In order to contend in today’s NHL, your team must have quality depth in basically every position. Long gone are the days that you could rely heavily on a couple of star players and expect to have a winning team and compete in the playoffs.
The Colorado Avalanche have been on a mission to become a bigger, stronger, and most importantly, a deeper team overall. So far they are right on track it seems, as they have brought in considerable forward depth fitting that mold compared to just a couple of years ago. Colorado has become a much better team all around by doing so, no doubt about it.
Colorado subtracted Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn up front, but added Carl Soderberg, Mikhail Grigorenko, Blake Comeau, Mikko Rantanen and Andreas Martinsen. Which essentially at least doubles the forward depth chart for the Avalanche. Not to mention the team also acquired J.T. Compher and added a couple more forwards through the draft.
The coaching staff now have a tough decision on their hands to decide which Avalanche forwards will make the opening night roster. Last year it was deciding who to have called up, this year it will be deciding who will have to be sent down.
A Closer Look
There are of course players on every team who are considered to be “locks” in the lineup. For Colorado those would be Matt Duchene, Gabe Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Tanguay, Jarome Iginla, Mikhail Grigorenko, Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, John Mitchell, Cody McLeod, Patrick Bordeleau, and Jesse Winchester. That is already twelve forwards. Ideally you want one or two extra forwards on top of those twelve so you can tinker with your lineup when needed.
Grigorenko is not seen as a lock by many yet, though he has just signed a one way contract, seems to have his head on straight, and has way too much talent not to be on the team. That leaves Dennis Everberg, Joey Hishon, Mikko Rantanen, Borna Rendulic, Freddie Hamilton, and Marc-Andre Cliche as the most realistic players who will be fighting for a spot come training camp.
Which Player Fills a Need Most?
Obviously only one or two players out of that group will make the team, depending on how many forwards and defenseman Patrick Roy wants to have on the roster. There is the possibility of course that more than two spots are available in the event of an injury, or if say a player has an outstanding showing and surprises everyone.
What the Avalanche needed most last year was a very solid and reliable third line. For a while they had a good one with Everberg – Mitchell – Tanguay until injuries to Everberg and Mitchell broke that up. Adding Grigorenko, Soderberg, Comeau, along with Mitchell gives the Avs plenty of options now to build a very solid third line going forward.
Besides defense, the biggest necessity is a top 6 winger since O’Reilly was traded. Enter the 10th overall pick, Mikko Rantanen. Although just drafted, Rantanen has been playing against men in the FEL so he could very well be ready to skate in the NHL. He also has size which is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Former first round pick, Joey Hishon could also make the team and continue his progression after a series of very unfortunate injuries to start out his career. While Dennis Everberg showed great promise for a young kid coming over from Sweden’s second division straight into the NHL. Rendulic, Hamilton, and Cliche should all start in San Antonio, but also have an outside shot at cracking the roster.
These are good problems to have as the Avs finally have depth to call upon when needed.
Possible Forward Lineup
Now that we all pretty much know that there will be no more additions to the team, we can more accurately create the opening night forward lineup. If Rantanen has a strong camp and proves he belongs, the Avalanche forward lines could look something like this.
- Tanguay – Duchene – Iginla
- Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen
- Grigorenko – Soderberg – Comeau/Hishon
- McLeod/Bordeleau – Mitchell/Hamilton – Everberg/Winchester
As you can see the Colorado Avalanche are now more balanced with more options up front. There is a lot of flexibility since so many of these forwards can play multiple positions. The problem will be finding the right spot for everyone to maximize their potential growth as hockey players. Some will no doubt be starting for the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL, though as long as Colorado’s prospects are getting minutes, they are on the right path.
So then Avalanche fans, which forwards would you want to make the final roster?
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