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Mid-Summer Line Forecasting For The Avalanche



Lehkonen Avalanche

There’s still a lot that can happen between now and the start of the season for the Colorado Avalanche, but we have a pretty good idea of what the forward group will look like.

In training camp, there typically aren’t a ton of surprises that make the team from the start, assuming a fully healthy squad. There’s still time for the Avalanche to make a move, but with limited cap space, it has to be at a price they can stomach. With the team dipping into LTIR this year, they won’t be able accrue any cap space during the year. Their forward addition at the deadline might be Nikolai Kovalenko, for all we know.

But for now, we have a pretty good idea of how the forward group will look, especially the top nine. How those forwards line up is a different story. They have multiple forwards who can play multiple positions, which means they have some flexibility.

So if I was running the team (which I’m clearly not), how would I start the season? I’m glad you asked!

Jonathan Drouin – Nathan MacKinnon – Valeri Nichushkin

You don’t sign Jonathan Drouin unless you’re going to give him a realistic shot to rekindle his chemistry with Nathan MacKinnon, right? From there, it’s just a matter of deciding who fits best on the other wing. This could go multiple directions, and I’m sure we’ll see a few players tried there, but I like Nichushkin on the other wing.

He adds some size to the line, can dig pucks out of the corners, and act as the defensive conscience for the other two. If the Avalanche wanted to load up on talent, they could throw Rantanen there and give Drouin the ultimate opportunity to succeed, but I think Nichushkin’s two-way ability fits the best here.

Artturi Lehkonen – Ryan Johansen – Mikko Rantanen

If Johansen can’t succeed playing with Rantanen, then he probably isn’t a 2C anymore. Rantanen will be the driver on this line, while Lehkonen does a lot of the dirty work. The wingers in the top six can move around, but I just like the idea of Rantanen with Johansen to give him the best possible chance to succeed.

Miles Wood – Ross Colton – Logan O’Connor

You don’t give a guy six years and not play him in a bigger role, and we know they view Ross Colton as a center right now, so those two seem to be set in stone.

On paper, that right wing spot seems perfect for Kovalenko, who can grind it out while adding some distribution skills to the line, but he won’t be here until March, at the earliest. To start the year, unless someone else is brought in, O’Connor seems like the best fit on the right side. There wouldn’t be a real passer in this trio, but they could cause a lot of havoc on the forecheck. LOC has mainly been used in a third-line role in the regular season, so they would be comfortable using him there.

Andrew Cogliano – Ben Meyers* – Fredrik Olofsson*

Cogliano is a lock. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess, but the other two likely have the inside track. It would help if Meyers had a contract, but I imagine that gets done at some point. He doesn’t have a ton of negotiating power at the moment. Olofsson is a bit of a wild card, but the organization went out of their way to acquire him early in the summer, so they clearly like him. They also haven’t really added any other forwards to knock him down the depth chart.

There will be other names in the mix, and one way they can make the roster is by showing they can kill penalties. Veteran Chris Wagner hasn’t played much in the NHL in recent years, but has over 350 games of NHL experience that the staff may value. Ondrej Pavel was a dynamite face-off guy and penalty killer in the NCAA, and that’s his way to stick in the NHL.

Then you have young guys like Jean-Luc Foudy and Oskar Olausson, but I can’t imagine the Avalanche wanting them playing a fourth line role in the NHL. If one of those guys earned a spot on the third line (*cough* Foudy *cough*) and pushed LOC down, that improves the team even more.

Based off what we currently know, what lines would you start the year with?

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