It was the Nathan MacKinnon show for the Avs in 2017-18. To take the next step, they’ll need to get more production out of the forwards who don’t play on the top line.
With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we’re running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.
The Colorado Avalanche went from worst in the NHL to the playoffs in one year. What should we expect in 2018-19?
How they finished in 2017-18: 43-30-9 (95 points), finished 17th in NHL, fourth in Central Division
A comeback story that didn’t seem to get its due, the Avalanche nearly doubled their point total from the previous season to become a playoff team. This all happened after the Avs traded away one of their best players (Matt Duchene) early in the season. Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and the first line stole the show, though the Avs couldn’t get past the Predators in the first round of the playoffs.
Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 89.5
Best-case scenario: MacKinnon is as good or better than last season, while the Avalanche netminders help them finish in the top 10 in goals-against average.
Worst-case scenario: The young group that overachieved in 2017-18 can’t build off its success. There’s no secondary scoring behind the terrific first line. Some of Colorado’s young players are being thrust into big responsibilities too soon, creating concern about hampered development.
Forward overview: MacKinnon dazzled with 39 goals and 97 points, while his linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog shined too — and have we mentioned they’re all under 25 years old? Nonetheless, it’s depth that’s the issue here. No other forward cracked 43 points — and that was Alexander Kerfoot, who shot at a ridiculous 23.5 shooting percentage. NHL rank: 21st
Defense overview: Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson anchor this group. Samuel Girard is the blueliner to be most excited about, potentialwise, and he’ll pair with Johnson, which should help his development. The team signed Ian Cole in free agency for veteran presence. NHL rank: 21st
Goalie overview: Semyon Varlamov enters the final year of his contract, but has competition after the team traded for Washington’s coveted backup, Philipp Grubauer. Expect a platoon situation to begin the season, though don’t be surprised if it’s Grubauer’s job by the end of the season. NHL rank: 20th
Special teams: The Avalanche penalty kill was spectacular last season; fourth in the league, at 83.3 percent. The power play was nearly as good, ranking eighth in the league, at 21.9 percent (the top line did most of the damage here).
Pipeline overview: The Avs’ system has been improving these past few years, and they have two very strong defense prospects in Cale Makar and Conor Timmins, who each have top-four potential. They also helped themselves last season by acquiring Vladislav Kamenev and Shane Bowers in the Matt Duchene trade, and added some intriguing wingers in the last draft with first-rounder Martin Kaut and speedy third-rounder Sampo Ranta. Read more — Chris Peters
Fantasy nugget: Colorado’s top trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen combined for an average shooting percentage of 14.6 in 2017-18. That feels unsustainably high, meaning we might anticipate a mild correction from last season’s corresponding numbers: 97 points in 74 games for MacKinnon, and Rantanen with 84 in 81 contests. It’s worth considering when drafting any member of the team’s No. 1 unit. Read more — Victoria Matiash
Coach on the hot seat? Jared Bednar earned a one-year contract extension after what he navigated last season. He’s now under contract through 2019-20 and barring a huge collapse, should have security through this season (after all, GM Joe Sakic has said he wants the team to get even younger).
Bold prediction: One year after MacKinnon was a wrecking force, it’s linemate Rantanen stealing the headlines in Colorado. The 21-year-old scores 100 points in a contract year.