Archive for The Fifth Line

The Fifth Line: A History of the Colorado Avalanche Sweaters

A contribution to The Fifth Line from ProStock Hockey.

Throwback Avalanche Jersey Brings Back Best

When Adidas took over as the jersey supplier to the National Hockey League, the apparel manufacturer mostly played it safe.

Most teams’ looks for the 2017-18 season were tweaked ever so slightly, if at all. Among the more complete makeovers were some unfortunate misfires (Nashville and Minnesota basically got nightshirts).

Fittingly, though, Colorado’s Avalanche went back to the mountains — at least part of the way — and scored, perhaps, the nicest redesign of Adidas’ 31-sweater collection.

A Long Hike Back

Let’s be honest; Avalanche fans needed a reminder of their team’s storied past. They’re coming off a 22-win season, their worst since they were known as the Nordiques, and about as far removed from their glory days as Quebec City is from the Pepsi Center.

The Adidas jerseys recall the first togs worn by the Avalanche after they were relocated from Quebec to Colorado for the 1995-96 season. They are no doubt meant to inspire memories of the Stanley Cup championship the club won that season behind Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy — the first pro sports title for the Mile High City.

A Foot From Perfection

The most glaring omission from the original Avalanche jersey is the shoulder patch in the image of a yeti footprint, replaced by a holdover from the outgoing Reebok jersey, a “C” emblem taken from the Colorado state flag. The zig-zag striping from wrists to collar — meant to recall the Rocky Mountains, at least in the initial photos — appears to have been straightened a bit, but the stripe at the waist fully retains its mountain range effect. 

One new detail improves on the original design. The black-and-white stripe breaking up the color fields has been replaced with silver — an homage, the Avalanche said, “to the state’s history in the silver mining industry.” As with the originals, the primary colors are blue, burgundy and white, a color scheme “based on the local panorama, including the lush earthy tone of the red rocks to the west, the deep blue sky visible most days out of the year.” The design also highlights the many “snow-capped peaks that line the horizon.”

Here are the peaks, and valleys, in the Avalanche jersey catalog:

1979-95: Call it sky blue, call it baby blue, but, sacre bleu, these jerseys that took the Nordiques from the WHA to the NHL evoke a time and place no less certainly than a lava lamp. Hey, nothing says hockey like fleurs-de-lis trim on a field of powder blue, right? And what is that logo? A lowercase “N”? A baby elephant playing bocce?

1995-2007: The team is moved to Colorado, and with the move comes a logo with a puck-led avalanche sweeping from a snow-capped “A.”  Two Cups won in these jerseys, plus well-considered design cues, make them indisputably the essential Avalanche sweater.

2001-2007: Alternates arrive, without much love. OK, so they’re derivative of the Rangers’ iconic diagonal script. But in burgundy — with a nifty black-blue-white-burgundy-white-blue-black striping package on the sleeves — the jerseys are given a modern twist. Yes, it would have helped if the waist stripes matched the sleeves.

2007-2017: Reebok erases the mountains altogether from the waist; goes with sort of an S-shaped wrist-to-collar shoulder yoke; and, perhaps to emphasize the more modern fit of their jerseys, runs apron-shaped piping from the collar to the waist. Underarm side panels match the shoulder yoke color. Not a train wreck, but not what adidas would bring to the party.

Kerri Polizzi | Flickr

2009-2017: A slight variation on the third jersey is adopted. This one is blue, with a burgundy shoulder yoke. The sleeve stripes and lace-up collar of the original stay, the waist stripes go.

Kerri Polizzi | Flickr

2017-?: All hail adidas …


Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Specialist at Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. Lee picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet. He’s an avid Blackhawks fan and is an expert in all things hockey equipment. 

The Importance of a Goaltending Pipeline

cropped-Burg_Brig_Logo5.jpg

Let’s cut right to the issue of why a goaltending pipeline is important and the difficulties of creating one. Having a goaltending pipeline is more than just drafting or signing free agent prospects then sticking them in the system. There’s development, putting them in positions to learn, and making sure you never put all your eggs into one basket.

Because I am a Colorado Avalanche fan I will be using the Avalanche as the main example to illustrate my various points. So let’s begin.

We’ll look at what is the point in even having a goaltending pipeline. You look at teams that have young starters such as the Avalanche, the Canadiens or even a consistently elite goalie like the Rangers have in Henrik Lundqvist. You see them and think to yourself, what’s the point of even drafting a goalie when I have this top 5 goalie in the NHL already? Price, Varlamov, Holtby, etc. they aren’t just going to fall off of a cliff, so what is the point?

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

The point is you need depth at every position in the NHL and since goaltending is arguably the most important position in the game then you definitely need depth there. The NHL is too competitive to just declare a season to be over because you lost your starter. Losing your starting goalie should no longer be an excuse for a team to just fall down the standings at an alarming rate. And most NHL GM’s realize that which is why there has been a movement towards the ideal goalie depth chart:

NHL Starter>1B NHL Backup>Young AHL Starter>AHL Vet>Newly Turned Pro in ECHL>One Euro/NCAA based goalie & One Junior Goalie

Why is this the ideal goaltending depth chart? Because you have safeguards at both the pro and junior level. No matter what happens theoretically there is a replacement for whatever goalie either goes down with an injury or starts to falter. Going back to the Avalanche here is there depth chart when all goalies are healthy:

Varlamov>Berra>Pickard>Will>Martin>Papjach

As seen here by the Avalanche depth chart they are as close as possible to the ideal goaltending depth chart. This isn’t a surprise however as the Avalanche have been dedicated to creating an elite goalie development system within the organization since Francois Allaire was brought on board. The only weaknesses in the Avalanche goalie depth chart is there is no AHL veteran to take the pressure off of the young starter and the Avalanche currently only have one goalie out of the pro system in Max Papjach.

Calvin Pickard | Kevin Goff

Calvin Pickard | Kevin Goff

The 1B NHL back up goalies is a new and emerging trend in the NHL. Not only are the Avalanche employing this new goalie, there are many other teams as well such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets, and the Montreal Canadiens. It’s also a successful trend where if the starter is injured the 1B goalie is able to step in and provide the goaltending needed for a team to win.

Possibly the most underrated part of the goalie depth chart is having two goalies outside of the pro system at all times. Sooner or later your young AHL goalie will need a chance to make the NHL or be moved out of the system which leaves an open spot in either the AHL or ECHL for a new goalie to come up in the pro system due to their junior eligibility running out.

It’s a constant cycle regarding the goalie position because there is only so much ice time to go around at every level. You can’t have three young goalies with a high potential fighting over one starting spot in the AHL. It’s a gamble that could leave one goalie in the dust due to one of the other goalies getting the AHL starting job and running with it. It’s also not a good idea due to the fact they are young goalies and therefore are susceptible to being inconsistent. That is where an AHL veteran can take over the crease for the time being and not affecting the team’s overall performance.

Which means you need to stagger the drafting of your goalies and where you draft a goalie from. Going back to the Colorado Avalanche as an example we have Spencer Martin playing in his first pro season. That leaves Max Papjach as the only goalie right now that can replace Martin when in three seasons Spencer Martin is either no longer apart of the Avalanche organization or in the NHL.

Spencer Martin | Kevin Goff

Spencer Martin | Kevin Goff

And while I have no opinion on whether or not Papjach can ever become a NHL goalie, you never put all your faith into one goalie. Especially a 19yo goalie who has lost a whole year of development. So at the next draft a goalie needs to be drafted by the Avalanche in order to avoid a worst case scenario where they have no back-up plan for either Varlamov or Pickard.

