The Colorado Avalanche’s top-6 in the forward corps is a strong foundation for the team’s success. It can carry them far.
The Colorado Avalanche went through a rebuild period that was painful. It wasn’t as long as we all feared. However, it did encompass the historically bad 48-point season.
The rebuild seems to have been a successful one. The front offices took what was once the team’s Achilles heel, the defense, and turned it into their crown jewel.
The top six in the forward corps was never their weakness. Rather, the team has always had enough firepower to make a good top line. Forwards who would make up the second line have been the question.
Well, that question seems to have been answered. Let’s look at how the team has kitted themselves out within the top six of their forward corps.
The Colorado Avalanche have arguably one of the most lethal top lines in the NHL.
The center of that line is superstar Nathan MacKinnon. He’s top-3 for centers and, likely, top-3 for forwards in the entire league. No one questions if he’s elite. Rather, they question whether he’s real — when he’s in prime form, he seems pretty unreal. He’s had three 90+ point season in a row. He had two career seasons in a row and was looking to top his numbers a third season in a row when the season was put on pause because of the pandemic.
Our captain is MacKinnon’s prime wingman. Gabriel Landeskog is in the prime of his career. However, the captain has just turned 28, and that puts him at the peak looking down. He fought injuries this season and only put up 44 points. However, he had a career year the season before and a 60+ point season the year before. And his leadership cannot be called into question — he’s the soul of the team.
MacKinnon’s other prime wingman is star Mikko Rantanen. The Finn has been a force on the top line. Like Landeskog, Rantanen’s numbers were affected by injuries. Unlike the captain, though, Rantanen is still heading for his peak. Prior to this season, he had 84-point and 87-point seasons respectively.
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As I said, the question in the top six was always about the second line. The main question was who would center that line.
Nazem Kadri answered that question. Much-maligned in the Toronto media, Kadri came to be a darling among fans and media alike here in Colorado. Without the fishbowl of the Toronto media, the center has thrived. Also hampered by injury, Kadri nonetheless put up respectable numbers and proved a thorn in the side of opponents. He’s the top-6 grit the Avs need.
The second line isn’t as set as the top line. However, Andre Burakovsky mainly skates there. The Avalanche traded a second-round draft pick for a player who seemed to stagnate on a team with too much firepower. Well, he blossomed here. He had a career year with 45 points.
Different players have skated on the second line, but Valeri Nichushkin spent a lot of time with Kadri and Burakovsky. Like the latter, he was a reclamation project. And, like Kadri, he made good. He didn’t put up as many points and Burakovsky, but he was a physical presence and a good two-way forward for the team.
The Colorado Avalanche also traded for Brandon Saad during the offseason. The forward can play on either wing. He’s spent most of his career in Chicago with a brief sojourn in Columbus. He’s had three 50-point seasons, though the last three have seen him produce in the 30s and 40s. He’s a candidate for the second line once the season starts up.
The Colorado Avalanche have done a good job of cementing their top-6 for forwards. The team has always prided themselves on their forward corps — they’re certainly as well set-up as any top team in the NHL.