Avalanche Depth Chart After July 1

The opening night roster is practically set for the Colorado Avalanche. Obviously there’s still a few pressing issues for the Avalanche to deal with it, (i.e. a new contract for Nikita Zadorov, a Matt Duchene trade, etc) but we have a very good idea what their team is going to look like on opening night.

FORWARDS:

Sven AndrighettoNathan MacKinnonMikko Rantanen

Gabriel LandeskogTyson JostMatt Duchene

J.T. Compher Colin WilsonMatt Nieto

Joe ColborneCarl SoderbergBlake Comeau

Extras/Others: A.J. Greer, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Bourque

DEFENSEMEN:

Nikita Zadorov Erik Johnson

? – Tyson Barrie

Mark BarberioAndrei Mironov

Extras/Others: Chris Bigras, Anton Lindholm, Duncan Siemens

GOALTENDERS:

Semyon VarlamovJonathan Bernier

The biggest hole the Avs have in their lineup that isn’t addressed right now is a top 4 left shot d-man. It’s assumed that if the Avs were to trade Duchene, then that problem would be solved. If Duchene isn’t traded, and who knows if it’s ever going to happen at this point, then either Mark Barberio is going to have to try and fill this hole or the Avs are going to have to use one of their young kids like Chris Bigras or Anton Lindholm.

If the Avs trade Duchene, the Avs defense is set. But then that leaves a hole in their forward group’s top 6, unless the Avs can somehow pry a top 6 forward out of the Duchene deal which seems unlikely. In the case they get no forward help in return, expect A.J. Greer to play on the 3rd line (which he very well may regardless) and promote Colin Wilson to top 6 duty.

Not as bad as everyone seems to think but still a team looking at a top draft pick at next year’s draft.

Joe Sakic & The Matt Duchene Situation

Well… Matt Duchene is still here.

It’s been a tough couple of months for Avalanche forward Matt Duchene. The final 35 games of the NHL campaign Duchene tallied a measly 2 goals and 12 points, finishing with a total of 41 points – the second worst output of his career (Lockout shortened season included).

The disastrous season snowballed into the World Championships where Duchene only managed 1 goal in 10 games with powerhouse Team Canada, the eventual winners of Silver Medals.

The Matt Duchene who played in the World Championships with Team Canada looked exactly like the Matt Duchene who finished the final 35 games in Colorado – lethargic, disconnected, frustrated, checked out.

Many of the Matt Duchene apologists have said Duchene had a bad year because he was on a terrible team. And he played with terrible line mates. And he had the uncertainly of whether or not he was going to be traded by his boyhood team weighing over him. I wouldn’t completely disagree with any of that. All of those factors accumulated into a disastrous season in Colorado for Duchene.

Those same Duchene apologists also said that once he gets away from Denver for a bit, once he clears his head, that Duchene would return to form. Once he gets to Europe and play for Team Canada in the World Championships where he’ll get to play with better players, he’ll find his game.

But he didn’t. It just didn’t happen.

But know what did happen? Nathan MacKinnon was fire for Team Canada and reminded the hockey world why he was drafted 1st overall in 2013. Tyson Barrie, before being taken out of the Worlds because of an injury, produced a ton of points for Canada in his few games played. Now former Avs goaltender Calvin Pickard nearly backstopped Canada to a Gold Medal. Gabriel Landeskog looked like the Landeskog of old as Team Sweden took home Gold.

All of these players, who also had mediocre seasons in Colorado, bounced back in a big way and had great tournaments. But Matt Duchene didn’t.

Sure, you can argue that those guys don’t have the same situations hanging over them like Duchene does. But does that even matter? Matt Duchene should have showed the hockey world that the past year was behind him. That it was a fluke. That it was simply a case of bad luck and snake bite. The World Championships definitely wasn’t the anti-venom Duchene and the Avs were hoping it would be.

It probably made it worse. And let’s be honest here, the World Championships certainly hasn’t helped the stock of Matt Duchene in regards to a potential trade. His stock has plummeted.

Matt Duchene has been in trade rumors since November 2015. Many thought he was going to be traded last summer until Joe Sakic decided to give the team’s core another shot. Then that team went out and finished with the worst record in nearly 20 years. And throughout the tumultuous year, Duchene‘s name was permanently stuck in trade rumors and speculation.

It has gotten to a place where Duchene knows his time in Denver is over, the Avs know his time in Denver is over, yet he’s still here. It’s like a couple who has signed their divorce papers but remain living in the same house. It’s awkward.

It’s time to move on. Each side needs a fresh start.

And that brings us to Colorado Avalanche legend and current Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic. He has found himself in a very difficult and messy situation.

A lot of people are roasting Sakic and saying his asks in regards to a Matt Duchene trade to be “not within reality”. His ask is reportedly a top notch defenseman (20-24 years of age), a top prospect and a 1st round pick. Whether or not you think that is an extraordinary and unrealistic asking price, let’s take a closer look at Joe Sakic‘s perspective on this.

People are saying things like “Sakic wants the moon for Duchene,” “What he’s asking for is ludicrous,” etc. Joe Sakic is asking A LOT for Duchene. There’s no question about it. However, these are the same people who said the Avalanche got fleeced in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. Fans and media alike say all the time that Sakic got nothing out of that trade. Do you not think Joe Sakic is aware of that? Sakic‘s reputation as a GM isn’t held in the same regard as Joe Sakic‘s reputation as a hockey player. Joe Sakic has to make sure he gets the best possible return for Matt Duchene. His job and perhaps even his legacy is on the line for this. Sakic can’t afford to lose this trade. Teams are trying to buy low on Duchene and trying to take advantage of Sakic. Instead of being bullied into a trade he’s not comfortable with, Sakic is standing his ground. His asking price hasn’t changed.

As for New York Islanders fans who think Calvin De Haan (and Travis Hamonic before he was traded to Calgary) along with other pieces were good enough to net Matt Duchene, maybe if the Avalanche were in a different spot it would be. The Colorado Avalanche are in a situation where they are a few years away from being competitive. De Haan and Hamonic are 26/27 by the time next season starts. The Avs‘ ‘window to win’ just doesn’t fall in line with those guys. When the Avalanche are finally ready to compete both of those guys are going to start to decline. That is exactly why this trade hasn’t been made.

If the Avalanche were ready to compete or were in another situation where they didn’t just come off a 48 point season, the Avalanche probably make the trade with the Islanders (they still might, not ruling it out). Islanders fans aren’t wrong when they say it’s more than a fair offer. However, if you consider the Avalanche‘s situation and the position they currently sit in, it doesn’t make sense for Colorado. The Avs need players that are in the same age bracket as MacKinnon/Jost/Rantanen/Landeskog so when they all hit their stride, the Avs will be dangerous and ready to compete. Acquiring a 26-27 year old defenseman like a De Haan or Hamonic doesn’t fit the Avalanche‘s timetable for when they want to compete for a Stanley Cup. Islanders fans (and fans of other teams in general) aren’t seeing this side unfortunately.

That’s the Avs and Sakic‘s perspective.

But to be fair, Joe Sakic hasn’t exactly handled the situation perfectly either.

Joe Sakic has dragged this out for far too long now. With Duchene having two years left on his contract, you would think that Sakic doesn’t have to trade Duchene at all. But by letting this drag out, for letting it be known that he’s looking to trade him, Sakic has put himself and the Avs in a situation where he has to trade Duchene. He’s created a toxic environment. An environment where Duchene can no longer thrive in and most likely has no desire to play in anymore.

Although Sakic has never come out and say he wants to trade Matt Duchene, he has never come out and denied it either. He’s never come and say he wants Duchene to remain an Av. He has left Duchene dangling in the wind. And it’s quite possible that Duchene has had enough. Sakic went from keeping Duchene/listening to trade offers for him to having to trade him because of all the media circus around it.

Not a great situation.

Another thing that Sakic has done that is questionable is that he’s backed himself into a corner by not wanting prospects or older players but strictly defensemen who have NHL experience between the ages of 20-24.

There’s a rumor, via A.J. Haefele of BSNDenver, that the Nashville Predators had offered d-men prospects Dante Fabbro and Sam Girard for Matt Duchene. Fabbro and Girard were the Predators‘ top two picks in the 2016 Draft. Reportedly, this wasn’t good enough for Sakic as they are not NHL ready.

