If the Colorado Avalanche are to improve the way their fans hope they will, one player that’s going to have to make a big leap is Mikhail Grigorenko. After a solid—if statistically unspectacular—first year in Burgundy & Blue, the 22-year-old looks primed to take not just one step forward, but perhaps two.
Grigorenko scored two goals tonight in route to a 3-1 Avalanche victory, and won 72% of his face-offs tonight as the team’s No. 2 center to boot. The win moves Colorado to 3-0 in the preseason standings, already a better showing than in recent seasons. New coach, Jared Bednar, just doesn’t seem interested in losing, no matter who is playing in the lineup right now.
The Avalanche are finally starting to re-introduce some of their World Cup participants back in the lineup. Nathan MacKinnon, hot off his stellar performance with Team North America, showed zero signs of slowing down, scoring on his very first shot back in an Avalanche uniform. By most accounts, it was Nikita Zadorov who made the play, skating the puck up ice and dishing to Rene Bourque, who then found an open MacKinnon in front of the net for the put away.
After that it was all Grigorenko, who backhanded the puck home after an assist from Patrick Wiercioch in the first and did it again in the second during a power power play. 2015 2nd Round draft pick, AJ Greer, got his first point of the preseason with an assist.
Also returning from World Cup play was goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was likely out to prove he deserved more than the zero starts he got from Team Russia in competition play. Varlamov let in one unassisted Trevor Lewis goal in the first period, but blanked the Kings the rest of the way, saving 33 of 34 shots thrown his way.
Colorado plays next of October 4th at home against the Minnesota Wild.