Colorado Avalanche: 2018/19 NHL season preview

Will team's additions through free agency and trades, plus internal development continue to push the Avalanche in the right direction?

Colorado Avalanche: 2018/19 NHL season preview
Colorado Avalanche: 2018/19 NHL season preview (Photo: hockeypngs.com/Ty Fisher Vavel.com)

No one predicted the Colorado Avalanche to attain the amount of success they did during the 2017/18 season. After fielding perhaps the worst ever team in the salary cap era the prior season, not only did the Avalanche drastically improve, but they actually made the playoffs.

Buoyed by their youth, as well as the breakout of star center Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado orchestrated a 95-point season, nabbing the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. MacKinnon will look to continue his success, and other young players such as Mikko Rantanen and Alexander Kerfoot will look to further build on their own.

The Avalanche made some changes to their roster, but ultimately are counting on inner-development to really take the next step. These additions were goaltender Philipp Grubauer, winger Matt Calvert, and defender Ian Cole. They also lost Blake Comeau in free agency, as well as backup goalie Jonathan Bernier.

Due to their recent success, the Colorado Avalanche now have some higher expectations. Fortunately, they do have a fresh round of prospects in Vladislav Kamenev, Nicolas Meloche, and Conor Timmins among others that will look to break into the league and boost the team’s depth.

Projected lineup

Forwards:

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Sven Andrighetto - Tyson Jost - Alexander Kerfoot

Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert

JT Compher - Vladislav Kamenev - Gabriel Bourque

Extras: Dominic Toninato, Colin Wilson

Defense:

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie

Ian Cole - Nicolas Meloche

Extras: Mark Alt, Mark Barberio, Anton Lindholm, Patrik Nemeth

Goaltenders:

Semyon Varlamov

Philipp Grubauer

Best case scenario

- Nathan MacKinnon achieves 100 points in a fully healthy season, firmly cementing his place as a top-5 centerman in the league.

- Mikko Rantanen, entering his third season at 21-years-old, reaches at least 90 points (he scored 84 last season).

- Number-one defender Erik Johnson stays healthy this season, having only played 62 games last season, as well as battling many injuries over the years.

- Speaking of health, Semyon Varlamov is able to play a “sheltered” starter role at around 50 games (without injuries), posting a save percentage statistic north of .920, while Grubauer posts solid numbers in the backup role.

- Rookies such as Vladislav Kamenev and Nicolas Meloche are able to make solid impacts on the team, filling much-needed depth roles.

- Sophomore Tyson Jost is able to realize his high potential, taking over the second-line center role and earning 20+ goals and 30+ assists.

- Other second-year players, such as Alexander Kerfoot, JT Compher, and especially Samuel Girard, are able to build upon their rookie seasons and truly establish themselves as mid to high-end NHL talents.

Worst case scenario

- MacKinnon’s breakout season proves to be a flash in the pan, and he falls back to being a 50-60 point producer, dragging Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen down with him.

- Semyon Varlamov is injury-riddled and fails to find any sort of rhythm. Even worse, Philipp Grubauer completely flops as a backup.

- Sophomore players all undergo a slump.

- Rookies fail to make an impact or even the NHL roster.

- The team is plagued with injuries to key players.

Prediction

The Colorado Avalanche have certainly improved on paper from last season, particularly on goaltending. As previously stated though, what is key is internal growth; the Avs need their young players to continue to take steps further. If a fair amount of players (especially Tyson Jost and Samuel Girard) are able to develop, then the Avalanche are no doubt a playoff team.

They won’t have to squeak in either, like last year. What will determine how far they get is that growth. The expectation should be that they will be a second-round team, of course, dependent upon their opponent in the first matchup.

How do you think the Colorado Avalanche will do in 2018/19? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to give us a follow on Twitter by searching (@VAVELNHL_ENG).