Could the summer BE any longer?
With Matt Duchene trade rumors hanging over the team for months (years), the preseason couldn’t come soon enough. Off-ice questions still exist, but at least now we have game action to distract us.
Coming off of the worst years in franchise history, Colorado Avalanche fans had to suffer through one of the more boring offseasons in memory. Expected to make moves to re-shape a team that lost 56 games last season, Joe Sakic did very little. Outside of the draft, the Avs’ biggest acquisition was...Colin Wilson.
Maybe a lack of additions is a good thing. There aren’t a lot of new faces in the organization, but at least this year it looks like youngsters are going to have a chance to play in the NHL - as opposed to washed up veterans like Jarome Iginla, Fedor Tyutin and Francois Beauchemin clogging up the depth chart.
Tonight we get our first look at the team that has to be better than last season and to add to the excitement, it’s the expansion Vegas Golden Knights coming to town.
The one big non-Duchene related question for the Avalanche during the offseason is what the blueline look like to start the season. Nikita Zadorov is signed but still hasn’t been on the ice with his teammates. He won’t be in the lineup tonight - creating an extra spot for one of the youngsters trying to make the roster. The top-4 spots are spoken for but there are three more roster positions that appear to be completely open.
Andrei Mironov was expected to be penciled into the NHL lineup but he hasn’t looked good through rookie camp. Sergei Boikov has also looked bad while Duncan Siemens, Chris Bigras and Nicolas Meloche have looked very strong.
Jared Cowen is still around on a PTO and Anton Lindholm has a familiarity with the coaching staff that gives him an inside lane to make the team.
We are likely to see a lot of different combinations on the blueline this offseason - something that should be fun to watch.
Forwards: Alex Kerfoot, Rocco Grimaldi, Andrew Agozzino, Nathan MacKinnon, Carl Soderberg, JC Beaudin, Dominic Toninato, Gabriel Bourque, Ty Lewis, Travis Barron, Matt Nieto, Mikko Rantanen,
Defense: Mason Geertsen, Erik Johnson, Duncan Siemens, Jared Cowen, Nicolas Meloche, Conor Timmins
Goaltenders: Spencer Martin, Joe Cannata
The Golden Knights
Vegas comes into town having already started their preseason. They went into Vancouver and embarrassed the Canucks 9-4, buoyed by a hattrick from Tyler Wong. The Golden Knights are going to be really bad this season, but it’s looking like they’re going to be exciting to watch - at least in the preseason.
They’re going to have a much different lineup tonight than Sunday, but we will get to see first-round pick, Nick Suzuki, before he gets sent back to tear up the OHL in Owen Sound.
Here is tonight’s lineup:
Forwards: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Erik Haula, Tomas Hyka, Oscar Lindberg, Jonathan Marchesseault, David Perron, Teemu Pulkkinen, Vadim Shipachyov, Reilly Smith, Nick Suzuki, Paul Thompson, Alex Tuch.
Defense: Deryk Engelland, Jason Garrison, Brad Hunt, Jon Merrill, Colin Miller, Luca Sbisa
Goaltenders: Maxime Legace, Oscar Dansk
The starting goalies
Since we’re likely to see the goalies splitting time, the starter doesn’t really matter. Here’s the lowdown on both of the Vegas goalies from our favorite Voodoo explainer Cat Silverman:
"Vegas doesn't inspire much in the way of confidence with either of their goaltenders present. Maxime Lagace is a product of the mysteriously struggling Dallas Stars system - and it shows, with sub-.900 save percentages at both the AHL and ECHL level last year - while Oscar Dansk was no great loss for the Columbus Blue Jackets when he ended up heading to the expansion club this summer. He's looked off on his angles in practice so far, and has plenty of room for improvement - but will need to show that he's able to improve in order to truly become any kind of bona fide prospect for the Golden Knights. While the Avalanche lack much in the way of elite prospective goaltending talent, these two aren't much in the way of stiff competition."
For the Avs, we’ll see the duo of Joe Cannata and Spencer Martin - the tandem that will likely man the crease in San Antonio all season.
What to look for
As someone who was lucky enough to watch him all season last year, I can tell you, Nick Suzuki is a heck of a lot of fun to watch - keep an eye on him because it’s going to be another year before we get a chance to see him in the NHL again.
As for the good guys, it’s really all about the battle on the blueline. Timmins will get some game action before going back to The Soo, but Meloche, Geersten Siemen’s and even Jared Cowen will be looking to use the game tonight to show they deserve a chance at the NHL lineup this season.
We’ll also get to see the two NCAA free agents Toninato and Kerfoot attempt to build on an impressive rookie tournament - this time with a little more talent around them.
We’ll also get to see Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson and Mikko Rantanen in game action for the first time this season.
How to watch
Tonight’s game can be seen on Altitude TV at 7mt. It can also be seen by those outside of the Denver market on NHL.tv.