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Twitter Tuesday: Bowen Byram, line combinations and who makes the team?

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A lot of tough questions to answer if your name is Joe Sakic or Jared Bednar, but I’ll give it my best shot!

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the first iteration of a new segment I’m trying out here on MHH called “Twitter Tuesday,” where I answer all of your questions, comments, concerns and inquiries about your Colorado Avalanche. Without further ado...

Strap in, this first one’s a doozie

When I threw out my inquiries for Avs-related questions on the Twitterverse, I was not expecting to receive this sort of philosophical level of questioning. Wow. I lost sleep over this last night. I couldn’t stop thinking why in the world IS Mikko?

What is the meaning of life? Are we really here? Is this real? Can you really experience anything objectively? Why is Mikko? I just, I just... I don’t know.

Now that our minds are warmed up...let’s get down to it

The sky is the limit for Vladislav Kamenev. That is, if he can stay healthy. He’s had a very nice training camp and is certainly making the roster decision more difficult for Bednar and Co. I think Kamenev has earned his spot on this roster, however, and he’ll play in the NHL this season. He earned his spot last season and started the year with the Avs and played until he hurt himself in December and missed the remainder of the season. I think he earns his spot again and will hopefully remain healthy this time around.

For his ceiling? I could see him scoring 10-15 goals and 30-40 points this season in some sort of a third-line role. Anything more and the Matt Duchene trade becomes even more of a lopsided deal than it’s already proven to be. Sam Girard, Shane Bowers, Bowen Byram and then if Kamenev turns out to be a solid NHL player?! Geez. Highway robbery.

The Rantanen problem and where everyone fits when he gets back

Money.

I don’t think there’s a “real” reason as to why he hasn’t signed yet. If you’re implying there’s some sort of underlying stuff going on behind the scenes, i.e., he hates this team, doesn’t want to play in Colorado, or some other form of heinous jump-to-conclusion, that’s just simply not it. It really is all about the money and we can all thank Mitch Marner for that.

Thanks, Mitch.

Rantanen was probably going to receive somewhere in the realm of Nikita Kucherov or Mark Stone-money with an upside to maybe get some Patrick-Kane money — something around $8-9 million per season, maybe $10. But thanks to Marner and Toronto’s gross overvaluation and aggressive overpayment of him, the market has now been set and Rantanen and his camp now have all the leverage. That said, Rants is now probably getting somewhere near Marner or Artemi Panarin money as one of the top-three to top-five highest-paid wingers in the NHL. Sakic is going to try — keyword being try — to drive that down as best he can but it’s probably all for naught.

My money is still on this getting done before opening night. I’m going to say $10.25 million per season at however many years. What say you?

When Rantanen comes back — any day now, Mikko — he’ll re-assume his role on the MGM Line with his buddies Nathan MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog. Then I think, Burakovsky moves to the second line and then you have to break up the Jost-Kadri-Donskoi line that I, and many others, have loved so much in training camp. Kadri is the second-line centerman, so it becomes Burakovsky-Kadri-and then more than likely Jost stays on that line. Or perhaps a Burakovsky-Kadri-Donskoi look and then reunite Jost and J.T. Compher on the third line. I doubt that’s the move, given Jost has been skating with the top two lines all throughout camp, but who knows?

This is a tough question. While, yes, the Jost-Kadri-Donskoi line looked great the first few days of training camp, and I’ve noted that that line is a keeper, I think Burakovsky is their second-line winger mainly for the speed he’d bring. I think Donskoi is more of a third-line depth forward and top-line penalty killer. The speed that Burakovsky brings would be a nice one-two punch to compliment MacKinnon and the top line. Opposing teams would really have to keep their best D-men out there during back-to-back shifts if you roll with the MacKinnon line and then throw the Burakovsky line out right after. Opposing defenses would be gassed.

Kadri and Burakovsky looked like a nice pair when they skated on the top power-play unit during the final day of training camp on Monday. It’s the first time during camp the two skated together — during Days 1-3, Kadri was in Group 2 while Burakovsky was Group 1. I like Donskoi, J.T. Compher and maybe Colin Wilson or Matt Nieto as a strong third-line defensive unit with great potential at scoring some goals too.

Again, this is a great problem to have if you’re Bednar. Finally the Avs look deep and appear to have two or three “top lines” and some difficult decisions will have to be made. Bednar is no stranger to switching the lines up from game to game so we’ll see how it goes. I’m sure he’ll try a variety of combinations during the first quarter of the season.

