Happy New Year everyone, hope 2021 is treating you better than it’s predecessor. Our beloved Avalanche began training camp yesterday with off-ice activities and will start skating today.
Thanks to COVID restrictions there will be little media involvement this year, which is a shame. Part of the anticipation and build-up to every season has been observations from the public seating at Family Sports Center. We’ll be missing the tweets and chat room posts from Jackie, our friends at DNVR and stalwart fans that have attended for years. Basically all information will be curated and disbursed by the Avs through their social media and website team along with remote interviews with Coach Bednar and occasionally some of the players. That might make it tough to get a clear and complete picture of what’s happening behind closed doors but it is what it is.
A few things we do know at this point: A vague pre-season schedule, the camp roster and that the season opens at 8:30 local time on January 13th against the hated St Louis Blues.
The Avs will practice at FSC today, tomorrow and Friday. There will be scrimmages Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. A week from tomorrow there will be the final practice at Ball Arena, hopefully with some media in attendance. Coach Bednar is scheduled for media time on most days with some player availability mixed in.
The camp roster is at the NHL mandated maximum of 36 skaters and they have 4 goalies. It consists of all the Avs signed players minus a handful of guys slated for Eagles camp and Justus Annunen, who is currently playing in Finland. There are two try-outs, defensemen Peter Tischke and Keaton Middleton, who are signed with the Eagles. Overall there are 22 forwards, 14 defensemen and the 4 goalies.
Since the off-season was a bit of a blur, let’s go through the new guys.
#4 Bowen Byram, D – Right now is playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, I assume there’s a plan to get him to Denver in such a way as to avoid quarantine as soon as these wrap up. He’s been stellar and looks plenty ready to play in the NHL this year.
#7 Devon Toews, D – Acquired from the Islanders after a breakout season and quickly signed to a 4-year deal. He’s a smart 2-way defenseman that JB has mentioned as a possible partner for Cale Makar.
#20 Brandon Saad, F – Came over from Chicago in the Zadorov trade and should slot in with the top 6 forwards somehow. Only signed for one year and finding cap space to re-sign is going to be problematic but he’s going to be a big addition.
Also new are depth defensemen #9 Dennis Gilbert (Z trade) and #88 Kyle Burroughs (AJ Greer trade) and depth forwards #10 Miikka Salomaki, #18 Mike Vecchione and #44 Kiefer Sherwood (all UFAs).
I’m going to wait for a few practices to see which roles and roster spots are truly in play and who might be injured but the two keys for me going in are how they use Bowen Byram and Martin Kaut.
The NHL is allowing teams to use a taxi squad of 4-6 players to supplement the 23-man roster. For all intents and purposes the taxi squad players are in the minors but also in the NHL team bubble so they can be called up without quarantine. How the Avs choose to use this is anyone’s guess but it should be interesting. Also puts some weight on the depth battles in camp.
All this leads to opening night a week from Wednesday when they take on the Blues on national TV. That gives them 10 days to set lines, pairs & special teams units, figure out the final cap-compliant roster, populate the taxi squad and get ready to win the Cup.
As for your pals here at BR, we’ve recorded an episode of Burgundy Radio last night and there will be another next Sunday when things ought to be more clear. We’ll have some articles on who’s playing where in the lineup and why. All along with following Bo Byram, Alex Newhook, Justin Barron and Drew Helleson as they close in on a possible Canada vs USA gold-medal game. No problem, we got this.