It’s going to be a very competitive training camp for the Colorado Avalanche in one respect: the battle among some of the organization’s younger, prospect forwards for potential jobs with the big club. You’ve got lots of guys who are going to go into camp thinking they have a shot at making the team, including Shane Bowers, Oskar Olausson, Ben Meyers, Sampo Ranta, Cal Burke, Mikhail Maltsev, Anton Blidh, Jayson Megna and the guy I’ll focus in on a little more closely today, Martin Kaut.
Simply put, this is a very big season coming up for the 22-year-old, former first-round draft pick of the Avalanche. He is entering the final year of his entry-level contract, which pays $863,334 at the NHL level and $425,000 at the AHL level. After this season, he’ll be a restricted free agent.
He’s coming off a mixed bag of a season, spent mostly with the Colorado Eagles. He was hurt for some of the season, but scored 19 goals and 31 points in 46 games for the Eagles. He played six games for the Avalanche, with zero points and two penalty minutes.
In my opinion, he has to have a big camp, including preseason games, to get people like Jared Bednar to believe more in him. I don’t think Bednar dislikes Kaut or anything, but it’s clear that the 6-2, 190-pound right wing has yet to make a strong impression on him. In 20 NHL games through three small stints with the Avalanche, Kaut has two goals and one assist. Granted, he hasn’t gottten much playing time, but it’s been more than some other cup-of-coffee stints other guys in his cohort have gotten – an average of 9:12 per game.
I saw Kaut play a few games with the Eagles last year, and he’s a strong, powerful skater with good size. He’s got a good, hard shot. It seemed like he played with a little more snarl and sandpaper. With the Avalanche, the problem, as I’ve seen it, is that he’s not quite sure of what kind of style he’s supposed to play.
Does he think he has to be a grinder, a checker, to stick with the big club? Or, does he think of himself as top-six material who just hasn’t gotten enough of a chance to prove that yet? No doubt, Kaut wants to utilize his shot and offensive instincts more. But it becomes a Catch-22 for guys like him after a while.
Kaut needs to put up better offensive numbers at the NHL level, but if he can’t get the ice time and more talented linemates to play with, how does he put up better offensive numbers?
It’s just one of those things where he’s going to have to somehow find a way. He’s going to have to have a couple of two-goal games in the preseason or something, to get the coaches’ (and fans’) attention more.
As I see it, there is a real opportunity for a guy like Kaut to make the jump this year. Four forwards from last year’s playoff roster (Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Nico Sturm, Nicolas Aube-Kubel) are with other teams now. There are your new opportunities for Martin Kaut and the other guys mentioned above.
Martin Kaut should be one of the leaders in the clubhouse to emerge from the competition and make the big club. He should be anyway.
But will that actually happen? It won’t be too long before we start finding out.