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Does Martin Kaut really have a chance to make the Avalanche?

Fifth time is a charm.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at St. Louis Blues Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a familiar story — an unexpected prospect lasts deep into camp and the buzz starts up about maybe they will actually make the team. Most are eventual last cuts and those that manage to see opening night, such as Sampo Ranta last season, are back in the AHL before the first snowfall in Denver.

But this year feels different for Martin Kaut and the Colorado Avalanche, who are continuing into their fifth year of courtship. Now just turning 23 years old, it is a last chance of sorts because Kaut has received all the AHL seasoning a player is ever going to retain and has now lost his waiver-exempt status. It truly is now or never for the former 16th overall pick from the 2018 draft.

The coaching staff seems to be giving Kaut a real shot in camp as he had been practicing and playing with NHL players in an offensive role and is giving him an opportunity to stand out. In the preseason game against the Minnesota Wild Kaut factored in on both goals with a first-period assist on Alex Newhook’s tally and then opened the second period with a goal of his own. Together with Charles Hudon, the trio had excellent possession numbers as well.

Head coach Jared Bednar took notice and commented after the game about the impact Kaut had, which is exactly what they want to see. Consistency is an important part of making the NHL and Kaut will have a few more exhibition games to prove what kind of a player he can be on a regular basis. Expecting offense every night is likely not in the cards as he is currently practicing on the fourth line with Andrew Cogliano and fellow roster hopeful and countryman Lukas Sedlak but it is a realistic path to breaking camp with the Avalanche. Playing with pace, aggression on the forecheck and smart defense are all characteristics of bottom six players in Colorado and Kaut has been displaying those qualities.

Depending on the status of Darren Helm to begin the season there may be one more fourth-line spot than expected. Fellow rookie Ben Meyers is also in the mix but is currently auditioning for a third-line role on JT Compher’s wing. Meyers is the only waiver-exempt forward still on the bubble in camp and therefore could be an easy send down to the AHL for a brief stint like Alex Newhook’s 10-game sojourn to start last season if they are not ready to waive Kaut and expose him to 31 other teams. The next two weeks will be critical to deciding Kaut’s fate and also forwards Shane Bowers and Mikhail Maltsev are in a similar situation but also are much more on the outside looking in currently skating as extras at practice.