Then there’s this whole New York Islanders fiasco and what they have or haven’t offered. Some believe (like Arthur Staple of Newsday Sports) that the Avs wanted soon to be 27 year old Travis Hamonic as the centerpiece of a Matt Duchene trade. If you ask Adrian Dater of BSNDenver and B.D. Gallof of Isles Beat that’s not true. I would gather that Dater and Gallof are right on this. Hamonic is almost 27 years old and Sakic wants a defenseman between the ages of 20-24, plus other pieces as part of a package.

Sakic doesn’t want prospects as part of the centerpiece for Duchene neither does he want a defenseman over the age of 25. By doing this, Sakic has backed himself into a corner, and in the process he has limited his options. There are very few teams, if any, who are willing to part with a high level d-man who is no older than 24 years old. Teams are just not willing to part with that.

Sakic has found himself in an uncomfortable position where he almost has to trade Matt Duchene but doesn’t have a trading partner that can offer what he wants. He’s kind of stuck in limbo here.

The Carolina Hurricanes are still perfect trading partners. They are the rare team that needs a Matt Duchene in their lineup AND has a plethora of young defensemen that fits what Joe Sakic is looking for. The Avs would love to get their hands on Jaccob Slavin or Brett Pesce but they’re not going anywhere. The Hurricanes would want to give up Justin Faulk but that’s not a great fit for the Avs. Faulk being 25 isn’t the issue. The issue is that Faulk is more of an offensive d-man and he’s a right shot. The Avs already have two top 4 right shot d-men in Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. The Avs need a left shot defenseman.

But the Hurricanes do have Noah Hanifin… a 20 year old left shot defenseman who was drafted 5th overall in 2015 and has two NHL campaigns under his belt. Can the Hurricanes and the Avs just get a deal done that involves Duchene going to Carolina and Hanifin to Colorado already? The Hurricanes have so many good young defensemen that it’s not the end of the world if they lose Hanifin. They also get their much needed top line center in Duchene. For the Avs, they get their #1 d-man that fits their age bracket and their window.

It’s such a shame these two teams can’t get something done.

Another team that fits the Avs’ ask for a 20-24 year old defenseman is the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have Olli Maata. He turns 23 years old in August. He’s a left shot. He has two Stanley Cup rings. He’s 6’2 and weighs 205 Lbs. But he’s injury prone, missing 104 games in the previous 3 seasons combined, and he’s coming off a season where he only scored 1 goal and 7 points in 55 games.

The question is do the Avs like Maata? If so, and I’m not championing this as I would look elsewhere, then a trade between the Avs and Penguins would seem very likely. If I’m the Avs, I walk away. The injuries and the declining production is concerning and extremely worrisome.

The Ottawa Senators are also still a possibility but I think that’s even less likely now that they lost Marc Methot in the Expansion Draft. But you never know.

It’s going to be an interesting next couple of weeks for the Colorado Avalanche and Matt Duchene. Does Joe Sakic find what’s he looking for? Does Matt Duchene remain with the Avalanche? So many questions, yet so little answers.

Joe Sakic is feeling the heat. His job is on the line. Does he flinch?

Depth Chart Before Free Agency / Contract Situations

The Expansion Draft has passed, the NHL Entry Level Draft has passed, but July 1’s Free Agent Frenzy has not. The Avalanche‘s roster remains pretty much the same as it did when they finished the season with the worst record in the NHL since the turn of the century.

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has said on a few occasions that he expects “a lot of turnover” on the Avalanche roster. He also has said that the Avs will not be doing anything big when the free agent window opens on July 1.

A widely anticipated trade of Matt Duchene has yet to materialize and although there’s still time for that to happen, there’s a possibility that the longtime Av remains on the team when the season starts.

Let’s take a look at the roster as it stands today and what holes (we all know there’s hole) the team needs to fill.

Forwards:

Sven AndrighettoNathan MacKinnonMikko Rantanen

Gabriel LandeskogTyson JostMatt Duchene

A.J. GreerJ.T. CompherMatt Nieto

Joe ColborneCarl SoderbergBlake Comeau

Extras: Rocco Grimaldi, Mikhail Grigorenko

Others: John Mitchell, Rene Bourque

Let’s examine the forward group and their contract situations with the team.

Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Jost, Matt Duchene, A.J. Greer, J.T. Compher, Joe Colborne, Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau all have contracts for next season. Barring any trade (more on that later), these forwards will be on the opening night roster.

Sven Andrighetto, Matt Nieto, Rocco Grimaldi and Mikhail Grigorenko are all Restricted Free Agents (RFA’s), meaning that the Avs hold their rights and they can’t test free agency. However, the Avs would have to tender them qualifying offers in order to hold their rights. If the Avs don’t offer a player a qualifying offer, then the player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) and is free to test the free agent waters on July 1.

Andrighetto, Nieto and Grimaldi were protected by the Avs in the Expansion Draft so it’s very clear that the Avs want them back. Andrighetto and Nieto will be on the opening night roster. Grimaldi spent most of last season in the AHL so it’s unclear if he’ll stick with the big club full time.

Mikhail Grigorenko is likely done with the Avalanche. He was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft despite being younger than Andrighetto, Nieto, and Grimaldi. With MacKinnon, Jost, Compher and Soderberg likely centering lines 1-2-3-4, there is no longer any room for him. It doesn’t appear he fits the mold of a Jared Bednar player as Bednar didn’t know what to do with Grigorenko. It appears Grigorenko‘s time in Denver has come to an end. Would be shocked if he was qualified by the Avs.

John Mitchell and Rene Bourque are UFA’s and they won’t be back. Joe Sakic wants to get younger and faster, two things that don’t describe Mitchell and Bourque.

Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher and A.J. Greer are all likely to be on the Avalanche opening night roster. J.T. Compher finished up the year with the Avs and it’s clear Jared Bednar was a fan. He’ll stick. Tyson Jost is an unknown but I don’t think Jost would have left the University of North Dakota so he can play for the WHL’s Regina Pats. He left university so he can play for the Avs and the Avs signed him so he can play for them now. And A.J. Greer is expected to graduate to the NHL. And according to A.J. Haefele of BSNDenver, Joe Sakic expects A.J. Greer to be on the opening night roster.

Take a look at all the names above (but take away Mitchell, Bourque, and Grigorenko as they’re not returning) and you’ll probably have your opening night roster for the Avalanche, barring any trade.

And that brings us to Matt Duchene. What’s going to happening with Matt Duchene? Is he staying or going? A deal can still be done as last year two mega deals were made between the Draft and the Free Agency Frenzy (SubbanWeber, HallLarsson). It seems like Nashville has interest, and maybe the New York Islanders too. But the price remains insanely high and as of now Sakic isn’t budging and teams aren’t either.

But if a Duchene trade does happen, the Avs will likely get their highly coveted defenseman. But it will also leave a massive crater in the team’s top six. The Avs likely won’t get a defenseman they want AND a top six forward in return. So the Avs will likely have to fill the hole by replacing Duchene with Grimaldi (Grimaldi did play with Jost and Landeskog at the end of the season) OR look to free agency.

However way you want to look at it, the Avs are going to have a ton of question marks heading into next season with hopes hanging on first and second year players. Maybe they’ll surprise everyone next year. Maybe they’ll get another top 5 pick in next year’s draft. What we do know is the Avs are hitting the reset button and are getting younger and faster. Out with the old and in with the young.

Defensemen:

Nikita ZadorovErik Johnson

Mark BarberioTyson Barrie

Andrei Mironov – ?

Extras: Chris Bigras, Anton Lindholm, Duncan Siemens.

Others: Patrick Wiercioch, Fedor Tyutin, Cody Goloubef.

So many question marks with the blueline at this point, so let’s take a closer look at the contract situations going forward.

Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Mark Barberio all have contracts for next season. Barring any trade of course, they will be on the opening night roster. Andrei Mironov also has a contract for next season and is expected to be on the opening night roster. Mironov left the KHL to come over to North America to play in the NHL. I doubt he left his country and taking less money to go play in the AHL. So count Mironov on the opening night roster.

