Who are you most excited to see (or hear about their progress) in training camp?
Mike: Martin and Varly, obviously.
Tom: Tyson Jost, no doubt about it. The kid has all the talent to become a top line player in the NHL, it will be fun to see how far he’s come this summer. Also Andrei Mironov. Everyone he’s played with says he’s ready to step right into the NHL, it will be fun to see just how quickly he adapts to the Avs and Bednar’s system.
Jackie: I'm always excited to see all the prospects but the ones I'm most anxious to see are those going through their first full camp with the Colorado Avalanche. That includes the newly signed Alex Kerfoot and Dominic Toninato, 2017 draftees Conor Timmins and Petr Kvaca plus Andrei Mironov who is now signed and in North America for his first camp. Jost will also be in his first full camp coming out of college so I'm hoping to see him standout.
Blaise: Andrei Mironov is at the top of the list for me. As Tom said, everyone is saying he's ready to slot into the Avalanche defense but I am not entirely sure I agree with that. Unless he enters and ends camp on fire, I believe he will be starting the season in San Antonio. Alex Kerfoot is another interesting prospect going into camp. He took huge strides in his last season in the NCAA, but I don’t know if that is worth an NHL contract, especially at his size and position when the Avs have the same player but better and younger in Tyson Jost.
Who has the most to gain in camp? Who has the most to lose?
Tom: Gain? I’d go with Yak. The former first overall pick is coming into camp on his last legs after flaming out with two separate teams. He has the raw talent to wow the coaches in camp, and if he takes advantage of the situation, he would find himself opening the season in a top-6 role.
On the flip side, I think Duncan Siemens has the most to lose in camp. If he doesn’t have a camp that proves he belongs in the NHL, Siemens could be on his last legs with the organization and find himself on waivers before being buried in San Antonio for another season. He has every opportunity to make this team, he just needs to take advantage of it. I don’t know if he can.
Jackie: It is going to be a pretty good fight among the pro prospects, each could all conceivably win a spot on the roster, but AJ Greer is the one who has the chance to really make it tough for the Avs staff to cut him. Greer brings a tenacity and attitude that's severely lacking in the organization plus he has a year of pro experience under his belt and is physically ready for the NHL. If he begins the year in San Antonio it will be more of a numbers situation than anything. Conversely, it seems Chris Bigras has a spot penciled in for him and if he's beaten out of that spot and goes down to San Antonio, one might begin to wonder what it's going to take to get him back up to the NHL.
Blaise: The fringe guys who will be fighting for a roster spot have both, the most to lose and the most to gain. Andrei Mironov, Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens, and Anton Lindholm round out the guys battling for a spot in the top 6 on defense. This may be Siemens' last chance if he does not impress in camp this year.
Any dark horse predictions to have a strong camp and push to make the team?
Tom: I think it’s Sergei Boikov. The young defender would fit in nicely as the LD on the third pair and I think he has the potential to outplay Siemens, and Lindholm for the spot.
Jackie: Kerfoot is going to get a long look just by virtue of the nature of signing him as a coveted college free agent. The same could be said about Toninato and his well-rounded defensive game, which could lend itself to an easier fit as a role player on the roster initially.
Blaise: I think Nail Yakupov really has an opportunity to show why he was chosen #1 overall in 2012. I think near guaranteed playing time and consistent line mates are going to do wonders for the still young forward. AJ Greer will also have a wonderful camp and I believe he will round out the 3rd/4th line for the Avs.
What do you hope to see from coach Bednar in camp?
Mike: A clear implementation of the philosophy of younger and faster.
Tom: A willingness to be flexible. Change things around, try players in different roles. This team -especially up front - has a lot of players that can play up and down the lineup and at both wing and center, play around with those options and be willing to get creative.
Jackie: Give Joe Colborne and Carl Soderberg a chance. They both were in the doghouse last season, and justifiably so, but it will not benefit anyone nor the team to pretend these two individuals aren't on the roster and to stick them on lines or in roles which give them little chance to succeed. Everyone has to be a contributing member to this team moving forward and if the organization can't move them then it's their job to figure out a solution so it doesn't drag the rest of the team down.
Blaise: I want to see Bednar give everyone a fair chance to show what they are made of. I want to see everyone have to earn their way onto the roster. I don’t want to see Sven Andrighetto or Colin Wilson or anyone else have a guaranteed spot. Let the talent show for itself.
What defines a successful training camp?
Mike: I mean, this is the Avs so the bar is low. No injuries to your top 20 players, obviously. After that, I’d like to some semblance of buy-in from the players on the systems (New Power Play Please!) and some idea that the coaching staff is going to play players that have earned a spot.
Tom: Health? This is going to be a season of learning - who fits where in Bednar’s system, who can take the next step in their development and who is meant to be with this organization long term. In order to answer these questions, the key players, EJ, Barrie, Varlamov, are going to have to stay in the lineup.
Jackie: Many things from good system play to prospects all looking ready for the next step but the biggest key for me is some semblance of offense. It should have been a clue that both the system and talent level on offense was a big problem when the score was 0-0 into the final minute of the annual Burgundy/White team scrimmage last year. For as much as the defense and roster get flogged, lack of goal scoring has been just as much of an issue for the Avalanche for years. I'd like to see a conscious effort to address the problem and some progress toward getting some damn goals this year.
Blaise: A successful training camp would mean figuring out just where everyone fits inside the organization. Who we should be high on and who looks like they could be on their way out. Of course, it will be an ongoing story throughout the season but training camp is the jump start for these types of conversations.