Colorado Avalanche: Potential Players for the First Line

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 19: Colorado Avalanche Winger Colin Wilson (22) celebrates a goal against the Calgary Flames with Colorado Avalanche Center Nathan MacKinnon (29), Defenceman Tyson Barrie (4), Left Wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and Right Wing Mikko Rantanen (96) during the second period of Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs where the Calgary Flames hosted the Colorado Avalanche on April 19, 2019, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - APRIL 19: Colorado Avalanche Winger Colin Wilson (22) celebrates a goal against the Calgary Flames with Colorado Avalanche Center Nathan MacKinnon (29), Defenceman Tyson Barrie (4), Left Wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) and Right Wing Mikko Rantanen (96) during the second period of Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs where the Calgary Flames hosted the Colorado Avalanche on April 19, 2019, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Colorado Avalanche might decide to split up the top line to spread out the scoring. If so, here are players who might get the promotion.

Last season, the Colorado Avalanche found success mostly by relying on the top line for scoring. In the offseason, GM Joe Sakic has made some low-key moves to ensure the team’s scoring is better-rounded.

Naturally, the top line last year was made up of Nathan MacKinnon centering Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.

MacKinnon is one of the best players in the game right now.He’s electric to watch, and every time he has the puck you feel like he might accomplish something. That feeling is well-founded as he recorded 99 points last year.

Right wing Mikko Rantanen is his main wing man. While also a goal scorer, much of Rantanen’s talent lies as a playmaker. He’s big enough to drive into the zone, and he can thread the puck through a needle.

Our captain, Gabriel Landeskog, is a power forward. He plays rough, and he doesn’t mind taking up office in the dirty zones, especially right in front of the net. He had a career year last season, and he’s right in his prime.

However, it’s his left wing position I’m primarily going to look at replacing. For this exercise, I’m going to drop Landeskog to the second line and see which players might take his place.

Joonas Donskoi

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Joonas Donskoi is a natural center, so I don’t know that he’d be the best fit at wing for MacKinnon. However, the Finn is known for his skating ability and puck skills. He’s not going to be the one to drive the play, but he won’t be a liability either.

JT Compher

J.T. Compher would also have to play out of position to skate in Landeskog’s spot. However, style-wise, he’s the most Landeskog-esque player on this list. He’s solid and willing to get physical. He can also score clutch goals — he might be the player to sneak in while defenders’ focus is on MacKinnon and Rantanen. He did skate on the top line at times last season.

Andre Burakovsky

On the face of it, Andre Burakovsky is the most likely candidate for the spot. He’s a natural left wing. He’s got the speed to at least keep up with the dynamic duo, and he’s got enough size to hang with the big boys. He’s got the hands and instincts — with MacKinnin and Rantanen feeding him, he could well find great success.

Side note: Burakovsky will wear #95 next season even though he wore #65 for the Capitals. He wore #95 in the OHL and when he was in Sweden.

Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson is a bit of an outlier for this position. He is a natural left wing, but he lacks some of the high-end talent. He definitely wouldn’t be a pylon on this line because he’s shown burst of speed and soft hands. I mean, he did spin-o-rama around Conor McJesus.

Tyson Jost

Believe it or not, Tyson Jost isn’t my favorite pick for this role. He definitely has the high-end talent, but some of his development has been delayed because of being rushed into big roles — including on the top line last season. I think he may well have a breakout season, though, so later in the year he might be a good fit. He is the most versatile of all the forwards on this list for playing different positions.

Next. Looking at the Avs Defensive Roster. dark

The reason for this exercise is the spread the talent between two lines. Opponent coaches aren’t going to be fooled by the top line’s greatness, and players aren’t going to be lulled anymore.

Plus, you know the Colorado Avalanche separated the trio at times last season. As soon as the Avs seem to be struggling, Jared Bednar is sure to approach his salad spinner approach to line-making. We will almost certainly see at least some of those combinations at times in the season.