Part 18 in my "State of the Franchise" series.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
20. Tampa Bay
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#13: Colorado Avalanche
Top Fws: Paul Stastny, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog
Top Ds: Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda
Top G: Semyon Varlamov
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F Matt Duchene (21)
2. F Ryan O'Reilly (21)
3. F Gabriel Landeskog (19)
Top 5 Prospects
1. D Duncan Siemens (18)
2. D Tyson Barrie (21)
3. D Cameron Gaunce (22)
4. F Mark Olver (24)
5. G Sami Aittokallio (20)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: D
The Avs have a glut of top-9 forwards. They have good depth and skill up the middle with highly touted Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stastny all able to line up in a top 6 role. Greg Sherman has surrounded that potent group of young centers with a good group of physical, feisty scoring wingers in David Jones, Landeskog, Steve Downie, Jamie McGinn, PA Parenteau and Milan Hedjuk. Semyon Varlamov has had flashes of brilliance and with JS Giguere backing him up, the team is solid in net.
The team lacks top pairing defenders and skill and depth on the D in general. Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda make up their top pairing, but Johnson and Hejda are both more suited to a number 3 role on a team's depth charts. Beyond Stefan Elliott and Johnson, the team lacks offensively skilled defenders and puckmovers. Beyond Elliott and Ryan Wilson, who are both very mobile, the defense is relatively slow-footed.
The defense is the strong point of the developmental system. There are a couple of players of interest on the back end, all of whom bring different qualities: Tyson Barrie is an offensive force, Cameron Gaunce is more of a smooth, two-way defender and Duncan Siemens is the one-man wrecking ball on the backend. They also have an excellent group of goaltenders; the group has both depth and skill, with Kieran Millan and Kent Patterson in the NCAA, Calvin Pickard out of the Dub and Aittokallio out of Finland.
The team lacks ANY skill or depth on the wing, on BOTH sides. The team's centers, while skilled, are small and their best prospect, Joey Hishon, has been unable to play in over a year due to concussion issues. While Duncan Siemens and Co. are decent prospects, none of them are bluechippers. The Avs have been bringing up their top prospects over the last few years and thus the majority in the system are either not ready for the NHL or are only going to be role players at best.
The Avalanche were one of the busier teams in the NHL last year. After bringing in Landeskog and young goalie Semyon Varlamov in the offseason, they then acquired Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn during trade deadline day. The two combined for 26 points in Avs sweaters in 37 combined games, but it wasn't enough and Colorado missed the postseason for the 3rd time in 4 years. And their first round pick, 11th overall, didn't even belong to them as aresult of acquiring Varlamov.
GM Greg Sherman has some tools to work with however. He's got some great young pieces up front in Matt Duchene (who looked like he was going to be an elite scorer in the NHL just a year ago), Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog and "veteran" Paul Stastny. Erik Johnson has struggled with inconsistency issues, but he has all the tools to be a top pairing defender in the future, if not right now. Varlamov is a young star in the making in goal. And they have more players coming up who will be a part of what Colorado hopes will be a winning team in the next few years.
If everything pans out great for Colorado this year, they'll be a bubble team and in the hunt for the playoffs. What's more likely to happen is that they will miss the playoffs, and hope that they will be able to ice a competitive team in a few years' time.