I have no scientific proof for any of this list. I don’t have a stopwatch. All I have are my own memories – and, more than that. I consulted with a very well-known Avalanche player who played a long time with the team and got his input as well.
So, without further ado, the Colorado Hockey Now list of the top five fastest players in Avalanche history. We’re talking just pure wheels here. Not the first step, not quickest around the corner. Just pure speed, baby.
5. BRIAN ROLSTON – He didn’t play here long. Just 50 games, in the 1999-2000 season. He was the guy the Avs got in a trade for Claude Lemieux, with New Jersey, that season.
He makes the list, though, because, well, he could flat out fly. He was a big guy too – 6-2, 215. It didn’t slow him down any. His breakaway speed was unreal. It’s a big reason why he played 17 years in the NHL.
4. ANTTI LAAKSONEN – I covered this kid when he played at the University of Denver back in the early 1990s, and remember how fast he was then. He got even faster as a pro, which included time with the Avalanche, from 2005-07 (122 games). He was a real weapon in short-handed situations, with a lot of breakaways in his career.
He scored a lot of goals just like this one:
3. NATHAN MACKINNON – This one is a lot easier to “prove” on this list, because we’ve all seen him skate so much in recent years.
I remember his rookie year, in particular. I remember thinking, “Oh my god” when seeing him skate in open ice. Is he faster now? I don’t know. It’s hard to measure that probably. Well, maybe it isn’t. He’s still fast, though. Real fast.
2. KYLE CUMISKEY – Don’t remember him? That’s understandable. He played only sporadically for the Avs from 2006-11, although he did play a career-high 61 games for Colorado in 2009-10.
But if you ask longtime Avs players – as I did for this piece, one of them anyway – Cumiskey’s name is right there at or near the top.
His wheels were incredible. The rest of his game? Well, it had some issues. He was a defenseman, and he just had a hard time in his own zone too much of the time. But if he had the puck in open ice? Look out.
There isn’t much in the way of YouTube highlights on him, but here’s one memorable goal with the Avs that showed some of what we’re talking about:
1. SHEAN DONOVAN – Wow, was he ever fast.
He played with the Avs, mostly as a depth forward, from 1997-2000, the guy the Avs acquired from San Jose for Mike Ricci. His hands were terrible, at least when he played with the Avs, but could he ever fly. He actually went on to have a nice, long NHL career after leaving the Avs. He was a very key player on Calgary’s 2004 team that went to the Cup Finals, in fact. He played 951 career NHL games. And that was mostly all because of his unbelievable speed.
Again, there’s no proof that he was the fastest. But when I asked around, his name came up as the fastest.
HONORABLE MENTION: Owen Nolan (his speed, matched with his physicality, made him a terror on the ice in his prime. People forget how good he was); Theo Fleury (like a waterbug on the ice); Sandis Ozolinsh (tough to leave him off the list); Matt Duchene (Ditto); John-Michael Liles (fast out of that zone); Marek Svatos (We miss him); Cale Makar (Might be No. 1 on the list before long); Valeri Kamensky (Avs fans should have seen him BEFORE he broke his leg, while with the Nordiques).