Coming into training camp, there really weren’t that many battles on the main roster for the Colorado Avalanche.
The one battle we thought might exist was for the fourth line center role. Sure enough, that has been the case.
“That’s where our hole is, right? It’s up the middle,” Bednar said earlier in camp. ““We have permanent fourth line wingers in Cogliano and O’Connor, and we need a center to play there.”
Well, we’re halfway through preseason, and a few players have emerged. Some are certainly more likely to win the spot than others, but we’ll go through all the options available.
Brought in over the summer from the Dallas Stars, Olofsson was between O’Connor and Cogliano at practice the other day, indicating that he’s a legitimate option to win this job. He looked solid in the first preseason game, getting ice-time in all situations, but unfortunately, no one could see the other game he played in. One thing definitely stood out in that second preseason game, and it was his face-off percentage. He won just 1 of the 9 face-offs he took against the Wild on Thursday.
Olofsson didn’t play a ton of center in Dallas, but did in Sweden, as we went over this summer. He’s someone to be taken very seriously for this job, as the Avalanche targeted him in a trade before he hit free agency.
It didn’t really come together for Meyers in the NHL last year until really late, but he’s been solid in training camp, if unspectacular. Whenever Bednar has been asked about him, it hasn’t been glowing praise, but just that he’s happy with his play. He started camp in that spot between O’Connor and Cogliano, but has moved around in recent days.
His first preseason game was a success, as he picked up an assist and was tried on the penalty kill, and like Olofsson, his second game was a mystery. He’s been really strong in the face-off circle, which may help him in the end. Unfortunately, there may be other factors working against Meyers, which we’ll get to.
A name that emerged on the second day of camp as a potential option, simply due to his intriguing skillset, but after Thursday’s game, I think we can officially rule him out.
“I didn’t love him at center,” Bednar said after the game.
He was moved to wing after just a period or so, and I think it’s safe to say that if he somehow manages to win a spot on the roster to start the year, it won’t be down the middle.
Ivan Ivan/Ondrej Pavel
An Ivan Ivan underdog story where he comes to camp on an AHL deal and finishes as the 4C would be incredible, but don’t count on it. The Avalanche are extremely happy with how he’s looked, but he’ll be starting the season with the Eagles, barring him having the game of his life on Sunday.
Ondrej Pavel will also start in the AHL, but for very different reasons. A healthy Pavel might have had a legitimate shot at taking this job. He’s got everything Bednar would want in a fourth line center. He can win face-offs, kill penalties, and his work ethic is off the charts, but an injury derailed his training camp before it could even get started. Just an unfortunate situation, but a name to watch down the line, especially if he gets healthy and starts strong in the AHL.
Who Wins The Job?
This is all subject to change at this point, but if I was to pick who wins the 4C job today, I’d lean towards Olofsson. It might not all have to do with how he looks on the ice, either.
Olofsson would have to go through waivers if they decided to cut him. Could he pass through? Yeah, I think he could. There will be plenty of teams around the NHL looking to send similar players through the waiver wire, and most, if not all, will pass through, so he’s not special by any means. It just takes one team to put in a claim though, and do the Avalanche want to risk that?
Meyers, on the other hand, is still exempt from waivers at the moment. Once he plays 10 more NHL games, that will no longer be the case, so do the Avalanche try to game the system and use that to their advantage to start the year? I could see it happening.
If face-offs really are going to come into play here, then it’s no contest. Meyers was good in the face-off circle as a rookie, and has been dominant in the preseason, winning 19 of his 26 draws. Olofsson, on the other hand, has struggled, winning just 9 of his 27 draws. A pretty big difference. Meyers didn’t play any special teams last year, but they’re testing him on the penalty kill in camp. If he shows he can help the team there, that could swing things the other way.
Regardless of who wins the job out of camp, it seems likely that most of these options will get opportunities to play at 4C this year. Injuries happen, especially to the Avalanche. It’s a long season, so you can’t just depend on one guy to hold down the job for 82 games.