As a faint glimmer of hockey on the horizon begins to emerge so are the plans to shape the Colorado Avalanche roster for whenever they reconvene and begin the Stanley Cup playoffs. The latest word on the street is each team will face limits of a 50-person travel party and a roster of 28 skaters plus unlimited goaltenders. The final details have yet to be negotiated or announced by the NHL so the numbers are subject to change. However the teams reportedly already had to submit a list of 10 potential “black aces” to the league, presumably to begin part of the process as extra players for the return to play plan and therefore should become apparent sooner than later.
Who should make the 28 skater team?
First of all, let’s start with what is known. The Avalanche due to their injury woes were carrying extra players on their roster when the season paused on March 12th and therefore already have a full compliment of extra players available assuming full-health. They also chose not to send Kevin Connauton back down to the AHL on paper before the NHL roster freeze a few days later so it is possible he doesn’t even need black ace status to rejoin the team. So that leaves as follows:
Forwards (15): MacKinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog, Burakovsky, Kadri, Namestnikov, Donskoi, Jost, Compher, Nichushkin, Calvert, Nieto, Bellemare, Wilson, Kamenev
Defense (8): Makar, Girard, Johnson, Graves, Zadorov, Cole, Barberio, Connauton
Spots fill up fast with 23 of the 28 already penciled in and some decisions to make. The answer for should is pretty easy as anyone with a future in the organization needs to comprise the remaining five selections, namely Bowen Byram, Martin Kaut, Conor Timmins and Shane Bowers. The experiences gained in a high-pressure NHL environment with even just practice time greatly dwarfs what several more months of working out at home would provide in a time that is critical for their development.
Plus, having first-round talent on hand is a greater advantage in the playoffs than replacement level fill-ins. There are already extras of three forwards and two defensemen who are NHL veterans should the Avalanche need a warm safety blanket in reserve and do not need to overload with AHL veterans just for the sake of it. Adding one extra experienced player to the prospect quartet would be acceptable or even Logan O’Connor to give the reserve group a different look.
Who will make the 28 skater team?
Unfortunately the difference between should and will is the land of fairytales and we should prepare to see most if not all those positions filled with minor league veterans. TJ Tynan seems to be an organization favorite along with Sheldon Dries and Anton Lindholm who are frequently mentioned. The aforementioned O’Connor and Timmins seem to most likely prospect type reserve choices.
One wrinkle is the rumor that up to 30 skaters may comprise the Phase 3 training camps so if that’s the case Byram and Kaut stand a better chance of getting invited to the process and will see if any camp injuries give them an opportunity to make the trip to the hub city.
What about goalies?
The unlimited caveat makes a difficult prediction but the Avalanche don’t have many to choose from either. Beyond the obvious Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz there have been Hunter Miska sightings already skating with the majority of the team in voluntary Phase 2. Add in Michael Hutchinson — remember him — and four netminders should be enough. Adam Werner is an option should the organization wish to invest some development time in him but right now I’d categorize him as unlikely.
As always, these plans and rough guidelines are fluid, hopefully more clarity arrives in the coming days.