Now that the Colorado Avalanche roster is finalized, let’s take a look at what we have on the defensive side of the puck.
3 Chris Bigras - Not a rookie, but still only 22, Bigras is a guy that could bring some youthful exuberance to the blue line. He has grown a ton since his time with the Avs two seasons ago and really could end up being an x-factor for the team. He plays a solid all-around game, and if he’s able to depend on a veteran partner, expect Bigras to become a very good NHLer this season. He dropped down the depth chart last year thanks to time missed due to a concussion, but this training camp, Bigras proved he’s worth taking a shot with.
4 Tyson Barrie - The one defenseman on this team that has the talent to be a true game-breaker. The Avs PP was abysmal last season and if it’s going to improve this year, Barrie is going to be the catalyst for it. He is an elite offensive defenseman and given the right partner can become responsible enough defensively to play on the top pair. He’s a high-risk high-reward guy that could very well end up leading this team in assists.
6 Erik Johnson - Johnson is going to be a key to any success the Avs blueline has this season. He’s going to be relied upon to play huge minutes and contribute in every situation. Luckily he has the talent to do so. He was turned into the veteran leader this offseason and from all accounts he seems to be embracing the role. I do’nt know why, but I’m expecting a huge season for the former first overall pick
12 Patrik Nemeth - the newest member of the then team, Nemeth was picked up off waivers from the Dallas Stars just two days before the start of the regular season. A stay-at-home defender, Nemeth bring size and toughness to a blueline that could use some. Don’t expect him to contribute at all offensively, but he can provide stabilizing presence while playing with a guy like Barrie.
16 Nikita Zadorov - after starting training camp a little later than his teammates, Nikita Zadorov has caught a bit of flack from his head coach. Bednar suggested that Z is a little behind where he should be. Zadorov is going to have to have a big season as he is an integral part of the team’s top-4. Physicality and stability are his calling card - let’s hope Z can take the next step in his development.
44 Mark Barberio - a waiver wire find last season, Barberio is a solid depth guy that is going to be counted on more than he should be. On most teams, he’d be a 6/7 guy but in Denver, he’s going to be counted on to be a lot more. He has good offensive instincts but will need to show more of an all-around game to stay in the lineup all season.
94 Andrei Mironov - yet another rookie, Mironov still looks like a guy that is trying to figure out the North American game. He looked good at times in the preseason but did a lot of floating in his own end - something that will get you in a lot of trouble in the NHL. He’ll likely be the 7th defender for large chunks of the season.
1 Semyon Varlamov - the undisputed starter - as long as he’s healthy. If he can stay in the net and play like he’s capable of, Varlamov has the ability to be a top-10 goalie in the NHL. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown he’s able to do that very often over his career.
45 Jonathan Bernier - a legitimate backup that can spell Varlamov more frequently that he’s used to. Bernier proved last season that he can be very solid for an extended stretch if needed. A groin injury that has lingered through the preseason could be a concern, but if he’s healthy, Bernier can help to keep Varlamov fresh this year.