With the season just around the corner and the roster being finalized, it’s time to review the 2023-24 Colorado Avalanche roster. This team aims to rebound after a rough Stanley Cup defense routed by injuries and inconsistency.
Will new players be able to make a difference? Who will stand out and shine, and will others take an unexpected step back? First up to review: the goaltenders.
Alexandar Georgiev was named the starter for the first time in his career for any team last season and did not disappoint. He tied Linus Ullmark for the most wins in the NHL last season, with 40.
He had a career-best 2.53 goals against average last season alongside a .912 save percentage. Even more incredible was his dominance and ability to shut down games, recording a career-high five shutouts. Funny enough, he also recorded five assists with his puck-moving ability.
Alexandar Georgiev’s game-saving play: pic.twitter.com/aY7wH9K47K— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) January 25, 2023
There were certainly questions of whether or not Georgiev could be a starter for the Avs after backing up Igor Shesterkin for years on end with the New York Rangers. It is safe to say he answered those questions with a resounding “Yes, I can be an NHL starter.” Now, he’ll look to take it a step further and put himself in the Vezina conversation.
Behind Georgiev will be a big question mark for the start of the season with the loss of Pavel Francouz to injury again. But, it means someone new will get the opportunity to back up Georgie within the organization.
The guy to be tasked with such responsibility? None other than Justus Annunen.
Annunen was kept busy in the preseason, playing the majority of games and practicing with the main group of players during training camp. Now, he gets his big chance to make himself an NHL regular and become the first Colorado Eagles graduate since Logan O’Connor.
He played in two games at the NHL level last season, going 1-1 with a 3.58 goals against average and a .859 save percentage. But, most of his game time and standout performance came in the AHL in 41 games. In said games, he had a 2.55 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
In the preseason, he has held his own and at points looked and/or sounded phenomenal - especially in the second game on the road against the Dallas Stars. He has earned the right to be the backup for Georgiev while Francouz is out injured. With the waiver wire and trade board looking bleak for goaltenders, now is Annunen’s chance to shine.
Brilliant save by Justus Annunen.pic.twitter.com/abbfdDAZmJ— Avalanche Forever (@citchmook) October 4, 2023
Justus Annunen (#GoAvsGo) with a huge save on Dawson Mercer (#2020NHLDraft) here to keep the Finns in the game to whatever extent they are still in it.— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) January 4, 2020
Despite this poor game, Annunen is still an outstanding goaltending prospect.
️ @TSN_Sports #WJC #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/6K8NCuO9G3
However, when Francouz does eventually return from injury, it will be his position once again and send Annunen down to the AHL. Whenever Frankie hasn’t been dealing with an injury, he has been stellar - especially in his underrated and underappreciated role en route to the Stanley Cup in 2022.
He started in 16 games last season, recording a 2.61 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage, and a shutout. He won eight of those starts, stepping in when needed for Georgiev. But, at this point, we don’t know when Francouz will be back with the team and ready to play in the final year of his contract.
So, for the time being, the position belongs to both Georgiev and Annunen. How will both of them do to start the season? Let us know in the comments below!