The waiver wire has been fairly quiet through the first few weeks of the season, but the appearance of former highly-ranked Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Marko Dano on the market was too much for Joe Sakic to pass up on.
The Avalanche claimed Dano off of waivers from the Winnipeg Jets, who had yet to see him appear in a regular season game this year prior to offering him up for exposure.
A native of Eisenstadt, Austria, Dano was drafted 27th overall by the Blue Jackets in 2013 out of the KHL’s Bratislava Slovan.
Although his European pro scoring numbers had left something to be desired, his ability to hold his own in the men’s pros in his draft-eligible season and his strong two-way presence had teams excited to pick him up — and sure enough, Columbus managed to snag him with their late first-round pick.
His first North American season looked as promising as they come. After some time in the AHL with the then-Lake Erie Monsters, Dano spent the latter half of the 2014-15 season in the NHL with Columbus — and put up eight goals and 21 points in just 35 games in the process.
As a result, the Blue Jackets managed to use him to snag another formerly promising piece, top forward Brandon Saad, from the Chicago Blackhawks. Once he hit Chicago, though, Dano never really quite stuck — and after getting dealt to Winnipeg as a part of the Andrew Ladd trade, found himself struggling to stick in the NHL long-term.
Overall, Dano has 19 goals and 45 points in 130 career NHL games, but he was a healthy scratch more often than not last season after getting just two goals and one helper in 23 games for Winnipeg.
His inability to stick in the lineup made sense in some ways, but the team’s lack of provided opportunities in Winnipeg was a bit baffling as well. Per The Athletic’s Murat Ates:
My takeaway on Dano tonight:— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) October 15, 2018
Winnipeg either believes that
A) Lemieux is a better hockey players than Dano is, or:
B) They simply want to move on from him.
Otherwise, I don't understand keeping a waiver-exempt healthy scratch (Lemieux) when the Moose are just down the hall.
Dano's 5-on-5 possession numbers have been good for a long time. He isn't lightning quick or a punishing hitter but when he forechecks, he wins pucks.— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) October 14, 2018
More striking: his points per minute at 5-on-5 have been the equivalent of a middle-six forward since he arrived in Winnipeg.
Ultimately, Dano’s possession numbers make him an intriguing alternative to the Nail Yakupov redemption storyline peddled last year. While he boasts the same streaky scoring and maligned opportunities in the last few years, his defensive presence is much more valuable — and at the very least should give them some bottom-sixth depth. If his scoring can pick up the pace as well, he could finally have found his fit on a very top-heavy Avalanche roster.