Avalanche Have 3 Second Line Center Options to Consider

Alex Newhook might well be the Colorado Avalanche’s second-line center in time, but it feels like his placement there is premature. J.T. Compher has been playing more minutes than him on a regular basis, and head coach Jared Bednar makes decisions on who gets ice time based on who fills their role best. Even if he says differently, ice time says he doesn’t think it is Newhook.

Couple this with a comparison of many other major contender for the Stanley Cup this season – whose top two center ice positions are elite. There are many positives we can find in each of Newhook and Compher’s play, but “elite” is not a word I would use to describe either of them.

The messaging from the Avalanche was they would play it cool on this front, but it looks less and less like they can afford to. Who might they be targeting to fill that second-line center role?

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Sean Monahan

Likely more than one player is on the trade block in Montreal, but there have been more scouts than usual at their home games. Garth Joy was there for two games. Curtis Leschyshyn, I’m led to understand, has been there even more.

I doubt a defenseman or winger could possibly be of interest, as none fit with the Avalanche’s identity well. Sean Monahan, though, has found his form again. Even though Christian Dvorak scored a hat trick against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 29, I think Sean Monahan is the target. The Habs can easily eat his salary for the rest of the season if the Avalanche are ready to pony up.

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Monahan can address two specific areas of weakness on the Avalanche’s roster in addition to being an overall better player than Newhook. One is the penalty kill and the other is faceoffs. In his last few games, he has a good record in the circle, winning 60-70 percent of his faceoffs some nights. He has also recently played top-line minutes on the wing, and his shot still beats NHL goaltenders. There is some risk involved in trading for a player who has had two hip surgeries, but if he remains healthy he fits the bill.

Max Domi

Although Max Domi is a much-traveled player at this point in his NHL career, he checks a lot of boxes. He can generate points and has played on top lines, although in the past few seasons he has either played on bad teams or with sub-par linemates. Playing with Nichushkin would be a huge upgrade for him. His contract is a one-year deal, at $3 million in average annual value (AAV), and he is playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, who are clearly open for business.

Max Domi Chicago Blackhawks
Max Domi, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Just as strong as Monahan in the faceoff circle, there is plenty to like in his uncompromising, pesky game. Domi is a combative, feisty, under-your-skin type of player that opposition teams hate. He won’t win many strength contests, but he can keep up speed-wise with the Avs’ high flyers and add some, let’s just call them, unique elements to the team’s game. In that respect, he has some of Nazem Kadri in him. Given how easy his cap hit would be to absorb, this seems like a potential fit for the Avalanche.

Evan Rodrigues

This would be an internal hire, but maybe Evan Rodrigues gets a crack at this position. He is better at faceoffs, generates more points, and has generally outplayed Newhook in most areas of the game. While he is not a natural center, he might be a better option than what is internally available right now. He is also generating more than Newhook and Compher, and has shown real versatility so far in his career.

Related: Avalanche Evan Rodrigues Secret Weapon?

No matter which way they go, look for the Avalanche to address this position soon. They can’t let it all ride on the top line and let the chips fall where they may, they will need to act at some point. The timing of this will depend on how the team does on the rest of their road trip – if they go on a prolonged losing streak I see them looking for a solution sooner rather than later.