Nikita Zadorov currently doesn’t have a contract for next season but is a RFA. Joe Sakic told BSNDenver at the Draft that they have a contract offer on the table for Zadorov and the ball is in his court. Zadorov will be back.

So that’s 5 roster spots occupied for opening night.

A Matt Duchene trade for a defenseman would help solidify the team’s top 4. But if that doesn’t materialize, the Avs have a few unsavory options. Play the inexperienced young kids or go to free agency.

Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm have contracts for next season. Lindholm played a handful of games down the stretch for the Avs and coach Jared Bednar seemed to really like him. Bigras has over 30 games of NHL experience but didn’t see any time in the NHL last season as injuries found him and Bigras never really found his game. One or both could be options for opening night.

Duncan Siemens got a few games at the end of the season but his future with the Avs is murky at this time. The former 1st round pick from 2011 has only appeared in 4 NHL games in his career. He’s been labelled a bust from virtually everyone. He currently doesn’t have a contract. He’s a RFA so if the Avs qualify him, it means the Avs still have faith in him. If not, he becomes an UFA. At this point, I don’t get the sense either way which direction the Avs are leaning.

Fedor Tyutin is an UFA and he won’t be back. The Avs claim they want to get younger and faster and Tyutin is older and slower. Cody Goloubef is an UFA and I’m not sure what’s going to happen to him. Given that he still doesn’t have a contract a week before free agency starts, I don’t think Goloubef will be back. However, the Avs could use another right shot d-man in the system. Doubtful he’s brought back though.

Patrick Wiercioch is a RFA. If the Avs qualify him, they will hold his rights. If not, he’s an UFA on July 1. The way the season ended with Wiercioch being scratched on numerous occasions, I would guess he won’t be back. He’s still relatively young and he still would be a good depth defenseman but it doesn’t sound like the Avs want him back. I would also guess Wiercioch doesn’t really have any desire to return either.

So there you have it. Going to be interesting to see how this blueline looks come opening night. Either the Avs trade Duchene to stabilize the top 4 on the blueline (while creating a huge hole on the offense) OR the Avs keep Duchene which would help their offense but would leave the defense lacking and wanting more.

Sakic has his work cut out for him.

Goaltenders:

Semyon Varlamov – ?

Others: Spencer Martin, Jeremy Smith.

The one thing you can say for certain that the Avalanche will do when free agency opens on July 1 is that they will look for a backup goaltender for Semyon Varlamov.

The Avalanche lost their backup when Calvin Pickard was chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft.

22 year old Spencer Martin saw a few games with the Avs this season and was also named to the AHL All-Star game. But he’s just not ready for the NHL full-time. He needs to continue to develop and play lots of games in San Antonio. No need to rush him.

Jeremy Smith became Calvin Pickard‘s backup when Semyon Varlamov was shutdown due to his injuries. Smith is an UFA and I would be surprised if he was brought back. Can’t blame him for his poor numbers entirely as the team in front of him was terrible but he certainly wasn’t part of the solution either.

Summation:

The Avalanche‘s roster is basically set for next season.

The big question is what happens with Matt Duchene? If the Avs don’t trade Matt Duchene, the Avs’ blueline will be lacking. If the Avs trade Matt Duchene, then there’s a hole in the offense.

Team needs: 1 back-up goaltender and 1 top six forward / 1 top four defenseman depending on what happens with Matt Duchene.

2017 Mock Draft

Tomorrow night, June 23, the first round of the 2017 Draft goes down in Chicago, Illinois. Not only is it the time where teams build their futures but it’s also a time where teams make big trades.

As I did last year, I will do a mock draft and once again I will only do so for the first 15 selections. Of course, I’m not taking into account whether a team is rumored to trade their pick or not. For example, Dallas is rumored to be trying to trade their 3rd overall pick for an established forward/defenseman. Since that is only a rumor at this point and they haven’t traded the pick as of right now, I will draft the best possible player for Dallas at the 3rd overall spot.

Without further ado.

1st overall: The New Jersey Devils select F Nico Hischier

Unlike the past two drafts, there is no clear cut generational player at the top of the draft. With this draft, you could make an argument for three or four players going #1. The Devils have drafted forwards in the 1st round the last three drafts and although they’re reportedly looking to upgrade their blueline, I think the Devils will go with centerman Nico Hischier. They drafted centerman Mike McLeod 12th overall last year, so going forward having a 1-2 punch down the middle with HischierMcLeod seems like a pretty good place to start considering they’re a rebuilding team. Hischier, will be the highest drafted Swiss player in NHL history. Dynamic offensive player with great hands and good wheels.

2nd overall: The Philadelphia Flyers select F Nolan Patrick

This one is interesting as I can see the Flyers going with a forward or a defenseman. The Flyers have had three 1st round picks in the previous two drafts, selecting a defenseman and two forwards. The Flyers typically love drafting defensemen and they do have a group of stud defensive prospects. Combine that with a need for a centerman (Giroux turns 30 in January and he can’t play forever) and the Flyers‘ GM Rox Hextall‘s connection with the Brandon Wheat Kings, I don’t see them passing on Nolan Patrick. Nolan Patrick was the consensus #1 pick of this draft all year until he was surpassed by Hischier at the end. Potentially a #1 center, Patrick can impact the game at both sides of the ice with his size, speed and skill.

3rd overall: The Dallas Stars select F Gabriel Vilardi

You can make the argument that the Stars would select one of the top two defensemen because defense has been their Achilles heel in recent years. However, this team needs a centerman. They have Jamie Benn, yes. But after that? They have Jason Spezza but he’s 34 years old and the Stars are dangerously close to having to replace him. The Stars also lost Cody Eakin in the Expansion Draft. When you take that into consideration it makes all the sense in the world they go with a center. But after Hischier and Patrick, there’s a slew of centers that are ranked in the same area and in different order on prospect rankings. It’s really about a team’s preference at this point. Maybe it’s Cody Glass or Elias Pettersson but I think they will go with Gabe Vilardi. The only knock on Vilardi is his skating. Other than that, outside of Hischier and Patrick, Vilardi is the safest forward pick in the draft. A puck possession monster, Vilardi is a responsible two-way centerman that can play in all situations and is a force on the forecheck.

4th overall: The Colorado Avalanche select D Cale Makar

It would be only the 3rd time since 2007 that the Colorado Avalanche would draft a defenseman in the 1st round (following Kevin Shattenkirk in 2007 and Duncan Siemens in 2011) if they were to select one. The jury is split on who is the best d-man in this year’s draft – Cale Makar or Miro Heiskanen. If the draft board played out like this and the Avs had the choice between Makar and Heiskanen, it sounds like the Avs would take Makar according to BSNDenver and TSN’s Bob McKenzie. That’s a bit surprising as Heiskanen is the safer of the two and Avs have always gone the safe route. If it is Cale Makar, the Avs are going for a home run swing. Scouts and analysts say Cale Makar has the biggest ceiling than any player in the draft. A dynamic, offensive minded d-man that can take over games, Makar has drawn comparisons to multiple time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. The knock on Makar is his competition. He played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, a tier two league that is below the OHL/WHL/QMJHL. Question marks exist but if he realizes his potential, the Avs might get the best player in the draft.

5th overall: The Vancouver Canucks select F Cody Glass

A team in a rebuild, they have needs in all areas. They drafted d-man Olli Juolevi last year and although it’s never a bad idea drafting defensemen, I think they will go with a forward. And that’s bolstered by the fact that Jake Virtanen hasn’t quite turned out as they hoped so far. They’ll draft center Cody Glass, a player who’s drawn comparisons to Winnipeg Jets star Mark Scheifele. A potential 1st line center, Glass is a player that thinks and plays fast and at a high level. Really good transition game, attacks the opposition using his speed and skill. High hockey IQ and compete level. A great fit for Vancouver.

6th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights select F Elias Pettersson

With their 1st pick in their franchise history, the Golden Knights have the choice between taking a forward or a defenseman. With two other picks in the top 15 and with some quality d-men potentially available in that range, the Golden Knights will select highly skilled centerman Elias Pettersson. Golden Knights GM George McPhee has been known for drafting European players so Pettersson fits right in. Pettersson has great hands, quick feet, and his skills are off the charts great. The knock on him is his size. His height isn’t the problem as he’s over 6 feet tall but it’s his frame. He weighs in under 170 pounds. He’ll need to add some muscle to his frame before he’s ready for the NHL. Good thing is he’s still young and has plenty of time to do so.

