September 12, 2023, 11:29 pm
Enough time has passed to where people who take a peek at the Avalanche roster might have to do a doubletake. The team finished first in the division, albeit a fairly weak one, and it felt like they could make a run at the Stanley Cup, once again. It didn’t work out that way and that led to some pretty drastic changes during the summer. There is still plenty of continuity overall, especially on defense and goaltending, but they brought in five new forwards, four of which will certainly have a meaningful role. Even with the changes, I still have no hesitation in projecting Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen to cross the 100-point threshold again. This team should easily win the division and contend in another playoff run. That prediction might also have something to do with the team from Dallas, but I’ll save that for the next blog/podcast.
FWs Ryan Johnasen, Johnathan Drouin, Miles Wood, Ross Colton, Chris Wagner
– Ryan Johansen has long been a polarizing player who wears his emotions on his sleeve. He may have outdone himself by pissing off ‘ol Trotzy in Nashville, but he’s still got plenty of skill to be a useful center in this league. While he only totaled 28 points last season, it’s almost a sure-fire guarantee he’ll surpass that as the #2 Center. Now for some caveats: This is predicated on him playing next to Valeri Nichushkin, who is in hot water over some off-ice events. I think having Artturi Lehkonen on his flank will help, regardless. I can see Johansen getting to the 50-point mark if he stays healthy.
– Similarly, Jonathan Drouin failed to put up more than 30 points last season, but, once again, a change of scenery and post-season aspirations usually help elevate a player’s output. Drouin also used to play alongside Mackinnon in juniors, which adds a bit to the chemistry factor. He’s still a talented skater and a fantastic playmaker. If he can prove himself to be a first-line caliber player, the 65-point threshold is his to lose.
– Miles Wood is and has been such an enigma ever since he entered the league – all-world speed and good size, he’s physical but doesn’t have the greatest finishing ability. In 76 games last year, he put up 27 points on a high-flying Devils team. Now with a long contract in hand, it’ll be interesting how Colorado coaches him in another bottom-six role. Colorado was already a fast, rush-heavy team. Adding Wood should extend that style further down the lineup which could give opposing teams a hell of a time changing if Colorado is dominating possession time. Mark Miles down for 38 points.
– Wood’s center should be another newcomer in 26-year-old Ross Colton who put up 32 points last season in Tampa. I was a bit surprised by this move, but then again, the Bolts had to make some tough decisions due to a crunched cap situation and their intention to sign Brandon Hagel. Colton is a hard-nosed center who has a nice shot but also gets cozy in the “Mixer” which should elevate his linemates’ production. If both Wood and Logan O’Connor can improve offensively, that’ll mean Colton has been as advertised – I foresee 40-43 points.