Colorado Avalanche: Conclusion of Training Camp

CENTENNIAL, CO - SEPTEMBER 23: Blake Comeau (14) of the Colorado Avalanche curls away from Nikita Zadorov (16) during the first day of training camp at Family Sports Ice Arena in Centennial, Colorado on September 23, 2016. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL, CO - SEPTEMBER 23: Blake Comeau (14) of the Colorado Avalanche curls away from Nikita Zadorov (16) during the first day of training camp at Family Sports Ice Arena in Centennial, Colorado on September 23, 2016. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /
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The Colorado Avalanche have concluded their preseason training camp with a final practice and testing at Family Sports Center in Centennial.

Though these Colorado Avalanche practices that have been taking place since the preseason began haven’t officially been labeled training camp, that’s pretty much what they’ve amounted to. Not only are the players getting used to the systems — and conditioning — of the coaching staff, but the coaches are using the time to evaluate players.

At the time of writing, the Colorado Avalanche had whittled down their roster to 29 players. A team only carries 22 players, so seven of those guys are going to get reassigned, or cut, before the start of the regular season.

The core players, such as Nathan MacKinnon and Erik Johnson, have nothing to worry about — they know they’re on the opening night roster. I’d say that list is comprised of the usual seven plus eight more. (Those numbers include both goalies.)

With that in mind, here are the prospects battling for a position:

Veterans Jared Cowen, on a PTO, and David Warsofsky, who signed in the summer but is considered an AHLer, are trying to make the team. Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau are trying to make the skating roster — and maybe avoid being put on waivers to get sent down to San Antonio.

With all that in mind, I attended the Colorado Avalanche practice today.

Skating

One of the main areas of focus for the Avalanche this season is skate speed. Well, one of the first things I noticed was a speedy little non-Duchene bugger blazing through drills. It was Matthew Nieto. I don’t think I realized how fast he is.

Unfortunately this video doesn’t do Nieto (in green) justice because it was the second drill, but here he is in action:


A funny thing that I noticed because they participated in a drill together is that Nikita Zadorov is faster than Andrei Mironov.

Line Combinations

It’s too early to say for sure what line combinations may look like on opening night. However, Alex Kerfoot skated with Matt Duchene and Nail Yakupov for almost every drill in which a forward line was called for.

Here they are in action (in burgundy):

They have definite chemistry.

The second line has seemed pretty set at Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon- Mikko Rantanen. However, today MacKinnon was centering Rantanen and Sven Andrighetto, while Landeskog was on a line with JT Compher and Colin Wilson. That’s a combination the coaches will try against the Vegas Knights tomorrow night.

According to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, the fourth line will be comprised of the speedy little Nieto (description mine), the speedy little Jost (again mine) and the not at all speedy Blake Comeau (well known fact, but still my description).

Soderberg and Bourque are healthy scratches — I’m guessing that’s it for Bourque’s tryout this season. Colborne is still out with back issues, and AJ Greer is undergoing the concussion protocal — which is a bad break for him.

Defensive Pairings

It’s hard to say what defensive pairings might look like as several combinations were tried. The most interesting to me was Duncan Siemens and Jared Cowen — I thought they might be duking it out for a roster spot while ostensibly working together.

I shared my ideas the other day about whether Cowen should make the team. I’ve also been pulling for Siemens. Both looked pretty good today. Here’s Siemens tagging Lindholm to work on some puck handling with him:

However, according to Chambers, here are the defensive pairings for tomorrow night’s game:

Johnson-Lindholm

Zadorov-Warsofsky

Bigras-Barrie

Is that it for both Cowen and Siemens? It might be. Johnson, Zadorov and Barrie are the main d-men for the Avs. The other three players might be getting one final shot at possible partnering them.

***UPDATE: Jared Cowen has been released from his PTO.

Conditioning

The coaching staff has a renewed emphasis on conditioning this season. Part of training camp has consisted of conditioning testing. Five players were unable to complete the testing when it was initially conducted because of minor injuries — or, in Zadorov’s case, contractual negotiations.

Well, today Zadorov, Barrie, Jost, Wilson and Barberio completed their testing:


The conditioning testing I watched on the first day of camp resembled a bag skate, but I believe they’re testing the same thing.

It’s been said that Andrei Mironov broke several records with his fitness results. Jared Bednar also mentioned Johnson, MacKinnon and Rantanen specifically as being in excellent fitness.

Next: Evaluating a Forward Roster That's Taking Shape

The final preseason game takes place tomorrow in Vegas at 8:00 pm MT. It’s being broadcast on Altitude TV. You can also listen to the action on Altitude Radio.