7th overall: The Arizona Coyotes select D Miro Heiskanen

This is a no-brainer. A team that has a plethora of young talent up front that needs to build their blueline and arguably the draft’s top defenseman is up for grabs… the Coyotes will draft Miro Heiskanen. Heiskanen is seen as a safe, slam dunk pick. A two-way defenseman that plays a sound, pitch perfect game. Rarely makes mistakes. High hockey IQ, sees the game well, and makes a good first pass. Has offensive upside as well.

8th overall: The Buffalo Sabres select F Casey Mittelstadt

A team that could use some help on the defensive side of things and is rich with centers, and although on the surface Casey Mittelstadt might not be the best pick, it certainly is a good fit. Although Mittelstadt is a center, he can play on the left side which is a need from the Sabres perspective. Take away his decision to leave the USHL to play high school hockey, take away his mediocre performance at the NHL Combine, take away the concerns of his ability to produce at 5v5, there is a reason why he was ranked as a top 5 prospect for most of the year. He can play, Boy, can he ever play. Dynamic offensive player that brings a package of speed, skill and hockey sense.

9th overall: The Detroit Red Wings select F Michael Rasmussen

The Wings could use just about everything but since they have a couple of really good defensive prospects, I think they will go with a forward. Their pick? None other than 6’6 220 pound centerman Michael Rasmussen. Physically, he can play in the NHL tomorrow. His net front presence is a constant. He’s not afraid of engaging in the gritty areas. Also has an excellent shot.

10th overall: The Florida Panthers select F Kristian Vesalainen

It’s around this spot where it gets dicey. Prospect rankings are all over the place. Some scouts have players a lot higher/lower than others. It really comes down to beauty in the eye of the beholder. My pick for them is Kristian Vesalainen. In 2015, the Panthers drafted Lawson Crouse, a two-way winger with size. It didn’t work out with him in Florida as he was eventually traded to the Arizona Coyotes. In picking Vesalainen, it’s essentially Florida doing that pick over again and hopefully this time getting it right. Vesalainen is a big, strong hard working winger who has the ability to impact the game on both sides of the puck. He’s versatile as he can play on both wings and even down the middle. There are concerns regarding his offense but he has good hands and a good shot. If they don’t want a repeat of the Crouse situation, Florida shouldn’t rush Vesalainen. Let him develop and in a few years they may have a very important player in their lineup.

11th overall: The Los Angeles Kings select F Owen Tippett

One of the most interesting prospects in this draft is Owen Tippett. Some scouts/analysts have Tippett rated in the top 10 while others have him in the 20 range. The Los Angeles Kings have been a team built around two-way forwards and it has shown in recent years with a lack of offense. This team struggles to score goals. Owen Tippett is a goal scoring machine. He generates a ton of shots and drives offense. In terms of goal scoring, he might be the best goal scorer in the draft. He also has a great shot and is a great skater. Unfortunately, many see him as one-dimensional and his play away from the puck leaves you wanting more. With a new general manager and a front office shake up in Los Angeles, does the team switch directions and go with skill? Or do they stick with what the old regime did and prioritize two-way players over pure skill?

12th overall: The Carolina Hurricanes select F Martin Necas

The Carolina Hurricanes are drowning in good young defensive prospects. If there’s a team who doesn’t need to draft d-men it’s the Carolina Hurricanes. Their pick – centerman Martin Necas. It seems like a perfect fit (and I’m not the only one whose mock draft has Necas going to Carolina) as Carolina‘s biggest need is in the center position. They also haven’t been afraid of drafting European players. Necas is a right show centerman who is good in all areas. Although he sometimes tends to disappear in games, Necas can beat his opponents with speed and smarts. A lightning quick skater who can go-go-go, Necas is a gifted offensive player with a ton of creativity. Necas playing on a line with Sebastian Aho sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it Canes fans?

13th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights (From Winnipeg) select D Juuso Valimaki

Their second of three picks in the 1st round. I had them picking forward Elias Pettersson 6th overall so this time around I have them picking a defenseman. They will select Juuso Valimaki, a 6’2 200 pound Finnish defenseman who played for the Tri-City Americans the last two years. A two-way d-man who has an underrated offensive game, Valimaki is a minute munching dependable d-man who can play in all situations. Good first past, good not a great shot, and reads the play really well.

14th overall: The Tampa Bay Lightning select F Nick Suzuki

Tampa Bay is in a position where they can draft the best player available, especially since they just acquired Mikhail Sergachev from Montreal last week. Nick Suzuki is considered to be the steal of the draft by whoever drafts him. Although he’s only 5’11 180 pounds, Suzuki is a smart, gifted offensive centerman who thinks and plays at high speed. Though his size may deter some, Suzuki plays a sturdy game and he’s hard to knock off the puck. He’s skilled with the puck and has a high hockey IQ, Suzuki is also a great skater. The talent is there, the work ethic is there, the only thing that isn’t there is size. If he was above 6 feet tall and around 200 pounds, Suzuki would easily go in the top 10… he still might. After trading away Jonathan Drouin, the Lightning may want to add another high talented offensive player to replace him.

15th overall: The Vegas Golden Knights (From NY Islanders) select D Timothy Liljegren

I had them drafting a forward with their 1st pick, a defenseman with their 2nd pick, and I have them picking another d-man with their 3rd pick. Timothy Liljegren is a fascinating prospect. At the start of the hockey year, the 2017 Draft was suppose to be the Nolan Patrick/Timothy Liljegren draft. Patrick remains in consideration for the top pick where Liljegren has fallen quite a bit. The reason why? He had a case of mono that took him out of the game for a couple of months. And when he returned he wasn’t all that impressive which started to worry a lot of scouts. But nonetheless, Liljegren is a highly skilled d-man. His creativity, skill, and skating are off the charts and has the potential to quarterback a #1 powerplay in the NHL. His decision making gets called into question as he’s prone to putting himself into danger (on the ice). Valimaki is a left shot two-way d-man and Liljegren is a right shot offensive d-man. Potential future pairing in Vegas?

The End Of An Era? Matt Duchene Trade Partners

It was simpler times. It felt like a perfect marriage.

There was nothing but smiles, joy and happiness when the Colorado Avalanche drafted the speedy centerman 3rd overall in the 2009 Entry Level Draft marking the start of a rebuild in Denver. Growing up as a diehard Avalanche fan and worshiping the organization’s greats like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy, Matt Duchene was suppose to lead the charge of a second wave of excellence in Colorado.

It almost feels like yesterday when Matt Duchene tweeted after the 2013 season that he was looking forward to bringing a Stanley Cup back to Colorado. How he wanted nothing more than to be part of the Avs for the rest of his career.

Now… honestly, it feels like that was eons ago.

Matt Duchene‘s name has been firmly planted in trade speculation since November 2015. It seemed like he was on his way out of Denver last summer until the Avs decided to give the team’s core another shot. And then…

Well, the Avalanche finished in dead last by miles and found themselves making history as the worst team in the salary cap era, finishing with a measly 48 points. And throughout the tumultuous, embarrassing season, trade chatters involving Duchene only grew louder.

All the losing and the unknown of whether he was going to be traded by the team he grew up idolizing, who he had given 8 seasons of his life to, started to weigh on Duchene. It culminated in statistically his second worse output of his career, scoring only 18 goals and 41 points in 77 games. In the final 35 games of the season, Duchene only managed to score 2 goals and 12 points.

As the season started to inch to a close, Duchene was asked many times whether or not he wanted to stay. His response? Truncated, Duchene would be opened to a trade (but would be happy if he stayed put although it surely doesn’t feel that way).

The kid from Haliburton, Ontario who dreamed of playing for the Colorado Avalanche no longer seems to care whether he stays or not. All of the losing and lack of success combined with constantly hearing his name in trade speculation has gotten to Matt Duchene. Both the Colorado Avalanche and Matt Duchene need a fresh start. It’s only a matter of time before the proverbial divorce papers are signed. It’s a real shame as Matt Duchene felt like an Avalanche lifer.

