The countdown to the regular season is upon us. Training camp media day took place on Wednesday, and several interviews were conducted including one with Jared Bednar, the Colorado Avalanche head coach. He had several tidbits of information to add, most notably that he is pleased with the current group of forwards, especially the new additions.
According to Peter Baugh, who covers the Avalanche for The Athletic, Bednar, beyond being pleased with the group, believes these forwards rival forwards the Avalanche brought in a couple of years ago like Andre Burakovsky and Jonas Donskoi.
That’s high praise from Bednar, and with the season rapidly approaching, it’s time to learn who these new forwards are that Bednar is so high on.
To fill a void on the second line, specifically at center, the Avalanche traded for former top-5 pick Ryan Johansen. The front office is hoping Johansen will be the answer for the second-line center position that gave Colorado problems last season after the departure of Nazem Kadri. An imposing figure, standing 6-foot-3 and weighing almost 220 pounds, Johansen has always been viewed as having massive potential, but sometimes not being able to live up to that potential. He has been a quality secondary scoring option for most of his career, having scored over 20 goals twice in his career, and over 30 goals once.
The knack over the last several years on Johansen is his being able to stay healthy, playing more than 68 games just once in the last four seasons. With 63 points in 2020-21, the Avalanche are hoping they get that version of Johansen as opposed to the injury-plagued version of last year when Johansen played in only 55 games for the Predators and only added 28 points.
In another move to help bolster secondary scoring, the Avalanche recently signed Tomas Tatar to a one-year contract. The 32-year-old Slovakian has been consistent throughout his NHL career, scoring 20 or more goals six out of 12 years he’s played. Tatar is also able to get others involved, totaling eight seasons with 20 or more assists during his NHL tenure. A durable player, Tatar played in all 82 contests with the Devils last season totaling 48 points as well as being plus 41 over the season. Good things happened while he was on the ice.
Something that should concern the Avalanche is his lack of production during the playoffs over his career, most recently playing 12 playoff games with the Devils last season, but only scoring one goal.
A bit of an unknown is Jonathan Drouin, whom the Avalanche also signed to a one-year contract. The mercurial winger, drafted third overall in 2013, has never really fulfilled the potential most of the NHL pundits believed he had. The Avs are hoping Drouin can rekindle some of that old flame he had with junior teammate Nathan MacKinnon from their days in Halifax. If that’s the case, the Avalanche will have gotten a steal of a contract.
At 28 years of age now, the Avalanche hope that the maturity issues that plagued Drouin in the initial portions of his career are in the past and that he can be a valuable member of this forward group.
A player the Avalanche targeted early on in free agency this season is Miles Wood, almost immediately inking him to a six-year contract. The rugged forward played the initial portion of his career in New Jersey. Wood was originally drafted in the 4th round by the Devils out of Boston College, and he’s done it all for them in his career, including playing a physical game. Wood is a hard-nosed type of player, never hesitating to engage in some pugilism, which will endear him to Avalanche fans.
Wood can offer some production as well, scoring double-digit goals in all but two years of his NHL career. As a bottom-six option, Wood should be able to make an immediate impact for the Avalanche, and hopefully provide a little more room for the top-tier scorers to operate on the ice.
The Colorado Avalanche also signed Chris Wagner for some lower-line depth in the offseason. Unfortunately, Wagner tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the entire season.
During the offseason, the Colorado Avalanche acquired gritty Ross Colton from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a second-round draft pick. They signed him to a four-year contract this offseason. A two-way center for the Lightning over the last couple of seasons, Colton had an over 56 percent success rate at the faceoff circle this past season, to go along with 32 points, splitting goals and assists 16 apiece.
Another important facet of Colton’s game is his ability to rise to the occasion in the playoffs. Last season he had four points in only six games, and the season prior he had nine points in 23 playoff games. As offense is not Colton’s forte, his ability to be more productive when the games count more will only help the Avalanche.
With Colton and Wood in the fold to fortify the bottom six and provide some grit to this forward group, and Johansen, Tatar, and Drouin added to the top six, Bednar is right about being excited to see what this group offers this season. If these players can rival what players like Burakovsky and Donskoi offered to the Avalanche previously, maybe this team can rival those results too. Colorado Avalanche fans would enjoy that if that’s the case.