t performing well enough, there needs to be players available(either already on the roster or down in the AHL) who can step in at a moments notice and provide that competitive atmosphere that successful teams thrive on.
Not only are these players battling for a job in Colorado, these camp battles also provide great insight as to who is ahead of who on the depth chart for call up purposes.
For Colorado, there are intriguing battles to keep an eye on during training camp and the pre-season. So let’s take a closer look at a few of these exciting battles taking place at the Avalanche camp this year.
The Battle for the 4th Line
With the top three lines pretty much set, barring any surprises, that leaves many competing for a spot on Colorado’s fourth line. Cody McLeod, Jesse Winchester, Patrick Bordeleau, Dennis Everberg, Marc-Andre Cliche, Borna Rendulic, Freddie Hamilton, Jack Skille(PTO) plus any prospect that will be chomping at the bit to take a spot.
Cody Mac would be the only one I’d say is probable to start in his natural left-wing position as he has done with the Avalanche for many years. Also he serves as an alternate captain. In order to stay though, he’ll need to pick up his play and get back to being one of the best at what he does.
The fourth line center position should go to Winchester if he is indeed 100% healthy. Then on the right-wing, things get a lot trickier. Big Bordeleau who missed all of last season could slide into that spot. The one question surrounding those two guys would be their health. One thing is for sure, there’s no shortage of competition if they aren’t ready.
Everberg and Rendulic impressed quite a bit last season for both being new to the North American ice. They too, are now back healthy again. Though you might say they aren’t your typical fourth line grinder type hockey players. They would both have to improve their physical game in order to gain a place there.
Whatever happens, the Avalanche can now ice a much stronger fourth line than they have been able to in years.
The Battle for the 3rd Defensive Pairing
The top two pairings are all but set, consisting of Francois Beauchemin and Erik Johnson on the first while Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Barrie round out the second pairing. That leaves Brad Stuart most likely sticking as the fifth defender, which leaves room for some interesting battles over the remaining two or three defenders.
Since Patrick Roy likes to carry eight defenseman, I’d say there are three spots up for grabs, numbers six through eight. Those that will be involved in these battles include returnees Nick Holden, Zach Redmond, and Nate Guenin. Andrej Meszaros signed a PTO with the team and will also be looking to grab on of those slots. Plus any prospects such as Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens, and newly acquired Brandon Gormley.
That’s a lot of competition for just a few spots. That is also a very positive thing to have and something that’s been lacking for the Avalanche in recent years to say the least, especially on the defensive end.
Where Does Mikko Go?
Mikko Rantanen will of course be looked at very closely to see whether he can crack the Avalanche lineup. Rantanen is eligible to play for the Avs, be sent down to the AHL, or go back to TPS in Finland. He has stated he will do whatever is best for his development and that should be staying in North America to get used to the smaller ice.
Whether that will happen in Colorado or San Antonio is the main question. A question training camp and pre-season will have to answer. Rantanen is one of the most NHL ready prospects recently drafted, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the talented Finn make the big boy squad. He’s already been playing against men over in Finland, something Duchene, Landeskog, and MacKinnon hadn’t done before jumping straight into the NHL.
Rantanen won’t be rushed however, as there is no need to do so. He will play himself onto the team or he will spend some time in San Antonio. Either way he has a very bright future ahead with this team.
With all the new depth around the team now, these battles will not be slowing down. They will just get more competitive, making them better players overall. Colorado Avalanche management won’t be complaining at all, they are preparing their team for a new season, and this is how you go about it.
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