Top notch insiders such as Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger of TSN have gone on record and saying that they both think that Duchene is likely traded (they said the same thing last summer too but it seems almost certain this time around).

Joe Sakic has been rumored to want a young defenseman (20-24 years of age) with NHL experience, a top prospect and a 1st round pick in exchange for Matt Duchene. The question is can the Avs even get that kind of return especially since Duchene‘s trade value isn’t at the highest as previous years? Are the Avs willing to budge on that? Will any team pay that kind of price? If no one does, will the Avs keep Duchene or sell him to the highest bidder regardless? Going to be interesting with the Draft just days away.

Let’s take a look at the 6 (best) possible destinations for Matt Duchene.

The New York Islanders

Longtime TSN broadcaster Gord Miller tweeted a week ago that he heard that the New York Islanders were the front runners to land Matt Duchene.

Not surprising if true. The Islanders were in the mix to acquire Duchene at the trade deadline. From an Islanders perspective, adding Matt Duchene makes a ton of sense. Their superstar captain John Tavares’ contract expires next summer. The Islanders have gone back and forth from making the playoffs to missing them the past several years. In order to sway Tavares from testing the free agent market next summer, the Islanders have to make some moves to bring in help to show Tavares they are serious about winning. Duchene and Tavares are also good friends. You want to make Tavares happy, acquiring a highly skilled forward who he’s friends with seems like a good idea.

What would a potential trade look like?

The Islanders don’t have any real young stud defenders with NHL experience. They do have a couple of 26-27 year old d-men that they would be willing to part with in Calvin De Haan and Travis Hamonic.

What the Islanders do have that could tempt the Avs to unload Duchene is the 15th overall selection in this year’s draft and a top forward prospect in Matthew Barzal.

Would the Islanders have any interest in unloading Barzal, a 1st round pick and one of De Haan/Hamonic? Considering the situation they are currently in, it seems possible. Would the Avs take the trade? Depending on what other offers they get, it seems like a decent enough of a trade. Although they don’t get a young stud d-man in this potential deal, they get a fairly young d-man who can play in their top 4, a top prospect, and another 1st round pick.

It seems like the Islanders have the assets to pull off such a deal. It’s very possible.

In a perfect world, the trade would be: Calvin De Haan, Matthew Barzal and the 15th overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft for Matt Duchene.

**RUMOR** IslandersRyan Strome has popped up in a potential Matt Duchene trade.

***NOTE*** It appears the Islanders will be trading the 15th overall pick to the Golden Knights.

The Carolina Hurricanes

There’s probably no better trading partners than the Carolina Hurricanes in regards to a potential Matt Duchene trade. Not only do the Hurricanes have a plethora of young d-men that the Avs would want but the Hurricanes are a team that is in need of a skilled centerman like Matt Duchene.

The problem here is maybe they are too perfect of a fit. The Hurricanes, especially in recent history, have never been a team known to make a blockbuster trade but instead try to build from within.

Another issue that comes up is that Matt Duchene only has 2 years left on his contract before he becomes an UFA. The Hurricanes have never been able to attract big ticketed free agents so maybe they’re worried that if they do acquire Duchene that he’ll walk from them in 2 years. It’s definitely something to consider.

But if the Hurricanes do want Duchene, they have many defensemen they could offer up. Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin or even Brett Pesce would be the guys that the Avs would really want as a center piece for a Duchene trade. The Hurricanes would probably want to trade the Avs Justin Faulk or Haydn Fleury in a possible trade. The Hurricanes also have prospect Jake Bean as a potential trade piece.

If the Avs were to acquire Hanifin or Slavin, it would most likely be a 1 for 1 trade… maybe the Avs could get a mid round pick out of it as well. But the Avs won’t be getting a 1st round pick and a top prospect along with it. If Pesce were to come back to Colorado it would be likely the Avs could get a 1st round pick in this year’s draft and maybe a prospect along with it.

Perfect trading partners. Both teams have the other’s need. But can they get something done with one another? It remains to be seen.

The Montreal Canadiens

They would have been ideal trading partners as the Montreal Canadiens had blue chip defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev who the Avs badly wanted at last year’s draft. But on June 15, the Canadiens traded Sergachev along with a conditional 2nd round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for high flying Jonathan Drouin and a conditional 6th round pick.

The piece the Avs would have wanted most of all would have been Sergachev. Now that Sergachev is gone, the likelihood of Duchene being dealt to Montreal lessens.

However, Montreal still needs a centerman. They don’t see Alex Galchenyuk as a center and rumors are swirling that the Habs are tying to deal him. Is it possible the Avs and the Canadiens would consider a scenario where Duchene heads to Montreal for Galcheyuk, the 25th overall pick in this year’s draft, and d-man prospect Noah Juulsen.

The question is, would Montreal even consider trading that kind of package for Duchene? And if they would consider that, would that interest the Avalanche? I’m not sure either way but it sounds like the Habs want multiple pieces for Galchenyuk so this deal seems highly unlikely.

Wouldn’t say it’s unlikely or not going to happen but Montreal as a trading partner took a hit when Mikhail Sergachev was dealt to Tampa.

The Columbus Blue Jackets

Considering they traded their #1 center a year and a half ago in Ryan Johansen to Nashville for d-man Seth Jones and that last year they passed over a consensus top 3 pick in winger Jesse Puljujarvi for centerman Pierre-Luc Dubois, seeing the Columbus Blue Jackets as potential suitors for Matt Duchene is no shocker.

There’s a need from the Blue Jackets’ perspective and they do have some pieces that could make a Matt Duchene trade work but a lot like the Islanders, the Blue Jackets don’t have a true young stud on the blueline (that they’re willing to trade) that the Avs would covet.

Defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are non-starters for the Blue Jackets. They are staying put in Columbus. Avs would love to get their hands on either one but that’s simply not happening.

The defenseman the Blue Jackets would trade would be Ryan Murray. Murray was drafted 2nd overall in the 2012 draft. The 23 year old d-man hasn’t panned out as he and many others expected. The former top prospect has been plagued with injuries and offensively hasn’t shown a ton. Is he the guy the Avs would want the centerpiece of a Matt Duchene trade to be? I don’t know but the Jackets would certainly have to entice the Avs with other pieces as well.

The Blue Jackets currently have the 24th overall pick in the upcoming draft but it appears that 24th overall pick will become property of the Vegas Golden Knights. Though it has not been announced, it is expected the Jackets will trade that pick to Vegas in exchange for staying clear of certain players in the Expansion Draft. That hurts a potential trade with the Avs but a next year’s 1st round pick could still be an option.

The Jackets do have plenty of intriguing young forwards that they could part with in beefing up a trade offer for Matt Duchene. Potential names include Oliver Bjorkstrand, Sonny Milano, Gabriel Carlsson, Brandon Saad, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson and William Karlsson.

Columbus has a Matt Duchene-shaped hole in their lineup but I don’t know the likelihood of Duchene going to the Blue Jackets. There’s a possibility but unsure if they’re in the mix or not.

The Ottawa Senators

When Matt Duchene‘s name first came up in the rumor mill in November 2015, the first team that was linked to it was the Ottawa Senators. And they have been linked to Duchene ever since.

This past trade deadline the Ottawa Senators were in hot pursuit of Duchene and some insiders believed that a Duchene trade to the Senators was close. But in the end, the Senators threw in the towel and backed out of the Duchene sweepstakes. Senators GM Pierre Dorion made it clear the price was too steep. That sentiment was echoed by Senators‘ owner Eugene Melnyk, in a very dismissive condescending tone, saying “Did you hear what they want for Duchene? Oh my God!”

The Avs were rumored to have wanted the Senators‘ 1st round pick, their top defensive prospect Thomas Chabot and top forward prospect Colin White. (You could see why the Sens scoffed at this proposal).

But you got to think, the Senators lost in double OT in game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh Penguins. They were one goal away from ousting the Pens. The Sens need a #1 center. They were so close to making the Cup finals. Is it possible the Sens double back to the Avs for Duchene knowing that they were so close to eliminating the eventual Cup champs? Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has wondered this himself,

What would would a potential trade look like? Well, Thomas Chabot isn’t going anywhere. Not a chance Ottawa trades him.

