The Colorado Avalanche took a step backward in the 2019 regular season but moved past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Colorado was able to make the playoffs by riding their stacked top-line about as much as any other team in the NHL. The Avalanche were busy this offseason in an attempt to insulate that top-line.
- — Acquiring Andre Burakovsky from the Washington Capitals and signed him to a one-year contract.
- — Signing Joonas Donskoi to a four-year, $3.9M AAV contract.
- — Acquiring Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, and 2020 sixth-round pick.
- — Signing Valeri Nichushkin to a one-year contract.
They also locked down the future of their team:
- — Re-Signed Samuel Girard to a seven-year, $5.0M AAV extension.
- — Re-Signed J.T. Compher to a four-year, $3.5M AAV extension.
- — Re-Signed Nikita Zadorov to a one-year, $3.2M extension.
- — Signed No.4 overall pick Bowen Byram to a three-year, entry-level contract.
- — Re-Signed Vladislav Kamenev to a one-year, $750K extension.
The Avalanche ranked 10th in the NHL in goal-scoring (3.15 GF/gm) last season and did all they could to improve their forward group heading into 2020. They will obviously continue to lean on Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog to carry the load but Kadri is more capable of carrying the second-line than Kerfoot was. That leaves Compher to centre the third line, a position is should thrive in.
- — [MacKinnon] After struggling to become a game-breaker early in his career, the former No.1 overall pick (2013) has found his stride over the last two seasons. MacKinnon took his game to a new level in 2019, leading the NHL in shots (365) while finishing tied for sixth in goals (41) and tied for seventh in points (99). Over the last two seasons, he is one of five players with 80-plus combined goals and one of three players with more than 195 points. MacKinnon might not be at the level of Connor McDavid or Nikita Kucherov but there is a case for him to be the third player off of the board.
- — [Rantanen] The 2015 No.10 overall pick didn’t waste any time making a fantasy impact, posting 84 points in his sophomore season and built on that in 2019. Rantanen scored 31 goals with 56 assists (87 points) while playing 85.4 percent of his 5v5 ice-time with MacKinnon. Rantanen has back-to-back 80-plus point campaigns and is one of the best power-play producers in the NHL right now. He was a total steal last year but will cost a late-first/early-second round pick this fall.
- — [Landeskog] Landeskog is the third member of the elite line. He set career-highs in goals (34), assists (41) and points (75) in 2019. His 14.0 SH% and 10.4 on-ice SH% suggest that his numbers could take a hit in 2020, but as long as he’s playing with MacKinnon and Rantanen, regression can’t hit him too hard. The 26-year-old is one of just three players with at least 50 goals, 130 points, and 250 hits over the last two seasons—Alex Ovechkin and Jamie Benn are the other two. He is a beast in banger leagues.
- — [Kadri] It is impossible not to love the move to Colorado for Kadri. With the addition of John Tavares, Kadri was limited to a third-line role in Toronto and now he should see an uptick in ice-time with the Avalanche. Kadri had back-to-back 32-goal seasons in 2017 and 2018 but his SH% fell off a cliff last year. Kadri was heavily featured on the Maple Leafs top power-play last year and will almost certainly play that same role with Colorado. A return to 30 goals might not be in order, but he has a 25-25 floor.
- — [Compher] The 2013 second-round pick didn’t do much in his second NHL season, despite averaging 17:29 TOI/gm. With Kadri in the fold, Compher’s ice-time will drop and his fantasy value will go with it. Unless Compher ends up on the top power-play unit, he doesn’t have a lot of standalone fantasy value.
- — [Burakovsky] The 2013 first-round pick (No.23 overall pick) was held down by the Capitals depth chart, never topping 38 points in any of his first five seasons. Still just 24-years-old, Burakovsky’s ice-time should skyrocket in Colorado and a breakout season could be on the horizon. Burakovsky has shot 12.8 percent throughout his career but his shot volume leaves a lot to be desired. He is worth a late-round flier in deep leagues.
The Avalanche blueline will be going through a state of transition in 2020. It will be the first time since 2011 that their blueline will not have Barrie on it and they will be handing the reigns 21-year-old Girard and 20-year-old Makar. They are returning 31-year-old Erik Johnson and Zadorov but newcomers Rosen and Kevin Connauton will likely get an early-season look because Ian Cole is expected to be out until December due to hip surgeries.