Once you start developing gaps in your goaltending pipeline you end up in situations like the Avalanche did after Patrick Roy retired. Or you end up like the Edmonton Oilers who needed to make a trade for Laurent Brossoit in order to solidify their goaltending pipeline because they didn’t start one when they first started their rebuild.

While it can seem crazy to be planning that far out, as a fan you can look back on any teams history and see where a proper goaltending pipeline either worked out or would have come in handy. If you look back a decade ago at the Avalanche all you had was false hope. Now you are looking at a wealth of riches in the crease with Semyon Varlamov, Reto Berra, Calvin Pickard and Spencer Martin.

That is the difference when you actually focus on goaltending rather than just assuming goalies are voodoo and sooner or later one will turn into a star. So in conclusion success in net starts with constructing the ideal goaltending pipeline and from there is where you start placing the pieces. No more can you just draft and hope for the best. You need a plan, you need to develop and you need to select the proper goalies to fit your vision. I’ve covered the first part in this article. The other two items (develop and drafting/signing) will be coming later.

Colorado Avalanche Prospects: CHL Prospect Update

cropped-Burg_Brig_Logo5.jpg

The Fifth Line is back with another update from Jackie Walker! She sent her first piece to us a while back giving previews of all the Colorado Avalanche prospects playing major junior in the CHL. She’s back to give us an update on how they are doing! Find her on Twitter @tigervixxxen. She also runs the Talking The Avs Podcast, which you can find here.

talkingtheavs.podbean.com

CHL Prospects Fall Update

JC Beaudin and Julien Nantel -­ Rouyn­Noranda Huskies

The highlight of the QMJHL and the Avalanche prospect pool are the Huskies and the play of JC Beaudin and Julien Nantel. First of all, the Huskies lead the entire CHL with both 34 points and 92 goals scored to cement their place as the number two ranked team on the national BMO CHL rankings with a record of 15-­1-­4. Just a fantastic season all around for the Huskies who haven’t lost a game in regulation since their six best players were at NHL camps in September. Their attacking lightning fast speed game is perfect for both Beaudin and Nantel who are enjoying great early season starts with 23 and 17 points respectively. Beaudin in particular has been on a hot streak, scoring a goal in his last five consecutive games including the most recent in overtime for a total of 10 goals, already four shy of his career high. Add that on top of his first career hat trick in an October game and it is easy to get excited over Beaudin’s future. Beaudin also leads the entire QMJHL in +/­ at +21 and hasn’t had one minus game this season. Nantel has been no slouch either as he’s scored eight goals and an overtime winner himself. Although they play on separate top lines they do combine to play together on the same power play and penalty kill unit. Both Beaudin and Nantel have been recognized for this strong seasons and were chosen to represent the QMJHL for team Canada in the upcoming Canada Russia series on November 18th and 20th, a first appearance for both.

Sergei Boikov ­- Drummondville Voltigeurs

The Voltigeurs surprisingly exploded out of the gate to tune of a 10­-2-­0 record and earned as high of a placement as 4th on the BMO CHL rankings but have since dropped to 11-­9-­0 and have fallen back to mid­pack in the QMJHL. If the Voltigeurs can maintain consistent scoring they should still be a playoff team, which would be an improvement over last season. Sergei Boikov is enjoying a solid season predicated mostly on defensive play and leadership but has already managed to equal his career high in goals output with three and has a total of seven points. Boikov will be playing for team Russia in the upcoming Canada Russia series on November 18th and 20th.

Nicolas Meloche ­- Baie­Comeau Drakkar

To say that the Drakkar are having a difficult year would be an understatement. Currently at the bottom of the QMJHL standings by a good margin with a record of 3­-13­-0, it has been a season of few positives. If there are any bright spots it would be the play of Nicolas Meloche, who is absolutely the backbone of the Drakkar. While serving a two game suspension he incurred due a secondary altercation fight, the Drakkar lost a collective 18­1 in the two contests without Meloche. He is the second leading goal scorer on the team with four goals although the team has only scored a total of 33 goals thus far. Meloche is a an offensive force as shown by generating an average 4.25 shots on goal per game, which leads all defensemen in the QMJHL. Coupled with his solid all situations defensive play shows why he is a very promising two way defensive prospect.

Alexis Pepin -­ Val­d’Or Foreurs

The Foreurs are continuing a strong winning tradition with a good start to their season and a 11­-7-­3 record. They are in just about every game and have already traded overtime victories with their hated rival Rouyn­Noranda. Alexis Pepin is a good fit on the Foreurs as they play a heavy bruising style of hockey. Pepin himself has contributed four goals and a total of nine points and leads the team with 40 penalty minutes. He has seen time all over the lineup including top line and power play. Hopefully this usage can continue and Pepin should build on his career totals as the Foreurs continue their climb up the standings.

Nick Magyar -­ Kitchener Rangers

A nice start for Nick Magyar saw him score a goal and an assist in his first couple games but a broken ankle suffered in his third game has sidelined him since with an expected return around mid-November. Magyar should slot in to a complimentary scoring second and third line role at that time. The Rangers however continue to roll as they are the last team in the entirety of the CHL to yet suffer a regulation loss with a record of 12­0­3 and are currently ranked 3rd in the BMO CHL rankings. Despite numerous injuries the Rangers have relied on their depth and surprising strong defensive play to keep racking up wins. This is a team that is primed to make a strong run at an OHL title.

Kyle Wood ­- North Bay Battalion

Unfortunately Kyle Wood is another prospect that is on the shelf and has yet to see action this season as he continues to recover from offseason wrist surgery. Word is that Wood could see a return as soon as late November and the Battalion could certainly use their number one defenseman and power play specialist. The Batallion have done an admirable job treading water with a 7-­7­2 record all the while missing their top scorer, defenseman and goaltender for stretches. Head Coach Stan Butler managers to get the most out of the team in front of him and for that never count the Battalion out but it appears to be a challenging year of fighting for position in the playoff race.

Conner Bleackley ­- Red Deer Rebels

Things are right on schedule for the Memorial Cup host Rebels as they have achieved a 12­-5-­0 record and 8th place on the current BMO CHL rankings. Their journey thus far hasn’t been without hiccups as they lost four straight on the road which forced them to shake up the captaincy to relive Conner Bleackley of the pressures in wearing the letter. Still as assistant captain, Bleackley responded with 5 points in the following two games for a total of 11 points on the year. Bleackley has played with many different teammates through the course of the young season but always in a shutdown defensive role and a staple on the power play. The Rebels hope to win the division off of their strong puck possession, cycle and defensive game and they are well on their way to achieving that. Bleackley will also represent team Canada for the WHL in the Canada Russia series on November 10th and 11th.

Gustav Olhaver -­ Seattle Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds have enjoyed some early season success themselves, climbing to as high as 7th on the BMO CHL rankings with a record of 9­5­1 due to a combo of both timely scoring and good defensive play. Gustav Olhaver is still finding his game and place in the lineup in his first North American season however he has managed to score two goals and two assists seeing mostly third and fourth line time in addition to his role acting as the immovable net front mass on the power play. Olhaver should see his role expand as he gets more comfortable throughout the year.

Colorado Avalanche: Milestone Season

cropped-Burg_Brig_Logo5.jpg

The Fifth Line has returned for a quick post! Stephen Crociata (@SCrociata) takes a minute to remind us that this 20th Anniversary Season will be marked with more than a few milestones.

Colorado Avalanche: Milestone Season

Tonight the Avalanche open their 20th season, as they take on the Wild. With that momentous occasion lets take a look at the other milestones some players can expect to hit!

 

Jarome Iginla: 8 games played from 1,400 and 11 goals from 600!

 

Alex Tanguay: 54 games played away from his 600th, with the Avalanche.