Who to cut and who not to cut (hint: it’s Bowen Byram)

To answer your last question first: you don’t cut the field down before you get a chance to see what they can do in preseason game action. A lot of the time, teams will keep guys for as many preseason games as possible just so they can see what they can do. The more in-game action a prospect gets under his belt, the more development that takes place. At least in theory.

Given the longer-term injuries to Ian Cole and Erik Johnson, there are actually a couple of roster spots open, at least for the duration of their absence. I don’t think anyone from last year’s team is at risk to lose their spot. I’d say it comes down to Kamenev fighting for one of those final spots on the forward side of things. And with Johnson and Cole out, I think they take a long, hard look at Calle Rosen. He’s had a very strong camp and may start the season in the NHL. And then I think Byram stays this season.

Speaking of...

Is he playing a full season in the NHL this year?

It’s the biggest storyline out of training camp and the biggest question mark facing this team. I don’t think anyone, not even Sakic or Bednar knows what to do with him. That said, he’ll get all nine games to start the regular season to see what he can do and I’m sure he’ll be thrown to the wolves and forced into every situation during that nine-game span, i.e., penalty kill, power play, long minutes, just to see if he can sink or swim.

Personally, I like what he’s done in training camp and I’ve been very vocal and open about that across the site. I’ve been saying that I think he stays in the NHL this season rather than going back to the WHL, and I’m going to stick to my guns on this one. The injuries to Johnson and Cole certainly don’t hurt his chances either.

It’s always more fun to talk about the impressive ones rather than the unimpressive, but I like this. Let’s bracket for a minute.

I’d say Val Nichushkin has been the least impressive to me. After missing the first two days of camp due to a visa issue, the sample size of seeing his performance has been limited to just two days of camp. But in the days that I saw, he’s just very “meh.” For being a big, solidly-built human being at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, he gets pushed around quite a bit. He doesn’t look very confident or aggressive on the ice, doesn’t talk on the ice and just kind of looks lost in the play. His passes are soft and his movements are sluggish. No chance he cracks the NHL roster this season, but maybe he’ll be a solid player in the AHL with the Colorado Eagles? Who knows.

Since this is being posted after the first wave of cuts, I’ll give you my second wave prediction. I’ll go with Anton Lindholm, Peter Tischke, Jayson Megna, Kevin Davis and Sasha Larocque. It’s not that they haven’t been unimpressive or anything but these are the guys that were never going to make the NHL team and haven’t really shown in reason to stay practicing with the NHL team. Most of them are on AHL contracts anyhow.

I’ve backed my support towards Mark Barberio and how I think he deserves a spot on the team. That said, Sakic brought in Kevin Connauton to serve a similar role and we’ll see who wins it. I think it will only be one of them.

After a very strong camp, I think Calle Rosen is making a strong case to start the year in the NHL in the absence of Johnson and Cole, and then we’ll see if he’s able to keep his job when they come back. As for Ryan Graves, he’s always kind of been an enigma to me. He was solid down in Loveland with the Colorado Eagles and earned himself a call-up to the Avs mid-season and pretty much finished the season with them. He played in 26 games and was pretty solid up there. Nothing jumps out of the page about this guy, but he just makes it work.

Between Rosen and Graves, it’s technically Graves’ job to lose, but I think the intrigue of Rosen means Graves starts the season in the AHL. Both of them would serve as the seventh D-man. Both of them will get some games in the NHL this season. Both of them will get some games in the AHL this season. I’d bet Graves appears in at least 40 games this season, while Rosen will get a call-up or two. For the most part, I think Rosen be a feature player for the Colorado Eagles this season.

I’ve always liked Michael Joly’s game. He could challenge MacKinnon to a stick-handling competition and hold his own. He’s fast, shifty, dynamic and can score a lot of goals.

I chatted with him last season while he was with the Eagles shortly after he received his AHL contract with the Avs, and he’s hungry to make the NHL. However, he is just on an AHL contract and he won’t be in the NHL this season. He’s held his own in training camp but was practicing on a line with Ty Lewis and Shane Bowers, who will both be with the Eagles this year. The lines the coaches put you on during camp are usually a good indicator of how they view your potential heading into the training camp. Given he was put on the “AHL” line of Bowers and Lewis, that’s probably where he’ll be.

The team is just too deep for him to challenge for just the one or two available spots on the roster. Hopefully he’ll get his shot one day. He is only 24 years old, after all. Either way, I’m excited to see what he’ll do with the Eagles this season after putting up 15 goals and 30 points in 47 games last year.


More questions? Hit me up on Twitter @0ffScottFree and I’ll see you next Tuesday!