The Colorado Avalanche seem to have a dilemma with their middle six forwards, which could impact their secondary scoring.
The bottom line is less settled. A revolving cast of journeymen will probably populate the lower three. Granted, it was pretty set last year with our dedicated energy line, but quite often the Avs let that line be more fluid.
The tricky question is who are the main players for the middle six?
The problem is that the Avalanche let Brandon Saad walk in free agency and Joonas Donskoi go in the expansion draft. Both of them spent considerable time on that second line wing. You could imagine Valeri Nichushkin as a second line winger, especially since he’s played that role for Colorado before.
Is that a dream second line, Kadri flanked by Burakovsky and Nichushkin? No. Is it a serviceable second line? Absolutely. As long as injury doesn’t hit. Because now you get to the third line. That line has often been tricky for the Colorado Avalanche.
Colorado picked up a few players such as Stefan Matteau and Mikhail Maltsev during the offseason. However, they’re fourth liners at best. At one time Darren Helm, another Avs offseason acquisition, might have be pegged for that third line role. However, the longtime Red Wings player is looking at those days in his rearview mirror.
So, you’re looking at a team that’s putting faith in Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher to be regulars on that third line. The former has definitely won that trust. The latter saw a bit of regression last season, though you might expect Compher to bounce back.
What you’re also looking at is a team that’s really going to put its faith into even some younger talent. The Avalanche aren’t the baby faces they were in the down years, but they may well be looking to some of the picks they enjoyed in those down years coming to fruition.
You definitely want to see Martin Kaut come into his own. Colorado selected him with the 16th-overall pick in 2018. In the three seasons since he’s been a mainstay of the AHL Colorado Eagles. He’s played just 14 games with the NHL club, recording two goals and one assist in that time. The hope is that the 21-year-old winger will be able to make the transition to full-time NHL play.
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The other hopeful is Alex Newhook. Colorado chose him a year later at the same position, 16th overall. The 19-year-old has less professional experience than Kaut since he decided to spend a year in the college system playing for Boston College. However, he made his NHL debut not long after signing his professional contract. Though younger and less-seasoned, he seems a better bet to transition tot he NHL club.
Colorado has a couple other players who deserve consideration. One is Shane Bowers, who came over to Colorado as part of the Matt Duchene trade. The 22-year-old has been kicking it with the Eagles, but he could always be an option on the fourth line if one of those players needed to play third.
Perhaps the better option is Logan O’Connor. The Avalanche signed him out of training camp in 2018. He’s suited up for 43 games with Colorado. What’s more, the team decided to protect him over Compher and Donskoi in the expansion draft. His years of hard work in the system may be set to pay off.
Do the Colorado Avalanche have as solid a middle six as they did last season? At first blush, it does not appear that they do. A lot depends on how Kaut and, especially, Newhook perform this year. Those two players have the chance to earn the right to skate with the NHL team.