 

Matt Duchene: A full season (81 games literally) will give him 500 for his career, Duchene is also 8 assist away from 200!

 

Gabriel Landeskog: 19 GP from 300, 20 goals from 100, and 7 points from 200!

 

John Mitchell: 8 assist away from 100 and 1 point away from 150!

 

Carl Soderberg: 6 points away from 100!

 

Blake Comeau: 17 GP away from 500 and 5 points from 200!

 

Erik Johnson: 44 GP away from 500 and 7 points away from 200!

 

Semyon Varlamov: 33 GP away from 300 and 2 shutouts away from 20!

Colorado Avalanche: Who To Protect In Expansion Draft

cropped-Burg_Brig_Logo5.jpg

The Fifth Line is back with a forward thinking piece by John Rhodes. You can find John on Twitter @_john_rhodes. John tackles the impending expansion draft. While it’s true we know that it won’t happen until, at earliest, 2017, John breaks down the rules for expansion drafts and looks at who the Avs should protect if it were to happen at the end of this season.

Colorado Avalanche: Who To Protect In Expansion Draft

The NHL landscape changes from time to time. The most recent change was the conference realignments, landing the Colorado Avalanche in arguably the toughest division in hockey. However, there is something brewing that will not only have an impact on the teams the Avalanche are playing, but could have an impact on the players that make up the Avalanche roster: an expansion draft.

News is out there (and has been for a while) that the NHL is looking into expansion, and currently there are two cities that are believed to be in the process of having NHL teams created for as early as the 2016-2017 NHL season. In order for this to happen, those teams will need to start accumulating some players, and this is done through a draft of the current teams players. While this may seem scary, there are some rules involved that protect the existing teams from losing their cornerstone players.

The last time the NHL had an expansion draft was prior to the 2000-2001 season when the Minnesota Wild (yuck) and Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets, yuck) were introduced. The expansion draft took place prior to the NHL Entry Draft, so both teams were able to participate in that draft as well.

Now, before we get all defensive of our Avalanche favorites, understanding the rules for how these expansion drafts operate is important. For the 2000 expansion draft, the rules for protecting players allowed teams a pair of options for protecting players, or making certain players ineligible to be drafted. Those options are:

Option 1:

-9 forwards are saved

-5 defensemen are saved

-1 goalie is saved

-Must leave 1 defenseman and 2 forwards unprotected who have played at least 40 NHL games the prior season, or 70 games over the prior 2 seasons combined.

-Players on entry-level contracts are automatically exempt

-Team will have exactly 2 players selected.

Option 2:

-7 forwards are saved

-3 defensemen are saved

-2 goalies are saved

-Must leave 1 goalie unprotected who played in at least 10 games the prior season, or 25 games over the past two seasons combined

-Must leave 1 defenseman and 2 forwards unprotected who have played at least 40 NHL games the prior season, or 70 games over the prior 2 seasons combined.

-Players on entry-level contracts are automatically exempt

-Team will have exactly 2 players selected.

The point of the expansion draft is not to raid the top-end prospects of the existing teams, but rather to provide the expansion teams with some NHL-ready players who can make the teams competitive from the get go. The teams can then begin to build their prospect base through their first NHL Entry Draft.

But now, which option will be best for the Colorado Avalanche? The central cog to which way the Avalanche elect to go in this decision may very well depend on how Calvin Pickard performs. How he performs may influence whether the Avalanche decide they have to protect him. Assuming Pickard starts the season in San Antonio, Reto Berra should play in enough games this year to ensure that he reaches the 25 game minimum listed in the rules above.

Also benefiting the Avalanche heading into the expansion draft is the amount of players they have on entry-level contracts. And that is not limited to just recent prospects like Mikko Rantanen. That clause will also allow the Avalanche to not have to use one of their protections on Nikita Zadorov or Nathan MacKinnon. At the time of an expansion draft next summer, MacKinnon will still technically be on his entry-level contract, as the new league year does not begin until July 1st, and an expansion draft would take place prior to the NHL Entry Draft, which is typically the last week of June.

Another thing to consider is that with two additional teams in the NHL, the salary cap may fall slightly from where it is now at $71.4 million. Currently, with 30 teams, the gross salary figure teams can pay is $2.142 billion. Comparatively, for last season, the gross salary figure for teams was $2.07 billion. Odds are that the NHL will want to keep these numbers rather similar at first, until they see the additional revenue these two franchises can bring. Therefore, if the salary cap rose at the same percentage from 2014-2015 in 2015-2016, the gross number would be $2.217 billion in player salaries, but rather than being divided among 30 teams, it would now be split by 32 teams, making for a salary cap of $69.3 million.

Projecting this number will also be important for who the Avalanche may consider trying to keep. Perhaps Francois Beauchemin won’t be protected in order to allow the Avalanche to attempt to resign Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie long-term. These are the decisions facing Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy in the not so distant future.

Here’s an example of how they can protect our Avalanche players, with a scenario for both Option 1 and Option 2 (Player, Salary Cap Hit).

Option 1:

Forwards:

Gabe Landeskog (5.571428M), Carl Soderberg (4.75M), Matt Duchene (6.0M), Mikhail Grigorenko (.675M), Blake Comeau (2.4M), John Mitchell (1.8M), Joey Hishon (.890M), Andrew Agozzino (.600M), Jack Skille (PTO now, perhaps a contract soon?)

Defensemen:

Erik Johnson (6.0M), Tyson Barrie (2.6M), Nick Holden (1.65M), Brandon Gormley (.850M), Zach Redmond (.750M)

Goalie:

Semyon Varlamov (5.9M)

Total Salary Cap hit for those protected: $40.436M

Notable other players who are protected:

Nathan MacKinnon, Conner Bleackley, Mikko Rantanen, Nikita Zadorov, Chris Bigras

Notable Non-Protected Players:

Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Francois Beauchemin, Brad Stuart, Reto Berra, Calvin Pickard.

Option 2:

Forwards:

Gabe Landeskog (5.571428M), Carl Soderberg (4.75M), Matt Duchene (6.0M), Mikhail Grigorenko (.675M), Blake Comeau (2.4M), John Mitchell (1.8M), Joey Hishon (.890M).

Defensemen:

Erik Johnson (6.0M), Tyson Barrie (2.6M), Brandon Gormley (.850M)

Goalies:

Semyon Varlamov (5.9M), Calvin Pickard (.850M)

Total Salary Cap Hit for those protected: $38.286M

Notable other players who are protected:

Nathan MacKinnon, Conner Bleackley, Mikko Rantanen, Nikita Zadorov, Chris Bigras.

Notable Non-Protected Players:

Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Francois Beauchemin, Brad Stuart, Reto Berra, Calvin Pickard.

There are reasons for each player not left protected, and let me explain. Yes, I want Iginla, Tanguay, and Beauchemin on this team. I believe they all are invaluable leaders for the Avalanche. However, these expansion teams are going to have to reach the salary cap floor somehow, and maybe this allows the Avalanche to create some freed up cap space with which they can negotiate new long-term contracts for Tyson Barrie and Nathan MacKinnon.

Tanguay is an interesting case. He is a UFA after this season, whereas Beauchemin, Iginla and Stuart are all signed for at least 1 more year after the 2015-2016 campaign. What an expansion club would have to consider if they were to select Tanguay is how likely he would be to sign a contract with them after selecting him. There will only be about a week between the expansion draft and the beginning of free agency, and while these teams will undoubtedly be able to offer Tanguay more money than most teams will, the question remains whether he will want to move to one of these cities for the rest of his career, or if he would go into free agency and try to come back to Denver to play a few more seasons for Patty and Joe, or if he would elect to hang up the skates and call it a career. Therefore, I believe even if the Avalanche intend on bringing him back after this season, it may not be important for them to protect him from the expansion draft because he raises too many questions and concerns for the drafting organizations.