At this point, defenseman Cody Ceci, Colin White and a 1st round pick for Duchene seems like something that would interest the Avs. The Sens probably wouldn’t want to offer that much. The Avs would rather want Chabot over Ceci. So they meet in the middle?

The Nashville Predators

The most interesting team on this list, the dark horse if you will, is the Nashville Predators.

The Predators are interesting. The only area of weakness in their organization is down the middle. They have Ryan Johansen whom they acquired for Seth Jones a year and a half ago but not much after that. Nashville made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins. They snuck by the Anaheim Ducks in the western conference finals after losing Johansen to injury. The loss of Johansen was a fatal blow to the Preds as they just couldn’t compete with the Penguins‘ elite centers in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Having a JohansenDuchene one-two punch down the middle, combined with good goaltending and arguably the league’s best defensive group could make Nashville a near favourite to bring home a Stanley Cup come this time next year.

One thing that does concern me is that Nashville and Colorado are in the same division. If you’re going to deal Duchene, it’s best to trade him to a different conference or at the very least a different division. The Avs definitely don’t want to be burned by a Duchene trade especially if they have to be reminded of it 4-5 times a year when they play Nashville.

What would a potential trade look like? Well, the Avs wouldn’t be getting there hands on one of Nashville‘s top 4 studs on the blueline. P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm aren’t going anywhere.

Preds could offer up d-man Dante Fabbro, forward Kevin Fiala and the 29th overall selection in this year’s draft for Matt Duchene. Fabbro was the Predators‘ 1st round selection last year and was teammates/roommates with Tyson Jost in their draft year. Fiala was the Preds‘ 1st round selection in 2014. Although he only has 17 points in 60 NHL games, Fiala has been a prolific scorer in the AHL. Maybe not ‘sexy’ names to get in a Duchene trade but still good young players with a lot of upside.

Are we in the final days of the Duchene era? Time will certainly tell but it sure does feel like it.

Avalanche & Expansion Draft Scenarios

I have already done my pieces on the Expansion Draft where I posted protection lists for all 30 teams before I drafted a team for the Vegas Golden Knights.

But now it’s time to take a closer look at what the Colorado Avalanche might do as there are plenty of possibilities. Each team must submit their respective protection lists by June 17 and the Golden Knights will reveal their selections on June 21.

And once again as a refresher, here are the rules the 30 teams must follow regarding their protection lists:

  • A choice between protecting either 7 forwards, 3 d-men, 1 goalie OR 8 skaters, 1 goalie.
  • All players who currently have effective and going forward “No Movement” clauses at the time of the Expansion Draft (and who decline to wave those clauses) must be protected. They WILL also count toward their club’s protection limits.
  • A team must expose at least one d-man who is under contract for next season AND has played in either 40 games or more this past season or 70 games or more combined in the previous two seasons.
  • A team must expose at least two forwards who are under contract for next season AND has played in either 40 games or more this past season or 70 games or more combined in the previous two seasons.
  • A team must expose at least one goaltender who is either under contract for next season or is a RFA (restricted free agent) at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.

So there are the rules the Avs must follow in order to be compliant with Expansion Draft rules.

Believe it or not, there are many different ways the Colorado Avalanche could go (although the 8 skaters route seems most likely) with their protection list. And it all hinges on what happens with one specific player who is currently under contract with the AvsFrancois Beauchemin.

Beauchemin, to put it mildly, is at the end of his career and hurts the team on the ice more than he helps. The 37 year old still has another year left on his contract that holds a cap hit of $4.5 million annually. That contract also has a No Movement clause which requires the Avalanche to protect him in the Expansion Draft if he refuses to waive the clause.

So that puts the Avs in a situation where they could potentially lose a player who would be more of contributor in their line-up if Beauchemin does not waive his NMC. The Avalanche also have the option of buying out the remaining year of Beauchemin‘s contract which would mean the Avs would not have to protect him.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at all potential scenarios for the Avalanche regarding the Expansion Draft and their protection list.

Francois Beauchemin isn’t bought out, refuses to waive his No Movement clause

Former long time Denver Post beat writer, currently with BSNDenver, Adrian Dater has reported that he has heard that the Colorado Avalanche will not be buying out Francois Beauchemin. Even though he said that things could change he also said that it isn’t likely at this point. (UPDATE: Adrian Dater has since stated that he is getting mixed signals on the situation and he doesn’t know what’s going to happen anymore).

Let’s assume Adrian Dater is correct and the Avs aren’t buying out Francois Beauchemin‘s contract. And let’s also assume that Beauchemin won’t waive his No Movement clause. If Beauchemin doesn’t waive his No Move then he would have to be protected and the Avs would only have one option:

Protect 8 skaters, 1 goaltender (instead of 7 forwards, 3 d-men, 1 goaltender).

What would the Avs protection list look like in this scenario?

  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Gabriel Landeskog
  • Matt Duchene
  • Sven Andrighetto^
  • Erik Johnson
  • Tyson Barrie
  • Nikita Zadorov
  • Francois Beauchemin
  • Semyon Varlamov

Regardless of how things play out in the days heading into the Expansion Draft, MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, Johnson, Barrie, Zadorov and Varlamov will be protected by the Avalanche. They are safe.

Erik Johnson does have a No Move so he has to be protected and even if he didn’t have one he would be protected anyway.

There’s been lots of chatter and debate among Avalanche fans online about which goalie the Avs should protect: Varlamov or Calvin Pickard? There are great arguments on both sides but as Adrian Dater reported, the Avalanche will protect Semyon Varlamov thus exposing Calvin Pickard.

^ I have Sven Andrighetto protected on my list. The Swiss forward had 15 points in 19 games since coming over in a trade from Montreal in exchange for bruising forward Andreas Martinsen. Andrighetto had immediate chemistry with Nate MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen and was one of the Avs‘ best forwards down the stretch. However, it’s not a slam dunk that the Avs protect him. It’s unclear at this moment.

If Andrighetto is protected that would leave forwards Matt Nieto and Mikhail Grigorenko exposed. And in my opinion, these are the three pieces that the Avs have to choose between and they can only protect one of them. In my opinion, it should be Sven Andrighetto.

And because Francois Beauchemin is protected in this scenario that would leave d-man Mark Barberio exposed. Barberio was claimed off of waivers from Montreal and was nothing short of impressive for the Avs.

In this scenario, where Beauchemin isn’t bought out and doesn’t waive his No Move, the Avs could protect Barberio but then they couldn’t protect Andrighetto. And in the case they do decide to protect Barberio over Andrighetto, the Avalanche would have to re-sign one of Patrick Wiercioch, Fedor Tyutin, or Cody Goloubef, The reason? Barberio is the only d-man that fulfills the Expansion Draft exposure requirement. Each team needs to expose at least one d-man who is under contract for next season and has played in either 40 games this past season or 70 games combined in the prior two seasons. So keep that in mind.

But in this scenario, I’ll stick to the protected list that I mentioned above. The Avs can protect those players and satisfy exposure requirements as can be seen below.

  • Forward Exposure Requirement: 3/2. Joe Colborne, Blake Comeau, Carl Soderberg.
  • D-men Exposure Requirement: 1/1. Mark Barberio.
  • Goalie Exposure Requirement: 1/1. Calvin Pickard.

Francois Beauchemin isn’t bought, agrees to waive his No Movement clause

Well, if this is the case, the Avalanche would have the option to protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and 1 goalie (oppose to being forced into protecting 8 skaters in the first scenario) if they so choose to.

If they choose to go the 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie route (although I just don’t see them going this route), their protection list would look something like this:

  • Nathan MacKinnon
  • Gabriel Landeskog
  • Matt Duchene
  • Sven Andrighetto
  • Matt Nieto
  • Mikhail Grigorenko
  • Blake Comeau
  • Erik Johnson
  • Tyson Barrie
  • Nikita Zadorov
  • Semyon Varlamov

The reason why the Avs probably won’t go this route is that the Avs don’t really have 7 forwards worth protecting. Nothing against Grigorenko or Comeau but I’m not sure if they’re in danger of getting chosen by the Golden Knights although I wouldn’t be shocked if they were either.

If the Avs don’t want to protect Grigorenko or Comeau, they could protect Rocco Grimaldi. Grimaldi, only played 4 games this season with the Avs but the 24 year old speedy winger led the San Antonio Rampage with 31 goals and 55 points. The Golden Knights also have to build a minor league team as well so taking a guy like Grimaldi would make a ton of sense.

