Following an abysmal 2016-17 NHL season in which they recorded a mere 48 points, the Colorado Avalanche enjoyed a resurgence of massive proportions last season.
Led by Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, the Avalanche surged into the postseason on the tail of a 95-point 2017-18 campaign — a year which saw the team post a 47-point improvement within the league standings. And, although they fell in the first round of the postseason to the powerhouse Nashville Predators, Colorado’s substantial improvement is surely a sign of the times to come.
Boasting a farm system littered with elite prospects and crucial depth pieces, the Avalanche could soon become the team to beat within the Central Division — and stand as such for a long, long time.
Stanley Cups: Two
2017-18 Record: 43-30-9; 95 Points
2017-18 Top Scorer: Nathan MacKinnon ; 39G, 58A, 97PTS
Farm System Grade: B+
Top 10 Prospects:
- Cale Makar
- Conor Timmins
- Martin Kaut
- Nicolas Meloche
- Shane Bowers
- Sampo Ranta
- Vladislav Kamenev
- Ty Lewis
- A.J. Greer
- Nick Henry
The State of the Avalanche Farm System
Colorado is an offensive powerhouse, and will only become stronger in the years to come. Led by the trio of MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche feature a mixture of size, skill, and electrifying speed capable of dismantling opposing defences on a nightly basis.
Set to strengthen this already intimidating attack are defencemen Cale Makar and Conor Timmins — two players of varying age who are as dynamic as they are consistent in their abilities.
Nabbed by Colorado with the fourth-overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, Makar is a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman who can dominate play at both ends of the ice. In addition to displaying a sound defensive game, Makar is an offensive dynamo from the blue line capable of leading his team’s attack. As creative as they come with the puck and of endless vision, Makar distributes the puck with relative ease and features a crisp and accurate shot to boot.
Set to skate in his second season with the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2018-19, Makar was named as his team’s captain despite his young age of just 20-years. As an incredibly mature player who competes with both poise and confidence, it will not be long until Makar joins the Avalanche and makes a distinct and unique difference at the NHL-level.
Trailing closely behind Makar is Timmins — a defender who plays an eerily similar style of game who has embarked upon a different developmental route than his future teammate.
After three seasons of impressive play with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, Timmins stands poised to join the AHL’s Colorado Eagles in 2018-19. Although slowed by an injury to begin his inaugural professional campaign, Timmins’ maturity, offensive skill-set, and track-record of success should allow for his seamless transition to the professional-level once healthy.
In addition to these two stud defencemen, the Avalanche boast a slew of forwards who should come to play significant roles with the team in the not-so-distant future.
Of the likes of Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers, A.J Greer, and Ty Lewis, it is undoubtedly Kaut who is the most promising of which.
Nabbed by Colorado in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft, Kaut is a dynamic yet shifty offensive player who can pick apart his opposition in a variety of ways. Confident on the rush and capable of distributing the puck well, Kaut features a lethal shot which can best opposing netminders cleanly if not adequately respected. Sure, he’ll need to add greater strength to his 6-foot-2 frame in the coming years, however, Kaut’s creativity and skating abilities should allow for his successful transition to the AHL-level this season.
If the Avalanche are able to develop and ascend these three particular players to the NHL-level in the near future — in addition to a handful of others — the organization will boast a sustainable roster of considerable depth at forward as well as on the blue line.
One Avalanche Prospect to Watch
Since we’ve already discussed the majority of Colorado’s top prospects, let’s take a moment to assess one of the organization’s more intriguing youngsters.
Chosen by the Avalanche with the 94th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft was forward Nick Henry — a versatile yet dynamic winger currently in the midst of his third campaign with the WHL’s Regina Pats. In the year leading up to his selection by Colorado, Henry posted 35 goals and 81 points for the Pats as a rookie — an output which established the native of Portage la Prairie as a lethal offensive force.
However, Henry stumbled in his sophomore campaign with Regina, managing to pot just 14 goals and 29 points in his 53 regular season games played. Yet, he did add five goals and seven points in his five Memorial Cup contests — a more accurate indication of his abilities.
As an incredibly creative forward who boasts an impressive work ethic, it will be extremely interesting to watch Henry and his play throughout the 2018-19 season. Given his strong frame and decisiveness with the puck, Henry has all the tools necessary to bounce back in a major way for the Pats this season — he had already recorded 24 points in 17 games played to begin his latest campaign.