Essentially, I believe Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic have done an excellent job crafting a roster that can pass through an expansion draft rather unscathed due to the depth they have created with quality draft selections, and acquiring a new top D prospect in Nikita Zadorov who will not need to be protected from this draft due to his entry-level contract.

 

Who do you think the Avalanche should protect in an upcoming expansion draft? Let us know in the comments below.

If you want to write something for The Fifth Line, submit your article here.

Colorado Avalanche Prospects: Avs CHL Prospect Preveiw

cropped-Burg_Brig_Logo5.jpg

The Fifth Line is back with the latest contribution! This one comes to us from Jackie Walker. You can find her on Twitter @tigervixxxen, she also is one of the minds behind @TalkingTheAvs and the Talking The Avs Podcast, which you can find here: http://talkingtheavs.podbean.com/

Jackie’s article is a Colorado Avalanche prospects preview. Enjoy!

CHL Prospects Season Previews

Red Deer Rebels – Conner Bleackley
5of7 | Flickr

5of7 | Flickr

To say it is a big year for Conner Bleackley and the Red Deer Rebels would be an understatement. Set to host the Memorial Cup tournament in May, the entire season focuses on working toward the ultimate goal of winning Junior Hockey’s biggest prize. While it was a trying year of small improvements in 2014-2015, the Rebels have already made some upgrades to their roster looking ahead to the new season.

Scoring at times was a difficulty for the Rebels and they are hoping to get more production out of their lineup. In come two forwards via offseason trades in small skilled winger Ivan Nikolishin and two way forward Lane Pederson. Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Michael Spacek arrives from the 2015 import draft, as well. All three should make an instant impact on the forward core and on the scoresheet. Perhaps not an immediate impact but not any less promising is the addition of sixteen year old budding power forward, Austin Pratt. A potential 2017 first round NHL draft pick, Pratt already comes in at 6’3″, 216lbs for his rookie year with the Rebels. Another NHL drafted forward, St. Louis Blues prospect Adam Musil hopes to have a bounce back season and find the scoresheet more often.

The Rebels worked hard earlier in the year to fortify their blueline when they traded for Winnipeg Jets prospect Nelson Nogier. His addition to Carolina Hurricanes prospect Haydn Fleury anchors the defensive core as well as 2016 draft eligible defenseman Josh Mahura looking to take on a larger offensive role in his second season.

Several more moves are anticipated by the January trade deadline as the Rebels look to stack their roster with even more talent, most likely another forward or two and perhaps an experienced goalie as well. Bleackley figures to be right in the middle of the action entering his third year as captain and number one center for the Rebels. More help around Bleackley should ease the burden of scoring and allow him to develop his playmaking abilities while playing in more big game situations as the Rebels hope to make a deep playoff run before hosting the Memorial Cup.

Seattle Thunderbirds – Gustav Olhaver

The story of the Seattle Thunderbirds and their season will likely center around New York Islanders prospect, Matt Barzal and his chase for the WHL scoring title and his linemate New York Rangers prospect, Ryan Gropp figures to factor into this equation as well. A fairly young team hopes to keep improving in front of a young goalie tandem and return to the playoffs.

Gustav Olhaver has made his way across the pond from Sweden and will begin his North American career with the Thunderbirds most likely playing wing on the third line with fellow import Alexander True. Both seemed to have found some early chemistry in scrimmages and Olhaver netted his first tally in his one preseason contest before heading off to Avalanche camp.

Kitchener Rangers – Nick Magyar

The Kitchener Rangers experienced an improved season which even included a playoff berth in 2014-15. However underneath this team success was the lack of development from some of their players, including Nick Magyar. It was a frustrating year at times on the third line and in a checking role for Magyar but there was a lot of inconsistency within the team which played a very loose, sometimes absent system but still yielded wins off the strength of an over-age goaltender.

A new coach brings in a new outlook and hopefully a different system where Magyar can thrive and get back to appearing on the scoresheet as the potential is still there after a good rookie year. Early comments from training camp and preseason have been positive for Magyar and he too scored a goal in preseason before departing for Avalanche camp.

North Bay Battalion – Kyle Wood

One of the most successful OHL teams over the past couple of years including back to back Eastern Conference finals appearances, North Bay is expected to continue deep runs in the playoffs on the back of their excellent defensive system and coaching. Several graduations from key contributors and leaders hopefully will not faze the Battalion as they rely on their strong prospect system to come in and fill holes; however offense might be tougher to come by this season. Kyle Wood will be looked upon as one of those leaders as he expects to assume top pairing minutes and a key component of the power play.

Unfortunately a recent hand surgery will reportedly keep Wood sidelined for another month and likely the beginning of the OHL regular season. It is unclear how much of Avalanche training camp he will be able to participate in.

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies – Jean-Christophe Beaudin and Julien Nantel

One of the most exciting teams to watch this season in the QMJHL will be the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies as they quietly have put together a contending roster which should have no trouble scoring goals. In addition to Avalanche draft picks Jean-Christophe Beaudin and Julien Nantel, the forward group includes several other NHL draft picks in Ottawa Senators prospect Francis Perron and recent CHL import draft selection Toronto Maple Leafs 2015 third round pick Martins Dzierkals; as well as Boston Bruins prospect Jeremy Lauzon on the back end.

The Huskies boast a young roster that returns mostly intact with both Beaudin and Nantel expected to play major top six roles in all situations. The biggest question will likely be in goal and on the defensive side but this team will play fast, offensive hockey in a very wide open QMJHL with few favorites. Preseason was very good to the Huskies as they posted a 6-1 record and averaged nearly five goals a game. Nantel scored three goals and four points in as many contests and Beaudin with four goals in five games. Both Avalanche prospects look to enter camp already in game mode and will possibly even participate in the Huskies regular season opening game before heading to Colorado.

Drummondville Voltigeurs – Sergei Boikov

Another long year is expected in Drummonville after missing the playoffs in 2014-15. Avalanche draft pick Sergei Boikov is the only NHL prospect on the roster and is the only NHL drafted player the team has seen since 2011. Boikov is expected to fill a leadership role again and carry the defensive core. Boikov also expect to come into Avalanche camp in game shape as he participated in four preseason contests, as well as the World Junior Showcase for Team Russia.

Baie-Comeau Drakkar – Nicolas Meloche

Another strong club as of late, the Baie-Comeau Drakkar hopes to keep finding success but may have a tough time after exiting their window of contention with several key graduations. However, a few pieces remain in Buffalo Sabres prospect Vaclav Karabacek, in addition to Nicolas Meloche, as they work toward bringing the Drakkar to the playoffs, once again. Meloche does seemingly everything by playing in all situations, is a high volume shot generator, plays top line defense and brings a constant physical presence. Big things are expected from Meloche this season and he is hopefully able to put in a fully healthy season after only playing in 44 games due to wrist surgery in early 2015.

Preseason seems to have started the season off on the right note as Meloche contributed an assist and fight in his one contest.

Val-d’Or Foreurs – Alexis Pepin

Still enjoying some remaining fruits of their QMJHL championship and Memorial Cup team from the 2013-14 season, Val-d’Or’s roster boasts some strong pieces that will allow them to continue to find success. Although many of the core pieces have moved on, key forwards such as Philadelphia Flyers prospect Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Nashville Predators prospect Anthony Richard remain. In addition, big power forward and potential first-round 2016 NHL draft pick Julien Gauthier, enters his second year with the Foreurs.