In still keeping with the scenario of Beauchemin waiving his No Move, the Avs also have the option of protecting 8 skaters/1 goalie as well. And the Avs could go a couple of ways here.

Option 1: Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Sven Andrighetto, Matt Nieto, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, Semyon Varlamov.

Option 2: Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Sven Andrighetto, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, Mark Barberio, Semyon Varlamov.

Option 1 doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation. Option 1 has 5 forwards, 3 d-men protected. With this option, the Avs protect their five forwards that are worth protecting and who would be chosen if they were left unprotected. On the defensive side, the Avs protect their 3 major pieces that they can’t stand to lose. They would leave Mark Barberio exposed but the Avs would just have to hope someone else entices the Golden Knights instead. This option fulfills Expansion Draft requirements as well.

Option 2 is exactly like option 1 except it swaps Matt Nieto for Mark Barberio. With Beauchemin waiving his No Move, he would be left unprotected and would fulfill the exposure requirement of a d-man being under contract for next season and having played 40 games last season or 70 games combined in the prior two seasons. The Avs wouldn’t have to re-sign any other defensemen and would be free to protect Barberio if they choose to. This option would also fulfill Expansion Draft requirements.

So the Avs have plenty of options in this scenario…

And just a side note, this scenario is pretty likely. Although this is me speculating, it would seem the Avs and Beauchemin have come to an agreement where the Avs wouldn’t buy him out in exchange for him waiving his NMC. It’s something that would benefit both sides. On the Avs side, the Avs don’t have to protect him while protecting a better asset. For Beauchemin, it’s basically certain that he won’t get chosen in the Expansion Draft so he won’t have to uproot his family and he’s guaranteed to play one more year in the NHL. If the Avs buy out Beauchemin, it’s unlikely he’ll get another job in the NHL thus ending his career. He would also get his contractual $4.5 million. He would lose a third of that in a buy out.

Francois Beauchemin is bought out

And the final scenario sees Francois Beauchemin getting bought out of his final year of his contract. According to Adrian Dater, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen. But in any case, let’s explore this scenario.

In this scenario, the Avs could go the 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goaltender route or the 8 skaters, 1 goaltender route.

The 7-3-1 route they could/would go can be seen above in scenario 2 (no need to write that out again).

The 8-1 route and possible ways the Avs could go with this route is also laid out in scenario 2.

But I will repeat this since it’s very important. If Francois Beauchemin gets bought out and if the Avs want to protect Mark Barberio then the Avs will have to re-sign one Cody Goloubef, Patrick Wiercioch or Fedor Tyutin. Barberio is the d-man that fulfills the Expansion Draft d-man exposure requirement for the Avs. If the Avs want to protect Barberio, especially in this scenario where Beauchemin is bought out, then the Avs would have no d-men that fulfills the d-man exposure requirement. Re-signing one of Goloubef, Tyutin or Wiercioch would fulfill the exposure requirement.

We understand?

My Own Personal Protection List For The Avs

This is who I would protect if I were in the Avalanche‘s shoes.

First and foremost, I would either buy out Francois Beauchemin or get him to waive his No Movement clause. In any case, if I were the man in charge, there’s no chance you would see Beauchemin on my protection list.

If I were going the 7-3-1 route my protection list would be: Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Sven Andrighetto, Matt Nieto, Mikhail Grigorenko, Blake Comeau, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, Calvin Pickard.

If I were going the 8-1 route my protection list would be: Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Sven Andrighetto, Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, Mark Barberio, Calvin Pickard.

My explanation for protecting Pickard over Semyon Varlamov? Personally, there’s basically zero chance of Vegas taking Varlamov in the Expansion Draft. There is somewhat of a chance that Pickard is selected by the Golden Knights. Pickard is 4-5 years younger than Varlamov and has a cheap contract of a $1 million cap hit. There’s more of a danger of losing Pickard than Varlamov so that’s my line of thinking on this.

But it’s only a matter of time before we get clarity on all of this as the protection lists are due on June 17 and on June 21 we’ll find out who the Avs lose to Vegas. And then the 2017 Entry Level Draft goes down on June 23-24 where the Avs select 4th overall.

And is Matt Duchene finally dealt?

Going to be a fun, interesting, nerve-wracking couple of weeks in Avalanche land.

Top 10 Avalanche Prospects

As I did last year, I will run down the Colorado Avalanche’s 10 best prospects. It will be interesting to see, in contrast to last year, which prospects made a jump up the list and which prospects dropped down. Of course, last years list was done before the 2016 Entry Draft so there will be some new prospects on this list.

Last year’s 10 best Avalanche best prospects: 1) Mikko Rantanen 2) Chris Bigras 3) J.T. Compher 4) Jean-Christophe Beaudin 5) Nicholas Meloche 6) A.J. Greer 7) Mason Geertsen 8) Spencer Martin 9) Duncan Siemens 10) Sergei Boikov.

What’s considered a prospect by NHL standards? According to hockeysfuture.com, if a forward/defenseman has played in 65 NHL games or more before he’s 24 years old, the player is no longer a prospect. Conversely, if a forward/defenseman turns 24 before he plays 65 NHL games, he’s ALSO not a prospect anymore. For example, Mikko Rantanen will not be included on this list because even though he’s just 20 years old, Rantanen has played in 84 NHL games. Consider him graduated.

As for goaltenders, the exact same as noted above although it’s 45 games in place of 65 NHL games for forwards/defensemen.

So without further ado. The Avalanche’s 10 best prospects.

# 10) Will Butcher (D)

My list kicks off with the 5’10 190 pound defenseman Will Butcher, drafted by the Avs in the 5th round, 123rd overall in the 2013 Draft. This past year Butcher captained the Denver Pioneers all the way to a National Championship where Butcher was the recipient of the Hobey Baker Award (given to the top National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s ice hockey player). Butcher scored 7 goals and 37 points in 43 games for the Pios.

Butcher just missed my list last year and nearly didn’t make my list this year. Why? Well, it doesn’t seem Butcher will be an Avalanche prospect for very long. Butcher just finished his senior year in college which means if he doesn’t sign with the Avs he can become an unrestricted free agent on August 15. Will Butcher hasn’t been signed yet and all signs point to him becoming a free agent in August and signing with a different team. Things can change but it seems likely that Butcher will jump ship.

# 9) Cameron Morrison (LW)

The 6’3 215 pound power forward was taken in the 2nd round, 40th overall last year at the 2016 Entry Draft. Obviously a new comer to the list as he wasn’t yet drafted by the Avs when I did last year’s list.In his draft year, Morrison was the USHL’s Rookie of the Year where he scored 34 goals and 66 points in 60 games with the Youngstown Phantoms.

This year he played with for the University of Notre Dame where he was an integral part of helping Notre Dame reach the Frozen Four (where they were defeated by eventual champs, the University of Denver). In 40 games with Notre Dame, Morrison posted 12 goals and 24 points. He will be back with Notre Dame for his sophomore year.

It might be another 3-4 years at the minimum before we see him in an Avs uniform but the Avs might have a good one in Morrison. A prototypical power forward, Morrison uses his size to his advantage, has an active stick, is good on the boards and has good vision with some offensive upside. Is also a good skater and holds his own defensively.  Will need some work on his transition game according to eliteprospects.com.

# 8) Andrei Mironov (D)

Another newcomer to the list is the 6’2 198 pound Russian defender Andrei Mironov. Mironov was chosen in the 4th round, 101st overall in the 2015 overall as an over-ager. Mironov, who turns 23 in July, has spent the last five seasons playing for the Moscow Dynamo in the KHL. A one-time all-star in the KHL, Mironov is best known for his physical play with a highlight real of brutal hip checks and open ice hits.

Mironov definitely has some warts in his game as he’s prone to making stupid mistakes and needs some work on his puck skills. But he adds a dimension that the Avs have been missing from their blueline since Adam Foote retired – a mean nasty defenseman who makes you pay for playing in his zone (yes, Nikita Zadorov also adds this dimension as well). In 196 games in the KHL, Mironov has scored 12 goals and 40 points. The Avalanche recently signed him and he will fight for a roster spot in the fall.

