Yes, it’s still possible that the Colorado Avalanche will sign another player or two before training camp starts in two months. In fact, looking at the list below, I’d say it’s pretty likely, but for the most part, the roster is set.
That doesn’t just mean the NHL, either. They’re plenty set on defense and in net in the AHL, which makes it difficult for a young player to try to break in. And yes, I’m talking about Jeremy Hanzel. You’ll see why that is below.
For now, let’s take a look at what the depth chart of the organization looks like. Sometimes, seeing things presented like this gives you a better idea of how things might shake out.
It did for me.
|LEFT WING||CENTER||RIGHT WING|
|Artturi Lehkonen||Nathan MacKinnon||Mikko Rantanen|
|Jonathan Drouin||Ryan Johansen||Valeri Nichushkin|
|Miles Wood||Ross Colton||Logan O'Connor|
|Andrew Cogliano||Ben Meyers||Jean-Luc Foudy|
|Fredrik Olofsson||Chris Wagner||Oskar Olausson|
|Riley Tufte||Ondrej Pavel||Jason Polin|
|Cal Burke||Alex Beaucage|
A quick look at the forward group and one thing is very clear – a lot rides on Ryan Johansen this coming season. If he proves he still has it and can be a 2C, this team looks pretty strong down the middle 1-2-3. I’ve got a lot of faith in Ross Colton being a strong 3C, and Nathan MacKinnon is, well, Nathan MacKinnon, but if Johansen shows he isn’t a top six player anymore, things fall apart just a little bit. I’ve mentioned before that I like Ondrej Pavel if they’re looking for a 4C who can fit a defined role, but we can’t rule out a veteran like Chris Wagner for something like that. I’ll give Ben Meyers the edge over both of them for now, but he’s got some competition.
On the wings, you’ve got a lot of players that can move around and play either side. Nichushkin has done that plenty in his career, and I’m guessing he will again next season. To a lesser extent, Drouin and Lehkonen can as well, but Val and Rantanen are the best fit to play the right side. In a few days, we’ll dig into what I think would be good combinations to try at the start of the year, but Jared Bednar will have options. Given his penchant for changing things up, I imagine we’ll see all types of looks when things get going.
Finding another winger to either push O’Connor down a row or fill in below him would round things out nicely.
|LEFT D||RIGHT D|
|Devon Toews||Cale Makar|
|Sam Girard||Josh Manson|
|Bowen Byram||Brad Hunt|
|Jack Johnson||Sam Malinski|
|Kurtis MacDermid||Nate Clurman|
|Keaton Middleton||Wyatt Aamodt|
Can you see why it might be difficult for a guy like Jeremy Hanzel to sign and get playing time?
Hanzel is a left shot defenseman, and the Avalanche currently have 11 defensemen signed to NHL contracts that shoot left handed. Drafting a 20 year old defenseman and then going out and signing even more left shooting defensemen doesn’t necessarily add up, but that’s part of the reason why I could easily see him back in the WHL.
They have so many that I had to move a few to the right side for the chart, like Brad Hunt, who has plenty of experience playing the right side. We also know that the Avalanche aren’t afraid to play Girard on the right, and they experimented with Byram on the right side last year, even though he told me he had never played there before. One of them will likely start the year there, but that’s not their natural side, so I didn’t want to put them there.
No matter how you choose to rank them, I have a hard time finding another NHL team with a stronger top five on defense than the Avalanche. That’s when healthy, of course, which didn’t happen much last year.
Colorado has plenty of depth on defense through the AHL, but I’ve gone on record stating I think they need another NHL defenseman, preferably a right shot. They might not add that player before the season, but it would balance things out a lot.
Everything is clear as day in net. Georgiev is the starter, and Francouz is the back-up. A pending unrestricted free agent, this could be Francouz’s last year with the Avalanche, especially if he struggles to stay healthy again, so it’s a big year for Justus Annunen. A strong year and he could be in line to graduate to the NHL for the 2024-25 season. After losing Jonas Johansson and Keith Kinkaid this summer, the team signed Arvid Holm to split time with Annunen on the Eagles. Minor is the extra who will likely split time in the ECHL and AHL.