Alexis Pepin returns and hopes to find a permanent stay on this team for a full year after his midseason trade in early 2015 from the Gatineau Olympiques. In a top six role with consistent minutes, the hope is Pepin can find more offensive consistency while bringing a physical presence and impact the game much like he did in his thrilling 2015 playoff second-round series, game seven overtime goal over the Baie-Comeau Drakkar.

So far in preseason Pepin scored one goal and four points in four contests and looks to put on a strong and healthy showing in Avalanche training camp after he had to sit out much of it in 2014 due to recovery from shoulder surgery.

 

Want to write an article for The Burgundy Brigade? Submit your article today!

Colorado Avalanche: Why They Can Surprise Everybody, Again

cropped-BBrigade1.png

Here is the latest piece submitted through The Fifth Line! This one comes to us from Stephen Crociata, former editor of Mile High Sticking. You can find him on Twitter @SCrociata. Make sure you give him a follow!

 

**************************************************************

 

The 2009 and 2013 seasons saw the Colorado Avalanche shock experts, critics and even fans with unlikely runs into the playoffs. After a season full of disappointment in 2014, most expect the Avalanche to miss the playoffs again for the sixth time in eight years. Can this team surprise everyone, yet again? Of course it can, and here is why.

Matt Duchene

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

The Avalanche win when Matt Duchene is on his game. In wins, Matt Duchene had 40 points in 39 games while Duchene only had 15 points in 43 games in losses. We all know what Duchene is capable of and it’s hard to pinpoint the reason for his struggles. He actually performed better at the second half of last season when his usual linemates became Jarome Iginla and John Mitchell instead of Iginla and Alex Tanguay. Could it have been as simple as finding the right chemistry? Maybe Duchene got caught up in the articles pointing at him to be traded instead of Ryan O’Reilly. All that is really known is if the Avalanche are to return to the playoffs, Matt Duchene has to show what he showed in 2013.

Grit With Skill

Patrick Roy has emphasized the need to add size to a team that already had a decent amount of it. More importantly, what the Avalanche have added is more guys who bring grit while also adding skill. Over the past few years we have seen guys like Cody McLeod, Marc-Andre Cliché, Max Talbot and Patrick Bordeleau in the lineup every night, and some getting serious ice time. Unfortunately, while bringing all the overused heart and passion, none of them bring much skill. Now the Avalanche have added guys like Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau and will hopefully be adding Jesse Winchester and Dennis Everberg as they return from injury. This introduces a new aspect to the Avalanche, adding a bunch of poor men’s Gabe Landeskogs, and bringing a much needed skilled toughness.

Reliable Defense

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Yes, I am using “Reliable” and “Defense” In the same phrase when referring to the Colorado Avalanche defense. The reason for this is last season the Avs had both Jan Hejda and Brad Stuart playing over 20 minutes a game. We know what a mess Stuart was and, while most of us enjoyed watching Hejda, there was no excuse to have him play that many minutes other than the Avs HAD to. Many Avalanche fans have been opposed to the Francois Beauchemin signing, but the simple fact is he led the firth place team in the West in TOI (time on ice). It’s all about being reliable and Beauchemin is that. The Avs also added Nikita Zadorov who is unbelievably young and only getting better. He also gets a partner, likely Tyson Barrie, who is becoming one of the best two-way defensemen in hockey. Add the fact that this new top four allows the Avs to make their 3rd pair out of whoever performs best, veteran or rookie, and you have yourself a surprisingly regenerated defense.

Semyon Varlamov

Alex Browne

Alex Browne

Prior to last season, many people predicted the Avalanche to fall off, and unfortunately they were right. They pinpointed the defense for a key of struggles but the second reason was Varlamov. No one thought Semyon Varlamov could get close to matchning what he did the year before. Yet, in a year when his team struggled to score and play defense, Varlamov kept the Avalanche in way more games then they deserved to be in. Varlamov once again finished with a GAA better than .920 and set a career high with 5 shutouts. After overcoming all the doubts placed upon Varlamov, the Avs seemed to know exactly what they have, and that’s one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. Varlamov has had much of his success the last two years with little help, imagine what he can do if the team plays well in front of him.

No Distractions

Ever since the Calgary Flames made that offer sheet to Ryan O’Reilly, the Avalanche have been under a cloud of distraction. Everyday it seemed there was a new article on what the Avalanche should do with O’Reilly. It was not just a distraction of news and questions but it placed the Avalanche in an area of limbo. The direction of the team was largely based on whether or not O’Reilly would remain with the team. Cap space and the makeup of the roster was an unknown until O’Reilly was taken care of. Now with the move made, and a great return of Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and A.J. Greer, the Avalanche are able to look forward and set a path for the future of the Avalanche. Hopefully it’s full of surprises and success in the quest for cup number three!

 

Want an article posted on the Brigade? Submit it here: http://www.burgundybrigade.com/write-with-the-brigade/

Colorado Avalanche Newcomers: A Fan’s Quick Guide

BBrigade1

The Fifth Line presents this article from Geremy McFadden, found on Twitter @TheGoalieGiant.

The off-season has reached its most boring part. It’s the beginning of August and we still have another month to wait before training camp begins. After all the hype and action that happened in late June and early July, it’s time to look back and see who the Avalanche organization added to the fold. If you’re a fan who loves to watch the Avs but has a hard time keeping track of who the team added and just what those players add to the organization then this is the guide for you.

Andreas Martinsen (or Bifkaka)

Acquired via:

Free Agent signing April 6th 2015 to a One-Year Entry Level Deal

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

2nd half of the 2015/16 NHL season

Player Summary:

25yo big-bodied winger that played in the DEL (German Elite League) from

Norway. Plays a North American style game, goes hard to the net, skates decently enough for a big player and has good hands in close. Prototypical Roy-like player.

2015/16 Expectations:

Start in the AHL playing top 6 minutes. In the latter half of the 2015/16 season, gets a cup of coffee at the NHL level to evaluate his progress.

Quotes:

“His size has definitely not been overstated in stories, and his straightaway speed is like a runaway train. He’s going to make an impact right away in the AHL with his size alone. If he can demonstrate a scoring touch, I wouldn’t rule out 3rd line upside for this physical force.”

Source: http://www.milehighhockey.com/2015/7/7/8908873/avalanche-rookie-development-camp-day-1-recap

“Martinsen, on the other hand, demonstrated an easy ability to park in front of the net and obscure any sight lines the goalies were hoping to achieve.”

Source: http://www.milehighhockey.com/2015/7/7/8908873/avalanche-rookie-development-camp-day-1-recap

Carl Soderberg (or The Yeti)

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Acquired via:

Trade then signed for 5yrs @ 4.75AAV

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Opening night of the 2015/16 season

Summary of Player:

Big centerman who has played for the Boston Bruins the past two seasons putting up 44 and 48 points respectively. Legally blind in one eye but still possesses great vision and playmaking skills. Will be a great asset on the Avalanche Power Play while exhibiting solid two-way play.

2015/16 Expectations:

Sakic expects him to center Landeskog and MacKinnon to start in training camp.

~50 points and a major part of the Avalanche power play.

Quotes:

“I was waiting for Boston to come back to me,” Soderberg, a casualty of the Bruins’ salary cap problems, said in a phone interview from Sweden. “When they didn’t have room for me, my agent told me Colorado was interested in me. There was no doubt for me. Colorado is a great hockey club. I said go ahead, and then everything went really fast.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28534427/carl-soderberg-wanted-come-colorado-right-away

“Soderberg has played with Landeskog on the Swedish national team and recently received a “welcome to the team” call from the Avalanche captain. Soderberg said it’s “really inspiring” to have an opportunity to center Landeskog and MacKinnon.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28534427/carl-soderberg-wanted-come-colorado-right-away

Nikita Zadorov

Acquired via:

Trade from Buffalo Sabres (O’Reilly trade)

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Opening night of the 2015/16 season

Summary of Player:

Big Russian defender who will be entering his 2nd NHL season and centerpiece of the O’Reilly trade. Zadorov was taken in the MacKinnon draft by the Buffalo Sabres then spent one year back in Junior and last season in the NHL. He’s a 20 year-old, top-4 defender who towers over nearly everyone.

