The previous season's most significant talking point saw many ups and downs for the Colorado Avalanche.
These ups and downs came in the form of some incredible players and high-scoring, while others failed to meet the standards set for them. In a topsy-turvy season with the usage of over 40 players due to injury and player movement, lots of different forwards with lots of changes went down. Let’s go over them in the finale of this very stretched-out series.
Do you even remember them?
Lukas Sedlak, Oskar Olausson, Sampo Ranta, Mikhail Maltsev, Charles Hudon, Shane Bowers, Callahan Burke, and Jean-Luc Foudy all played fewer than 10 games with the Avs. If you don’t remember their times with the Avs, don't worry! You didn’t miss a thing as no one on this list registered a point in their appearances during the season.
Were there, but didn’t make an impact
Jayson Megna, Darren Helm, Alex Galchenyuk, Anton Blidh, Dryden Hunt, Martin Kaut, Ben Meyers, Lars Eller, and Matt Nieto all played under half of the games in the regular season while registering very few points or actions of interest. Only about half of these players registered points all year long.
The one glaring name on this list is Helm, who has since announced his retirement from the NHL this summer. He struggled massively with injury all year, only managing 12 games combined in the regular season and postseason. He didn’t have a swan song to go out with, but did spend his last full year playing ending as a Stanley Cup champion for a second time.
Breaking news: Two-time Stanley Cup champion Darren Helm is retiring from the NHL, a source tells @MileHighSports— Aarif Deen (@runwriteAarif) July 5, 2023
Helm spent 14 seasons in Detroit and his last two with the Avalanche. Won a Stanley Cup with each (2008, 2022).
Middle of the pack
Denis Malgin, Andrew Cogliano, Logan O’Connor, Alex Newhook, and Evan Rodrigues played more than half of the games, and all but LOC reached double-digits in goals. All played very different roles on the team, from bottom-six workhorses to goalscorers. Cogliano and O’Connor stand out in the bottom six, combining for 45 points throughout the season.
Most of their talking points come on the forecheck and their presence on ice throughout the season. LOC managed to play all 82 games while Cogliano managed 79 games while fighting injury multiple times including his fractured neck in the playoffs. On some nights, their sheer will and determination did make the difference in a top-heavy, injured team.
Andrew Cogliano makes no mistake and roofs it . pic.twitter.com/lhhVi1EHnk— NHL (@NHL) January 21, 2023
Meanwhile, Rodrigues and Newhook have both moved on from the organization after not being able to fit the mold Jared Bednar and company were looking for. Both had their moments but were put into advanced roles neither seemed to fit well.
Rodrigues had come in from the Pittsburgh Penguins to play either in 2C or on the wing of the same line but didn’t have the same scoring touch he had with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He recorded 16 goals and 23 assists but maybe didn’t hit the benchmark set for him by some in the organization and by the fans.
The bigger name Avs fans had known for a few years and looking for a more advanced role was Newhook, who is now a Montreal Canadiens player. With 14 goals and 16 assists on the year, it looks at a glance as if he’s receiving the same treatment Tyson Jost got on his way out of the organization. He might not have been ready for the advanced role and the spotlight of being consistently in the top six in 2C as promised by Bednar.
Of course, with extenuating circumstances getting in the way from nearly the beginning of the season, he wasn’t given many chances to prove himself. At only 22 years old, perhaps Colorado didn’t think he would fit the system or the style the team is looking for in this win-now setting, so he goes off to help a rebuilding Habs team and could be built around for the next four years.
The big dogs
J.T. Compher, Valeri Nichushkin, Artturi Lehkonen, Mikko Rantanen, and Nathan MacKinnon were the top five point-getting forwards of the season. Compher emerged as the 2C player throughout the year playing in all 82 games with 17 goals and 35 assists, third best of the forwards. He earned himself a payday now with an over $5M deal with the Detroit Red Wings.
JT Compher left the penalty box, bodied Evan Bouchard then scored the game winner. It's beautiful. pic.twitter.com/T7hNaIpLjY— Avalanche Forever (@citchmook) August 5, 2022
The Choo-choo train played in only 53 games all year with his ankle injury, recording 17 goals and 30 assists. The first year of his new eight-year deal was seen as underwhelming due to his absence from the lineup, especially after the bizarre, mystery incident before Game Three against the Seattle Kraken. While it looks as though he’ll be ready for training camp in September, there are plenty of “what-if’s” surrounding the 2022-23 version of Nichushkin.
Lehkonen scored 21 goals and dished out 30 assists in a good first year of his new contract as well. He only played in 64 games last year coming off a great rental deal from the Canadiens and now is in Colorado long-term. Shuffling from the top line to the second line saw him have to play with several different faces. Therefore, he never managed to settle well and have a bolstering season on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. Hopefully, with a healthier season, he will have an even better season next year.
The most important goal that Artturi Lehkonen has ever scored (June 26, 2022) pic.twitter.com/lIPjtvr1O3— Avalanche Forever (@citchmook) June 26, 2023
Finally, the two centurions: Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. They took every advantage they could, used the tools in front of them, and were very strategic and persevered through the hardships of the season through blood, sweat, and tears.
Two historic milestones were accomplished by them this season: MacKinnon reached 100 points for the first time in his career while Rantanen surpassed 50 goals for the first time. And they were relied on a lot this season through injury, with Rantanen playing all 82 games and 71 games by MacKinnon.
They were heavily relied on by Bednar throughout the year to pull the load and hope others would follow suit and score more paired with them. It didn’t work out in the end, but if they have another historic season next year and get some help, this Avs team will go far once again.