The front office has their offseason business settled and the boys are back in town. That only means one thing, training camp is just around the corner for the Colorado Avalanche.
Who has the most to gain and/or lose at this year’s training camp?
Tom: I’m going to go with Anton Lindholm, his NHL career may very well rely on how he performs at training camp. If he is unable to beat out a guy like Patrik Nemeth or Mark Alt for the 7D spot on the team, there is a very good chance that he head back to Sweden as opposed to accepting an assignment to the Eagles.
Hardev: I will say the entire (potential) line of Sven Andrighetto, Alex Kerfoot, and Tyson Jost. Those three could create a solid second line if they can prove to Coach Bednar that they’re worth keeping together. If not, they’ll be split up again and one or two of the trio will be forced to play some fourth-line minutes with Dominic Toninato and Gabriel Bourque. They’re young, especially Jost, and need the time to be able to grow together, but that will only come if it’s earned in training camp.
Jackie: Nearly everyone outside of the top line has something to prove and to solidify their role. But I’m particularly interested in how Nicolas Meloche looks at this camp and if he can position himself as the first call-up on defense. Meloche gets lost in the shadow of the excitement surrounding Conor Timmins but he is a top prospect in his own right. With a year of professional hockey under his belt, the Avalanche should be planning to give him an opportunity sooner than later and a good camp would go a long way to helping that cause.
Cat: He may not have the same impact on the rest of the team that some of the other answers will, but I think Spencer Martin stands to lose his spot in the depth chart if he performs poorly at training camp. After a lackluster season - which saw him lose the starting gig in San Antonio to the prospect for the St. Louis Blues, who shared the organization with Colorado - he’s up against both a newcomer in Pavel Francouz and Joe Cannata, who had a remarkable season. The idea is that Cannata is likely still the team’s ECHL starter, but it’s hard to imagine the Avalanche’s patience isn’t wearing thin with Martin after he’s failed to take steps forward in recent years.
Who is a dark horse favorite who could surprise and make the opening night roster?
Jackie: The signing happened without much fanfare but the Avalanche quickly moved to get Logan O’Connor into the fold over the summer. He is an older rookie and has a more defined role as a penalty killer which would make it easy for the coaching staff to find use for him. A few injuries would have to be likely to get O’Connor on the opening night roster but my hunch is he sees NHL time much sooner than anyone expects.
First round draft selection Martin Kaut figures to get a long look in training camp and could end up on the opening night roster much like Mikko Rantanen did after his first camp with the Avalanche. It may just be a taste of the NHL game as the Avalanche might want to preserve the first year of Kaut’s Entry Level Contract and have him play the majority of the season in the AHL with the Colorado Eagles, such as Rantanen did as well.
Tom: I think that there is a very strong possibility that either Sheldon Dries or Scott Kosmachuk make the roster out of training camp. Both were signed to bolster the lineup in Loveland, but with all the uncertainty among the group of wingers, either one could find themselves in the opening night lineup. If I had to pick one, I’d go with Kosmachuk. He plays the kind of gritty, hard forechecking game this team needs, and at the moment, he does it than A.J. Greer. He has the added bonus of being a right-handed shot - something the lineup desperately needs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Kosmachuk make the team as a younger, cheaper alternative to Colin Wilson.
Hardev: Gosh, it would be fun if the Avs go with a high-risk high-reward skilled fourth line and throw a kid like Vladislav Kamenev with a player like Dries (whom Tom mentioned above) together with a JT Compher. The league is shifting to youth and skill, and if these three older prospects can come in and stick, it would be very intriguing to watch.
Which position battle are you most interested in?
Jackie: I’m going to be watching Carl Soderberg’s linemates closely. The construct of his line could go one of two ways; either a defensive veteran combination much like last season or more of a secondary scoring line. Whoever it is will likely see a decent amount of time on ice and is a role which bears watching.
Tom: That’s an easy one, I want to see how Bednar splits the preseason time between Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer. Varly is the incumbent, but his contract is up at the end of the season, and many believe that Grubauer was brought in to be the starter in the long term. Do we see Varlamov return to form (and health) and ride as the 1a going into the season, or does the Grubauer era start a year early?
Hardev: If literally anyone can keep up with Nathan MacKinnon in any of the drills. I hope he comes out and just smokes everyone on the first day. I hope he’s mad he got snuffed in the Hart Trophy voting. I’m excited to see him battle the league for respect once again.
Cat: I’m curious how long Kaut stays up with Colorado during the preseason - and if he can potentially earn himself a look in the NHL to kick off the year. It’s unlikely, but a fantastic preseason performance from the 2018 first rounder could put him on the team’s radar as a call-up from the get-go.
What objectives would you like to see this training camp focus on?
Hardev: In a word: skill. I want to see the guys on the team, especially the young players and prospects, learn how their skills can most efficiently work in an NHL setting and within Bednar’s systems. We had a top-10 power play and penalty kill last year. Good. Keeping that up will be key in getting the Avs back to the playoffs for the seccond time in a row in... let’s say a while.
Oh, and lots of “he’s in the best shape of his life” quotes. We need to keep this league-wide meme alive.
Jackie: I’d like to see continued opportunities for the next wave of young players. Systematically, better neutral zone forecheck and offensive creativity that ultalizes plays below the goal line. Goal scoring took a major step forward last season but the offensive system needs to keep growing with the talent on the roster.
Tom: I want to make sure they leave camp healthy. Last season, Tyson Jost was battling through an injury at both rookie and main camp that sidetracked the start of his season and it took him a long while before he was completely comfortable.
We all know how hard the team was hit by injury last season, so entering the regular season with a full group of healthy players would be huge.