He possesses a mean streak, a big shot from the point, loves his open ice hits and has good mobility. Still is raw in the defensive zone but has top pairing potential. Avs could have a Rob Blake-lite in Zadorov.

2015/16 Expectations:

Regular in the Avalanche line-up. Could either be paired with Tyson Barrie or Brad Stuart to start and then end up with Erik Johnson near the end of the season.

Quotes:

“I’ve played against him, and he’s obviously a very good offensive player,” Zadorov said of Barrie, whom he has not yet met. “I’m sure we’ll work well together.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28519906/avalanches-varlamov-gets-russian-company-two-new-teammates

“…he is a great man for a shut down role and he has a fantastic point shot. What he really seems to pride himself on his his physicality and his great hitting ability. Throughout the season, he demonstrated it with a vengeance.”

Source: http://sabrenoise.com/2015/06/07/buffalo-sabres-players-year-in-review-nikita-zadorov/

Mikhail Grigorenko

Acquired via:

Trade then signed for 1yrs @ 650K AAV

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Opening night of the 2015/16 season

Summary of Player:

Reunited with Patrick Roy at last, Grigorenko is an enigmatic Russian forward who can turn the O’Reilly trade into a big win for the Avalanche. Grigorenko is a big center who can play wing if need be. He’s not physical but does use his size to shield the puck. He’s also an excellent passer that also possesses a good shot. He’s patient with the puck which makes Grigorenko an excellent Power Play player. Lots of untapped offensive potential. Grigorenko is probably the most hard working NHL player this off-season.

2015/16 Expectations:

A useful addition on the powerplay along with starting on the right track towards getting close to his potential. Will probably start on the 3rd line but could end up flanking Matt Duchene in the top 6 sooner rather than later.

Quotes:

“It was great when I saw the trade, and it got even better when I knew it was with Nikita,” said Grigorenko, who speaks fluent English. “It’s great being able to go somewhere with one of your best friends. I’m really excited about that. We’re really good friends. He’s a good guy, and we’ve known each other for a while.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28519906/avalanches-varlamov-gets-russian-company-two-new-teammates

Before being traded, the center player had decided to spend his summer in Quebec to refine his skating. Training with expert Julie Robitaille is started for three weeks now and there is already a progression.

“Julie showed me good techniques,” said the former Remparts. “She thinks I’ve greatly improved my skating ability. It will be a new element that I bring to my game.”

“We already see a marked improvement,” says his coach. “From the first session, I quickly corrected things and it already felt better, more comfortable and more explosive. ”

Source: http://www.rds.ca/hockey/lnh/mikhail-grigorenko-a-la-ferme-intention-de-se-tailler-une-place-chez-l-avalanche-lnh-1.2501972

JT Compher

Acquired via:

O’Reilly Trade

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

End of the 2017/2018 season

Summary of Player:

Drafted in 2013 (MacKinnon Draft) in the 2nd round by the Buffalo Sabres.

Compher is a NHL coaches dream player. Compher is the prototypical 3rd line winger that works hard, hits hard, plays with his heart on his shoulder and is leadership material. He’ll be entering his 3rd season with the University of Michigan as the Captain of the team for the 2015/16 season. He spent his own money coming to the Avalanche rookie development camp so there are high hopes that he won’t go to free agency after his NCAA career is over.

2015/16 Expectations:

Take his bigger role in stride and just keep doing what he is doing in Michigan. Just don’t take a step back in development.

Quotes:

“I have really focused on my overall strength and adding weight to be stronger on the ice and more physical. I have also done both skating power and technique work to be more explosive and faster in game situations. Overall it has been a good summer so far with a lot more work still to do.”

Source: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-hockey/spec-rel/070915aaa.html

“July has been harder since so many guys are at different camps, but all the guys have a really good understanding of the work that needs to be put in at this time so we can have a successful season. I have been talking to many guys whether they be at camp, home or still in Ann Arbor, and the time and work being put in has been outstanding. I can’t wait for more guys to be back in Ann Arbor when I return so we can continue to push towards our goals we have for this season together.”

Source: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-hockey/spec-rel/070915aaa.html

Francois Beauchemin

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Acquired via:

Free Agency signed to 3 year deal @ 4.5M per

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Opening night 2015/16 NHL Season

Summary of Player:

Beauchemin is a more mobile and a better passing version of our own Jan Hejda. He’s a steady defensive presence on the blueline that can play in the top 4. Last season he led the Ducks in TOI for both regular season and the playoffs. The only similarity between Beauchemin and Brad Stuart are their respective ages. Beauchemin is the better defender in every category compared to Stuart. In fact, Beauchemin has less mileage on his body as he has played 673 games compared to Brad Stuart’s 1,050 NHL games.

2015/16 Expectations:

A stable and reliable presence on the blue line allowing Erik Johnson/Tyson Barrie to play his own game. Bring a calm/veteran presence and be a big player in important on-ice situations.

Quotes:

“He played top minutes with Anaheim, and that was the biggest thing: we were looking for somebody to play with EJ for top minutes, play against the other team’s top line,” Sakic said. “We looked at all the free agents out there and there were only a handful that we knew could play. Francois did a tremendous job for Anaheim and I know he’s excited to come here and do the same thing here and play with EJ.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28414124/francois-beauchemin-defenseman-signs-avalanche-report-says

“I’m that defensive-mindset defenseman and like to play that hard, physical game. (Johnson and I) complement each other, reading off each other and making that first breakout pass to make it easier to get out of our zone. That’s been my game for 10 years and I’m going to keep doing that.” – Beauchemin

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28414124/francois-beauchemin-defenseman-signs-avalanche-report-says

Blake Comeau

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Acquired via:

Free Agency signed to 3 year deal @ 2.4M per

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Opening night 2015/16 NHL Season

Summary of Player:

Comeau is a 3rd line winger that can shoot, hit, forecheck and kill penalties. Replacement for Jamie McGinn who went with O’Reilly to Buffalo. Comeau can also do spot duty in the top-6 as his best years have come with playing with John Tavares and Evgeni Malkin. A fancy stat darling.

2015/16 Expectations:

Be the trigger man on a line with Grigorenko to start the season, kill penalties and provide a hard hitting forecheck along with ~15 goals.

Quotes:

“He’s a versatile player. He can go up and down your lineup. He plays a north-south game,” Sakic said. “He skates hard. He hits hard. He’s a puck possession guy. And he’s good on the penalty kill. He can also get you 15 goals.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28414124/francois-beauchemin-defenseman-signs-avalanche-report-says

“Comeau put up solid possession numbers with many of his linemates. That meant that he wasn’t dragging anyone down while they were on the ice together. Add to this the fact that he scored 16 goals and 31 points while missing substantial time due to injury and you have the makings of a really good season.

Source: http://www.pensburgh.com/2015/5/21/8633599/season-in-review-blake-comeau

 

Mikko Rantanen

Acquired via:

10th pick(1st round) in 2015 NHL draft

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Opening night of the 2015/16 season

Summary of Player:

Big-bodied winger that is one of the most NHL ready players in his draft year.

Automatically became top prospect for the Avalanche. Possesses a deadly shot and plays a full 200ft game. As an 18yo Rantanen became the best player on his team, that was full of grown men (TPS of the Finnish League), halfway through the season and never looked back. High ceiling regarding his offensive abilities.

