The Colorado Avalanche are working on turning the page from what can only be described as a horrific season. The roster went through an overhaul this summer, which opens the door for many young players. Now that training camp has come to a close, the Avalanche will have several newer players to make a name for themselves and make the roster. Here are some of the names to keep an eye on during the preseason.
To be fair, J.T. Compher is a player that most people believe was going to be on the big roster since his strong finish last year. Another portion of the Ryan O’Reilly trade, Compher has shown a significant improvement in his skating ability, something that was noted by coach Jared Bednar after the Avs’ traditional burgundy versus white game.
Compher was the top player during the scrimmage, tallying two goals and generally out playing everybody else. It’s good to see this type of showing out of training camp from the budding young center, as he really should be better than most other young guys coming into their first professional seasons. The Avalanche really need him to be a solid player this season and make the bottom six more reliable and dangerous.
A bit of a surprise signing from the Avalanche, Nail Yakupov has been a training camp standout. The former first-overall pick has had a turbulent career to this point and is hoping that he can make the most of what could be his last opportunity to stick in the NHL. By all accounts, he is looking like the hungriest player in training camp and has found a bit of chemistry with Matt Duchene.
Training camp and scrimmage games aside, the big questions for Yakupov will revolve around his ability to finally become a top scorer and his overall decision-making. It seems that his head is in the right place in camp and it will need to continue as the regular season nears if he wants to make the most out of the opportunity he has in Denver.
It’s hard to believe that Duncan Siemens was once seen as one of the best defensive prospects the Avalanche had drafted in ages. Fast forward to today and Siemens has seen a grand total of four NHL games. He has had to deal with some injuries early in his career that slowed down his progress, but the team has just not bothered to give him much of a chance. After earning some small praise during his brief stint with the Avs last season, he has managed to earn some praise for his physical play and consistency through training camp.
With the Avalanche blue line going through the greatest amount of turnover on the team, it could make sense for the team to give Siemens more of an opportunity this season since he can still be seen as a team veteran. The big defender has been in the system for a long time and would likely not be shaken by a quick introduction into the NHL. This is not to say that he should be guaranteed 82 games simply because he’s been in the organization for a long time. He’ll absolutely have to earn his spot every night as the team tries to figure out how to make a decent blue line.
There is no expectation that Nicolas Meloche will make the roster to start the year, but Meloche certainly did a lot to raise his stock during training camp and the prospect showcase. He’s a big defenseman that can play in every zone of the ice. There isn’t much hype surrounding the QMJHL product, but perhaps it’s simply because he is part of the Colorado system. His numbers during his final season in the Q weren’t exactly pedestrian and a lot of eyes will be on him as he starts his first professional season.
Watching A.J. Greer over the past few seasons has been wonderful. From the first time I saw him at prospect camp, there was always something about him that you just had to love. Greer is the type of player who brings an infectious amount of energy to every single shift. From the second his skates hit the ice to the second he goes back over the boards, Greer is going 100%. Practice, scrimmage, actual game situations, it doesn’t matter.
During training camp, Greer continued to make a name for himself with his play that goes beyond the whistle. He mixed it up multiple times during the prospect showcase and got into a few more scrums during the Burgundy vs. White game, including a tussle with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The scrappy forward has the type of tenacity not seen on this team in a very long time. The big question with Greer will be whether his play will deliver as much offense as it does after-whistle scrums. His rookie year in the AHL leads me to believe that he will be a contributor as well as a gigantic thorn in his opponent’s side.