# 7) J.C. Beaudin (C/RW)

He was on this list last season as I listed him as the Avalanche‘s fourth best prospect. A slight fall down the list but Jean-Christophe Beaudin is still seen as a very good prospect in the Avalanche system. Beaudin, a 6’2 190 pound forward was chosen in the 3rd round, 71st overall in the 2015 Draft.

Beaudin. a right shot center has seen some time playing on the right wing. Beaudin exploded in his draft plus one year where scored 33 goals and 82 points in 58 games. Unfortunately this past season his production dipped to 30 goals and 80 points in 65 games which is why he slid down this list this year. But on a positive note, Beaudin produced more points in less games in the playoffs this past season than the previous year.

Beaudin is a smart cerebral player who is effective in all three zones. A good back checker, Beaudin also possesses good speed and a pretty good slapshot. Projected as a third line center in the NHL, Beaudin will make his pro hockey debut in the fall with the San Antonio Rampage (Avalanche AHL affiliate) as he was signed to his ELC (Entry Level Contract) earlier this year.

# 6) A.J. Greer (LW)

He was #6 on this last year and he”s #6 on this list this year too. A.J. Greer was one of two 2nd round selections the Colorado Avalanche made at the 2015 Draft, drafting Greer 39th overall.

This past season was Greer‘s first year in pro hockey after signing his ELC in July of last year. Greer scored 15 goals and 38 points in 63 games for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage. Greer started the year on a tear which helped him to be named to the AHL All-Star game. Greer‘s impressive start earned him a call up to the Colorado Avalanche where he suited up for his first five NHL games where he registered an assist. Unforunately, near the end of the year his production fell off a bit as did most of the Rampage roster.

But all in all, it was a very successful year for Greer and he may be in the plans for an opening night roster spot for the Avs come October. Greer, a 6’3 205 pound power forward is a tenacious forechecker who plays a pesky type of game. He’s physical and plays with a ton of speed. He’s a prototypical 3rd line forward in the NHL. Probably not a ton of offensive upside at the NHL level but can provide some secondary scoring.

# 5) Chris Bigras (D)

Last year I listed him as the Avalanche‘s second best prospect and best defensive prospect overall. Well, he’s slipped in both categories. Out of all the Avs‘ prospects, this might be the most disappointing of all.

The 6’1 190 pound two-way defenseman was selected in the 2nd round, 32nd overall in the 2013 Draft. In his final year in juniors, Bigras was second in scoring among d-men in the OHL with 20 goals and 71 points in 62 games for the Owen Sound Attack. In the 2015-16 season, Bigras split the campaign between the Rampage of the AHL and the Avalanche, playing in 31 games in the NHL and registering 3 points.

Unfortunately, he suffered his first concussion at the end of the campaign. And this is where it gets a bit dicey. This past season Bigras spent the whole year in the AHL with the Rampage where he was uneven and inconsistent. Many call it a lost year as he missed more than a month of hockey after he suffered another concussion. Bigras scored 5 goals and 19 points in 45 games with the Rampage this season.

It’s a bit worrisome this Bigras situation. He was seen as the Avs‘ best blue chip d-man prospect as many had him penciled him in a top four role. Hopefully he can turn the page on this year and put his development back on track. Good news, he’s still only 22. Bad news is he’s no longer considered a sure thing anymore.

# 4) Spencer Martin (G)

The Avalanche‘s top goalie prospect was #8 on my list last year. The 6’3 210 pound goaltender was taken in the 3rd round, 63rd overall in the 2013 Draft. Some may believe Spencer Martin at #4 might be a too high as statistically speaking he didn’t have a great year in pro hockey that featured a brief stint for the Avs but the majority of the year in San Antonio.

With San Antonio this year, Martin posted a 19-26-1 record with a 2.90 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .904 save percentage (S%). With the Avs, he posted a 0-2-1 record with a 4.35 GAA and a .865 S%. Yeah those numbers don’t look very good.

However, Martin had a strong start with the Rampage that earned him a spot in the AHL All-Star game. Also, Rampage were decimated with injuries and Avs made some call-ups which hurt the team. And it showed with the team’s performance the last couple of months of the season. Rampage were a bottom feeder in the AHL so with that in mind, Martin’s numbers aren’t all that terrible. His numbers in the NHL were awful but the team in front of him were the Avalanche, who were the worst team in the NHL in 17 years.

Martin is still a very good prospect but he still needs a lot more development time in the AHL before he’s ready for the NHL full-time. Probably needs another two seasons in the AHL. Nonetheless, he’s still the Avs’ best goalie prospect.

# 3) J.T. Compher (C)

He was also #3 on my list last year and is the only prospect on this list that was not drafted by the Colorado Avalanche. Compher was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2nd round, 35th overall in the 2013 Draft. Compher was one of the pieces the Avs received in the deal that sent Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo in 2015.

A 5’11 195 pound center, Compher was a star at the University of Michigan where he captained the Wolverines before signing his ELC with the Avalanche last season. In his first season in pro hockey, Compher started the year in San Antonio before being permanently re-called by the Avs. With the Rampage, Compher formed instant chemistry with A.J. Greer and Rocco Grimaldi and he scored 13 goals and 30 points in 41 games.

With the Avs, Compher notched 3 goals and 5 points in 21 games. Although 5 points in 21 games isn’t something to get overly excited about, a guy playing his first NHL games needed time to adjust. And considering that he was thrown on the league’s worst team it really isn’t that terrible. But if you just look at his game (never mind the stats for now), it’s very clear Compher is a player.

Compher is a very cerebral player who is defensively responsible and has a high hockey IQ. He also is a fierce competitor and plays with a bit of grit and tenacity. Although he may not have a high offensive upside, Compher looks to be the Avs’ 3rd line center for a very long time to come.

# 2) Nicholas Meloche (D)

He was #5 on my list last year and now he makes the jump to #2. The Avalanche‘s best defensive prospect was drafted in the 2nd round, 40th overall in the 2015 Draft. A 6’3, 205 pound right shot defenseman, Meloche signed his ELC with the Avs earlier this year.

This past season, his final season in juniors, saw him split time between the Gatineau Olympiques and the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL. Statistically, Meloche had his best year in scoring 16 goals and 47 points in 61 games while adding additional 3 goals and 7 points in 13 playoff games. His previous point totals (starting in 2013-14) were 25, 34, and 33.

Meloche is a smooth skating, two-way defenseman. He’s very sound defensively and plays with a bit of an edge. He also has a great hockey sense and sees the ice very well. Although he isn’t flashy he can provide some offensive punch. It’s unclear if his offense can translate in the NHL though but it’s possible.

Meloche will jump into pro hockey next season with the San Antonio Rampage. He’ll most likely need two to three years at the minimum before he’s NHL ready. Projected as a 2nd pairing d-man at the NHL level, 3rd pair at the minimum.

# 1) Tyson Jost (C)

The Avalanche‘s top prospect was the team’s first round selection at last year’s draft, making Jost the 10th overall pick. In his draft year, Jost played with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL where he annihilated his competition, scoring 42 goals and 104 points in 48 games.

Jost went on to join the University of North Dakota this past fall where he enjoyed a successful freshman campaign scoring 16 goals and 35 points in 33 games. After failing to win a National Championship with NoDak, Jost signed his ELC with the Avalanche. As there was only 6 games left in the Avs’ season at the time of the signing (playing 10 games would burn a year off his 3 year ELC), Jost managed to get his first taste of NHL action. In his first 6 NHL games, Tyson Jost managed to score his first career NHL goal against hated rivals Minnesota Wild.

A 5’11 195 pound centerman, Jost is a crafty two-way forward who is effective in all three zones. A cerebral hockey player with high hockey IQ, Jost thinks and plays at a high tempo. Jost has great hands and can make plays in tight areas. For a guy his size, he’s not afraid of the dirty areas and shows a lot of determination in winning puck battles. Jost will need to add some muscle to his frame in order to be a consistent NHL contributor. Jost will be on the Avalanche‘s opening night roster in the fall. He is the Avalanche‘s second line center and will most likely be that for many years to come.

Prospects just missing the list: Anton Lindholm (D), Sergei Boikov (D), Julien Nantel (LW), Mason Geertsen (D).