2015/16 Expectations:

End up in the AHL after training camp and be the leading offensive force on the San Antonio Rampage while learning to play on North American ice. Will probably see some NHL time at the very latest near the end of the regular season.

Quotes:

“Mikko is a versatile forward who brings size, skill and a high compete level,” Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic said in a news release. “We saw him at our development camp last week and are now eager to see how he does at our training camp in September.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28476541/mikko-rantanen-signs-3-year-entry-level-contract

“He’s a big, strong, mature, mobile two-way power forward who protects the puck very well, has a great reach and is very strong in battles along the boards and in the corners,” Stubb told NHL.com. “He’s very close to being the complete package.”

Source: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/prospect-of-interest-the-411-on-mikko-rantanen/

AJ Greer

Acquired via:

39th overall(2nd Round) in the 2015 NHL Draft

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

End of the 2018/2019 season

Summary of Player:

Big winger who plays for Boston University and the first surprise of the 2015 draft for Avalanche fans. Skipped out on Prep School in order to play this past season for BU. Stats are unimpressive but that is due to his near constant stay on the 4th line before being given a chance in the top 9 for Boston University. Received glowing reviews from Avs fans at the Avalanche rookie development camp for his work effort and tenacity.

2015/16 Expectations:

With the graduation of Boston University’s top offensive players, it’s time for AJ Greer to step up and show some of his offensive talent.

Quotes:

“Greer started to play better hockey down the stretch — in all three zones — and was rewarded with being moved up to the second line. He made the most of his increased playing time with a goal and two assists in the last five games.”

Source: http://www.sbncollegehockey.com/hockeyeast/2015/6/25/8840407/2015-nhl-draft-prospect-a-j-greer-boston-university-forward-kimball-union-alum

“He’s active in the offensive zone. He’s big, strong. He’s getting more confident,” explained Quinn.

Source: http://www.sbncollegehockey.com/hockeyeast/2015/6/25/8840407/2015-nhl-draft-prospect-a-j-greer-boston-university-forward-kimball-union-alum

Nicolas Meloche

Acquired via:

40th overall(2nd Round) in the 2015 NHL Draft

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Latter half of the 2019/20 NHL season

Summary of Player:

Two-way defender that has played like a number 1 defender in the QMJHL since he was 16yo. Meloche is big, loves to use his size against his opponents and is an all situation defender.

Meloche has a big point shot and is used as a weapon on the PP much like Kyle Wood (another Avalanche prospect) is used on his team for. Meloche’s biggest weakness is his skating. Specifically his speed and acceleration; however with a good skating coach this weakness can be nullified. Meloche’s ceiling is top-pairing defender whereas his floor seems to be at the very least a NHL defender on the bottom pairing.

2015/16 Expectations:

Head back to Baie-Comeau work on his skating, contend for a spot on the Canadian U-20 team and continue on his development path.

Quotes: “Even as a 16-year-old he was playing huge minutes as a top four defenceman, and being utilized on both the penalty kill and the power play.”

Source: http://lastwordonsports.com/2015/05/17/2015-nhl-draft-profile-46-nicolas-meloche/

“Real good two-way game, and another guy with some bite to his game,” Hepple said of Meloche.” I always use the reference — a junkyard dog kind of game. Plays hard, tough on people in front of the net.

Not afraid to stick his nose in anywhere on the ice. Great shot. Great size. And he’s got some smarts. He plays the game the right way.”

Source: http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_28395604/avs-fall-back-gain-picks

Jean-Christophe Beaudin

Acquired via:

71th overall(3rd Round) in the 2015 NHL Draft

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Call-Up in 2019/20 NHL season

Summary of Player:

Has played one season in the QMJHL so far. Scored 53 points in 68 games plus 5 points in 6 playoff games. Beaudin is a playmaking center-man with a good slapshot that allows him to play the point on the Power Play. Projects to be a 3rd center in the NHL that can help on the Power Play. Jarrett Stoll in his prime or a more offensive Stephane Yelle are his NHL comparables. Considered a sleeper pick by a few. Possible he’ll play on a line with Julien Nantel, another Avalanche prospect.

2015/16 Expectations:

Continue improving his play at both ends of the ice in Rouyn-Noranda. Work on the release of his wrist shot.

Quotes:

“Very underrated, strong defensive game and has great speed. Look for offensive game to take another step next season.” – HP scout Jérôme Bérubé

“I really like this kid. He has some skill but doesn’t look to have high-end offensive upside for the NHL level. He’s a very smart player. He looks like a player coaches will love. He seemed to execute on the ice with amazing attention to detail…great stick position, angling, defensive positioning etc…I would draft this kid and I’m not going to totally rule out him posting some surprising numbers moving forward. “ – Mark Edwards

Andrei Mironov

Acquired via:

101st overall(4th Round) in the 2015 NHL Draft

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

Opening Night 2018/19 NHL season

Summary of Player:

Surprise pick of the draft for the Avalanche who have not drafted a Russian player since Denis Parshin in the 2004 NHL entry draft. Mironov is the oldest player taken in the draft by the Avalanche as Mironov was 20 when drafted (is 21 now). He’s the definition of a big risk but big reward draft pick. Already an All-Star at the KHL level and played a significant role on the Russian National Team at the World Hockey Championship who finished with a Silver Medal.

More of a defensive-defenseman that can hit, skate, move the puck and play on the power play, though not in the capacity of Meloche or Wood. Mironov’s KHL contract expires a few months before the Avalanche lose his NHL rights.

2015/16 Expectations:

Work on his offensive game while remaining a defensive powerhouse for his team in Dynamo.

Quotes:

“He is an excellent assistant to teammates, though always makes sure that his efforts on the offensive do not affect his defensive function.”

“Andrei not only cuts an impressive figure (189 cm, 88 kg) but also has a top-notch hockey intellect.”

http://rbth.com/sport/2014/05/07/continental_harvest_five_russian_hockey_talents_who_may_join_the_n

Sergei Boikov

Acquired via:

171st overall(6th Round) in the 2015 NHL Draft

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

2019/20 NHL season

Summary of Player:

One of the older players in the draft. Boikov is a Russian defenseman who plays similar to Alexei Emelin of the Montreal Canadiens. Boikov loves to hit and has an underrated first pass.

Currently fighting for a spot on the Russian National U-20 team for the World Junior Championship. He’s a long shot prospect that could end up being a top 4 defender in the NHL.

2015/16 Expectations:

Make the Russian U-20 team and continue making progress in Drummondville on all aspects of his game.

Quotes:

“Sergei Boikov is the leader on defense. He plays a ton, provides a great physical presence and is one of just a handful of plus players on Drummondville.”

Source: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/juniors/chl-sportsnet-armada-push-no-1-qmjhl/

“Boikov has above all a sense of defensive hockey. He is strong physically. He competed under pressure. He loves the challenge of neutralizing the best tactic. It is safe for his teammates. By his example, he is a leader. It is also recognized in the dressing room and totally committed to the organization, “he listed, recalling that the number 55 has played despite a double shoulder injury late in the season.” – General Manager Dominic Ricard

Source: http://www.journalexpress.ca/Sports/Hockey/2015-03-24/article-4088051/%26laquo%3BBoikov,-cest-un-Dumont-russe!%26raquo%3B/1

Gustav Olhaver

Acquired via:

191st overall(7th Round) in the 2015 NHL Draft

Soonest He’ll be in an Avs Jersey:

2019/20 NHL season

Summary of Player:

A massive Swedish center-man who stands at 6’ 6” and the last pick for the Avalanche in the 2015 NHL entry draft. Was also the first pick (and only pick) for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the CHL Import Draft. Mostly plays center but can move to the wing. Plays a power forward type game and loves going to the net. Lots of development time in front of Olhaver.

