Thanks to some significant roster turnover for the Colorado Avalanche this summer, the team that we see on opening night is going to look quite a bit different from the one that took the San Jose Sharks to Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-final.
After a big trade and a few significant signings earlier this month, the Avs will be doing more than missing a long-time presence on the blue line. They’ll hit the new season after changing half of their middle-six forwards, and that should have a fairly significant impact.
Though Tyson Barrie will be missed, the emergence of Cale Makar (and the likelihood that Barrie wouldn’t sign an extension) made him expendable. As such, Joe Sakic decided to deal from a position of strength to acquire the second line center the team desperately needed. In Nazem Kadri, the team brought in a veteran that when given 2C ice time can excel in an offensive role — and, more importantly, will be able to take some pressure off of Nathan MacKinnon.
In addition to Kadri, the team added Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi and now have the kind of depth up front that is necessary to ice a team that doesn’t have to rely so heavily on their top line for offense.
On paper this team is likely better than the one we saw last season, but it might take a little time for everyone to get healthy and for the coaching staff to find the combinations that work best.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the lineup might look like for the 2019-20 Colorado Avalanche:
**when everyone is healthy
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Line 1: This is one of the best lines in hockey and with added depth it’s easier to leave them together. We know this combination works, and they’ll likely spend most of the season together.
Tyson Jost - Nazem Kadri - Andre Burakovsky
Line 2: Joe Sakic mentioned in his post-trade conference call that Tyson Jost is likely to be moved to the wing to play on Kadri’s left side. Playing Burakovsky on the right side gives the line a big body who can create space for his linemates and provide a little extra scoring touch to a second line that could see breakout seasons from all three players.
Colin Wilson - J.T. Compher - Joonas Donskoi
Line 3: They’re fast. It might be beneficial to split up Compher and Donskoi as they are the only two right-handed shots in the bottom-nine but it will be hard to pass up the allure of creating a line that can out skate most other bottom-nine combinations in the league.
Matt Nieto - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Matt Calvert
Line 4: The addition of Bellemare was a little puzzling, but the fact that he can win face-offs could be enough to get him in the lineup on a regular basis. This line has the potential to cause a lot of havoc on the forecheck and will spend their seven minutes a night getting under the skin of the opposition.
How I’d do it
Wilson - MacKinnon - Rantanen
Line 1: This line keeps together one of the most dangerous duos in the NHL while bringing a long Colin Wilson - who is one of the few players in the Avs lineup that has the speed to (almost) skate with MacKinnon. Wilson has a solid frame and can stand in front of the net when need-be and could easily get back to the 20-goal mark playing with Rantanen and MacKinnon.
Landeskog - Kadri - Donskoi
Line 2: During his time in San Jose, Donskoi did his best work on a line with Evander Kane and Tomas Hertl - big bodies that like to play a physical style of game. That’s exactly what he’d get with Kadri and Landeskog. This group could match up with the opponent's top line while still being dangerous offensively. No one will want to play against this trio.
Burakovsky - Jost - Compher
Line 3: Tyson Jost should be playing center. That was the plan before the team traded for Kadri, and I think they should stick to it. He has the makeup to be a high-level middle-6 center in the NHL but will never get it if he’s moved back to the wing this season. Adding the speed of Compher and the puck-possession of Burakovsky, this line has the potential to be a huge mismatch for the bottom-six of the opposition on most nights.
Bellemare - Kamenev - Calvert
Line 4: After he missed most of the last two seasons, I think it’s important to get Vladislav Kamenev in the lineup on a regular basis. Turning 23 before the start of the season, Kamenev will bring some size and defensive responsibility to the bottom-six. With Shane Bowers and Alex Newhook in the system, this could be a year in which Kamenev needs to prove he can be a part of the long-term plan for the Avalanche down the middle.