The departure of Barrie opens up 17:40 even-strength TOI and 4:03 PP TOI/gm (21:47 Total TOI) per game. The belief is that Makar will eat up the majority of the 5v5 ice-time but it remains to be seen if Makar or Girard will get the first crack at the PP1 time.
- — [Makar] The 2019 Hobey Baker Award winner will be a majorly popular pick in fantasy drafts this fall. Makar led UMass-Amherst with 49 points (16G / 33A) in 41 games before joining the Avalanche. Makar was leaned on heavily in Colorado, posting six points (1G / 5A) while averaging 17:22 TOI/gm in 10 playoff games. The early returns were extremely fruitful and he looks every bit as good as advertised. Only one rookie defenseman has eclipsed 50 points since 1993, so don’t expect the moon from Makar in year-1. However, he if plays on the top power-play unit, Makar should have no trouble getting to 40 points.
- — [Girard] Girard took on a much larger role in 2019, playing 19:54 TOI/gm but his point totals barely moved. He had full run on the second PP unit last season and shared that duty with Makar in the postseason. Whether or not he lands on PP1 will affect Girard’s 2020 outlook drastically. He could be a 35-assist, 40-point defenseman if he gets that gig.
- — [Johnson] Johnson plays massive minutes and could play even more with Barrie gone but he doesn’t see much power-play time and doesn’t contribute a whole lot offensively. If you’re in an extremely deep banger league, he’s averaged 30 points and 142 hits per 82-games over the last four years—he’s missed 67 games over that span though.
With Semyon Varlamov leaving for the New York Islanders in free agency, the crease is going to look different this year too. Philipp Grubauer started all 12 playoff games last year and comes into the season as the No.1 netminder for the first time in his career. Grubauer started a career-high 33 games last season but will take on a much larger workload in his second season in Colorado.
- — [Grubauer] Grubauer is coming off of a season in which he was tied for 13th in SV% (.917) and 20th in GAA (2.64). The Avalanche have given up the ninth-most shots against per game (32.6) over the last two seasons, so Grubauer will be one of the busier starters in 2020. That’s sure to affect his peripherals, but the Avs’ top-10 offense will give him a chance to win 30 games. He is a fringe No.1 fantasy option but is better served as your No.2.
- — [Francouz] Pavel Francouz will make the jump to the NHL after just one full season in North America. The 29-year-old Czech netminder was 15-11-5 with a .946 SV% in his final year in the KHL and carried a .918 SV% in 49 AHL games a season ago. He had a brief two-game stint with the Avalanche and went 0-2-0 despite stopping 33 of 35 shots (.943). Francouz is an experienced backup that can take some of the load off of Grubauer but will open the season as a waiver-wire/spot-start option.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|N. MacKinnon (38)||N. MacKinnon (64)||N. MacKinnon (102)||M. Rantanen (15)||N. MacKinnon (36)|
|M. Rantanen (32)||M. Rantanen (59)||M. Rantanen (91)||N. MacKinnon (11)||M. Rantanen (36)|
|G. Landeskog (28)||G. Landeskog (39)||G. Landeskog (67)||N. Kadri (10)||G. Landeskog (21)|
Avalanche in the DFO Top 300
- 3 — Nathan MacKinnon (C)
- 10 — Mikko Rantanen (RW)
- 65 — Gabriel Landeskog (LW)
- 81 — Philipp Grubauer (G)
- 126 — Nazem Kadri (C)
- 181 — Cale Makar (D)
- 252 — Samuel Girard (D)
- 281 — J.T. Compher (C/RW)
- 291 — Andre Burakovsky (LW/RW)
|4||COLORADO AVALANCHE||43-28-11||97 PTS|
|6||CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS||40-32-10||90 PTS|
Many will question the Avalanche’s goaltending duo and inexperienced blueline but they are a better team than they were last year. The top-line will carry them with a little more help from their depth, making them good enough to make the playoffs for the third straight season. However, despite their improvements, there are other quality teams in the Central Division, including a Nashville Predators team with back-to-back 100-plus point seasons and the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues.
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