2015/16 Expectations:

Become a physical force in the WHL. Break out as a prospect on the Seattle Thunderbirds. Adjust to North American hockey.

Quotes:

“I am a power forward who skates well and plays a physical game combined with making smart plays with the puck. I will go to the net, catch up rebounds and be a threat in the offensive zone as well as I will be reliable in the defensive zone.” – Gustav Olhaver

Source: http://www.seattlethunderbirds.com/article/qanda-with-gustav-olhaver

“I was at home following the draft on TV and hoped to get my name called up. Suddenly it happened and it was a dream coming true. Avalanche has always been one of my favorite teams in the league and I was very happy with them selecting me.” – Gustav Olhaver

Source: http://www.seattlethunderbirds.com/article/qanda-with-gustav-olhaver

A special thanks goes to the media people who watched these players, the scouts who spent all season

watching these players along with great fans and all those with great insight ion HFBoards which includes

posters TV, TMV, henchman, RS, SEPH, and others who know who they are.

 

 

If you want to submit and article for The Fifth Line, just go here to submit an article!

Colorado Avalanche: Analyzing the Goaltending Depth Chart

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

Bridget Samuels | Flickr

This was a piece that I received via e-mail from Geremy McFadden about the Colorado Avalanche and the goaltending depth throughout the system. Give Geremy a follow on Twitter if you haven’t done so already at: @TheGoalieGiant.

 

With the Avalanche rookie development camp over, we are in for a very long two months before training camp starts up. Within those two months there will be a lot of discussion about the forwards and defense in the Avalanche organization from the NHL level all the way to the junior level. This will be an article on the goaltending depth of the Avalanche organization and what to expect at Avalanche training camp.

 

The Obvious: There are three goalies in the Avalanche organization whose positions and futures are not going to change when Avalanche training camp rolls around. First off is Sami Aittokallio who has spent the past three seasons in Lake Erie with a few games in the NHL. He’s the easiest one to start out with because he will not be at the Avalanche training camp this year. He has recently signed a deal with Kärpät (Liiga) but the Avalanche still hold his NHL rights which is why he is mentioned here. Next on the list is Maximilian Pajpach. He was drafted in 2014 by the Avalanche and then missed the entire 2014-15 hockey season with an injury. He was able to come to development camp and do the drills so it’s expected that he will be able to play for Tappara U20 this coming season.

 

Last, but certainly not least, is Semyon Varlamov. The Russian goalie is the undisputed number 1 goalie for the Colorado Avalanche. Despite some early season injuries that slowed down him and the team, Varlamov came back from his last injury and dominated. He posted the best Penalty Kill Save Percentage by a mile and a half at ~0.930S%. He’s on a long term contract and the 2nd best goaltender in Colorado Avalanche history. He’s going to be in this category for a while.

 

The Battles: There are four goalies to keep a close eye at training camp and after training camp when the AHL/ECHL assignments come. Those goalies are Reto Berra, Calvin Pickard, Roman Will and Spencer Martin. The first two goalies listed are familiar to nearly any Avalanche fan. Berra was picked up in 2014 at the trade deadline and Pickard was the mid-season hero when Varlamov fell to injury.

 

Most people fear Reto Berra, and by most people I mean Avalanche fans. Can’t blame those that don’t want him in net as Berra’s had a rough Avalanche career so far and this season only furthered fans bad feelings for him even more. General consensus seems to be “give Pickard Berra’s job” and it’s just not that simple. Berra played good hockey at the beginning of the season and the end of the season. He gave the Avalanche their first win of the 2014-15 season which was followed by a concussion in his next game. After the concussion we saw Reto Berra lose his job to the upstart Pickard.

Teka England | Flickr

Teka England | Flickr

Pickard set a NHL record with his first two NHL wins coming in relief. Pickard ended the NHL season with a 6-7-3 record, .932SV% and a 2.35GAA.He excited fans with his goaltending skills and showed that we have a goalie that developed properly. Despite all that Pickard is only 23 years old and still developing. That is an obstacle he needs to overcome when fighting with Berra for the back-up spot in the NHL.

 

Pickard needs to show that he’s not a one hit wonder at the NHL level. No one had the book on Pickard and now teams are going to be ready for him. We saw what happened when Pickard came back for the game against Los Angeles in March (pulled in the first period). As bad as Berra was in the middle of the season, Berra finished off the season very strong posting three wins in his last four games. It raises the legitimate question of: has Berra finally turned it around? If he has then Berra will remain in the NHL as Varlamov’s back-up. Lastly, what is best for Pickard’s development? Unless Pickard completely outperforms Berra in camp, this will be the deciding factor and the question that will be the loudest in the head of Roy/Sakic, is it best for Pickard to be the first goalie call-up along with being the starter in the AHL or should be starting ~20 games in the NHL behind Varlamov?

 

Training camp goalie battle number 2 is a little more clear cut on the outcome, however it is still worth thinking over on what can happen. Roman Will came over last season, struggled in his AHL games and was therefore assigned to Fort Wayne in the ECHL. He took over the starting position as a rookie and never looked back. Also made the ECHL All-Rookie team. With Sami Aittokallio leaving to Finland there’s a spot open in the AHL which seems like the perfect place for Will. There is someone that will give him a run for his money and it’s Spencer Martin.

 

Spencer Martin was taken in the 2013 draft and kicked it up a gear this past season. Unfortunately Martin fell to a season ending injury with the Steelheads using him in every game possible. Martin showed up to the recent rookie camp looking in great shape, keeping up with the skaters in skating drills and looking as athletically gifted as ever. There’s one big factor though that will probably push him into the ECHL and its Martin’s age. This will be Spencer Martin’s first pro hockey season and he’s coming off of that big injury. While the ECHL might not be the best place for forward/defense prospects, it’s perfect for goalies to adjust to the pro game such as our own Roman Will and Brossoit in the Edmonton Oilers system.

 

With that last point in mind it’s easy to assume that there is no battle between Martin and Will. I disagree with that on three premises. One, Martin isn’t the only one coming off of an injury. Roman Will himself had to have surgery after his ECHL season ended. Two, can Roman Will actually do well in the AHL? Unfortunately the only play we have of Will in the AHL isn’t very promising. To be fair it could have been because he wasn’t used to the North American style of hockey. Lastly, don’t count out Spencer Martin. He is full of potential, big and athletic. He’s a good prospect who, under Allaire, can become something great.

 

My Thoughts: After training camp I believe the depth chart will be like this:

 

  1. Varlamov
  2. Berra
  3. Pickard
  4. Will
  5. Martin
  6. Papjach

 

Berra’s contract situation and Pickard’s need to develop will be the main factors in why Berra will be the back-up to Varlamov and Pickard will be the starter in San Antonio. I do believe that Berra is on a short leash. If Pickard can show he’s too good for the AHL and can provide a 1A/1C situation for the Avalanche then I wouldn’t doubt we see Berra in the AHL or traded somehow. One injury to Roman Will and we’ll see Spencer Martin steal his spot in the AHL is my prediction for the season. Martin might force Roy and Sakic to make a decision on Pickard/Berra at the end of the 2015/16 season. Lastly, the Avalanche will be selecting at least one goalie in the 2016 draft. With Martin, Will, Pickard all fighting for AHL spots and Papjach getting close to making the jump the Avalanche will be without a goalie in the juniors/Europe in the 2016/17 season if they don’t take a goalie in the 2016 draft. I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance that the Avalanche select two goalies in 2016 so be prepared. Last lastly, as of now the partnership with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL is still up in the air. Could throw a wrench into things if the Avalanche does not have a place to put Will/Martin.