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Newcomers Ready to Help The Avalanche In Any Way Possible



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The unofficial start to the season for the Colorado Avalanche is their Charity Golf Tournament. It’s not mandatory, but for the most part, everyone on the team shows up, has a good time, and gives back.

That tournament just happened to take place Monday morning, and to my untrained eye, everyone was there.

Yes, that includes Valeri Nichushkin, who is expected to address the media on Thursday after the first day of training camp. It will be the first time he’ll speak to the media since leaving the team in Seattle during the postseason.

As for who we did get to speak to, that would be two of the newest members of the Avalanche, Tomas Tatar and Ross Colton. Both came over to Colorado this summer from the Eastern Conference, although under very different circumstances. Colton was targeted by the Avalanche via trade, while the organization waited out the market, signing Tatar just last week.

While both have been in Colorado for over a week, they each noticed the same thing – the altitude hits you pretty fast.

“It wasn’t pretty at the start,” Tatar joked of the adjustment to being a mile high.

For Colton, he goes back to the Stanley Cup Final last year, when the altitude got to him in one of the worst times imaginable.

“I remember we were playing them in the finals,” Colton said. “I think there was one night, I just woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t breathe. I’ve been out here about 10 days or so. The first two days were a little bit hard, but I feel like, for the most part, I’ve been good.”

For Tatar, his perspective on the summer changed the longer he sat around with a contract. His goal was to go to a team that had “very big potential,” and he felt like the Avalanche were a good fit. Before signing, he had conversations with many of the players on the team, including Gabriel Landeskog, but one member of the Avalanche scouting staff was his first contact.

“First person I talked to was Miro Zalesak, then it kind of took off from there,” Tatar said. “I talked to Chris (MacFarland) and Bednar, and just to talk to them, I thought it was a great opportunity. It took a little while to get everything in order, but I’m very happy with the decision. I can feel the winning mentality here and I’m super pumped I can join an organization like this.”

Zalesak is the Head of European Scouting for the Avalanche, and a fellow Slovak. This isn’t the first time his name has come up this summer, as he’s the member of the Colorado staff who is usually in contact with Nikolai Kovalenko. That 23 year old Russian signed his entry-level deal in July, and will join the team after his KHL season ends. Zalesak appears to be a bit of a secret weapon for the organization.

Tatar spent the last two season in New Jersey, playing for a Devils team that likes to push the pace. Seeing as the Avalanche like to play fast, that may make the transition a little easier.

“I hope so!” he joked. “We had a very fast team last year, but so was Colorado. Every time we played you guys, I realized how fast of a team you guys had. I’m happy I’m going to be on their side this time. I’ll do whatever I can to be able to help the team.”

While Tatar didn’t know where he was going to play until recently, Colton had a good idea he’d be changing teams pretty early in the offseason. He commented earlier this summer that he had gotten an indication that Tampa may move him, so the trade wasn’t a huge surprise. When he found out it was the Avalanche, he was pretty happy.

“We’re super excited,” Colton said. “Just a good group of guys, they know how to win. Obviously, played against them in the finals, so I knew the kind of team they had. Been out here for about 10 days now, and just been loving it.”

And in those 10 days, he’s found out exactly who the heartbeat of the team is, not that it was any huge surprise.

“It’s high intensity,” he said. “Nate (MacKinnon) does a good job of bringing that intensity, so I’ve kind of just been trying to feed off that a little bit.”

In Tampa, Colton had a bit of a reduced role, simply because of how deep that team is. Since being acquired, the Avalanche have made it pretty clear they see him as a center. The 27 year old forward agrees, but is ready for anything.

“Wherever I can slot in and fill a role is great,” Colton said. “I take pride in winning face-offs and stuff like that, so I definitely feel like center is my natural position, but if he needs me to play wing, I can do that as well.”

Colton carpooled to the Golf Tournament with his fellow newcomers, Miles Wood and Ryan Johansen. All three live in the same area, and are a part of the rebuilt forward core of the Avalanche, so Colton is not the only person getting to know his new teammates.

“It kind of makes it a little easier coming to the rink knowing that there’s other guys in that same situation,” Colton said. “For the most part, all the leaders, and everyone in the locker room has made us feel welcome right away, so honestly, the transition has been pretty easy.”

Colton, Tatar, and all the Avalanche players hit the ice on Thursday for the first day of training camp.

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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