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Top-3 Colorado Avalanche With Most To Prove Next Season

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In order for the Colorado Avalanche to stay at or near the top of the Central Division, and advance further in the playoffs then they did this past season, they will need a few of the players currently on the roster to either take their games to new heights, or find a role they previously haven’t been able to lock down.

With Gabriel Landeskog already pronounced out for the 2023-24 season, the Avalanche have a little bit more cap space to work with, but it’s not the best free agent class around. Chris MacFarland has his work cut out for him, but the improvement can’t all come from external options. There needs to be some internal improvement for the team to improve.

They’ll need to see some improvement in certain areas from a few players on the squad:

Alex Newhook

Maybe expectations were too high coming into the 2022-23 season. After all, he was a healthy scratch to start the playoff run the year before. But still, when you look at the numbers, everything took a step back this past year for Newhook. That’s not uncommon for a young player, as most players don’t follow a straight line of development, but it was unfortunate.

There were some positives, as he looked more and more comfortable at the center position as the year went on. Newhook taking off and developing into a top six forward would obviously be a huge boon for the organization, but what you hope for, at the very least, is he establishes a role on the team. For most of the past season, he didn’t have that. He was moved from center, to wing, to center, and played all over the lineup. Injuries did play a part in that, and it’s hard to develop consistency when you are moved from line to line.

His best run of the year came when he was centering Logan O’Connor and Andrew Cogliano in January. Can he establish himself as a third line center option for the team? The expectation/hope is that the Avalanche go out and find someone to be their second line center, but as of right now, there’s a lot of question marks down the middle after Nathan MacKinnon. There has to be some sort of answer internally to those questions. Newhook still has a chance to be one of them, and that would solve a lot of problems for Colorado.

Bowen Byram

There’s no question about his ability. As an NHL player, he’s produced at a .472 point-per-game rate. The problem is that over three seasons, he’s been limited to just 91 regular season games.

It’s not all Byram has to prove, as there are still some holes in his game that need work, but availability is important. That’s part of the reason why his contract negotiation this summer is such an interesting one, and why I’d bet on it likely just being a short-term bridge deal. If Byram shows he can stay healthy, it answers a lot of questions moving forward.

Ben Meyers

Meyers has an inside track on a bottom six job for next season, just based off his experience from the past season. All of the underlying numbers for Meyers were strong in 2022-23, and even as a rookie, he was strong in the face-off circle. After being sent to the AHL, he really hit his stride late in the season, and that earned him another call-up to the NHL. At that point, the puck finally started to go in for him, even if one was of the flukey variety.

That’s really the only question – can he produce enough to stick in the NHL? I don’t think offensive expectations are super high for him, but four points in 39 games, all of which were goals, just isn’t enough. It’s also fair to wonder how much poor luck played into that, as the Avalanche had a remarkably low on-ice shooting percentage when he was out there.

There’s still plenty of belief that Meyers can carve out a role in the bottom six, and all of the underlying numbers show that. I think it happens next year, and if it does happen, it immediately improves the look of the forward group.

Honorable Mention: Valeri Nichushkin

The reason why he didn’t make the top three is pretty simple – everyone, by now, knows what he is at the NHL level. He’s an elite defensive forward whose offense has now developed to the point where he’s a fantastic top six player.

The reason why many would argue he should be in there – no one knows exactly what the heck happened in the playoffs, and there’s still a ton of mystery around his availability for next season. I’d bet on him being there, and hopefully the team gets some clarity this summer on that, but that’s why I don’t have him in the top three.

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Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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