The good news for the Avs is that it can't get much worse. After a disaterous 2016-17, the organization has stocked up on some NHL depth and some smooth-skating prospects (see my Entry Draft article here). The road back to respectability will be a long one, but the team is lucky enough to start the journey with mutiple pieces ready to turn things around. Let's take a look at the state of the Avs:
Nail Yakupov (RW), Colin Wilson (C/LW), Jonathan Bernier (G)
Calvin Pickard (Expansion Draft), John Mitchell (UFA), Francois Beauchemin (buyout), Mikhail Grigorenko (KHL).
Sven Andrighetto (RW), Matt Nieto (LW), Rocco Grimaldi (C), Mark Barberio (D), Duncan Siemens (D), Andrew Agozzino (LW), David Warsofky (D), Nikita Zadorov (D) (rumored)
– Bringing in help on the wings in Wilson and Yakupov (along with re-signing Andrighetto and Nieto) gives the low-scoring team some much-needed extra depth, but takes away opportunity from youngsters JT Compher and AJ Greer. Compher is better suited for a bottom-six role while he develops his NHL game, so he is still likely to make the big club in the fall. Greer, however, looks like he's due for some more AHL seasoning barring an outstanding training camp.
– The signings of Grimaldi and Agozzino are for AHL purposes, but both will occasionally fill in as injury placements (expect ~5 NHL games each this year). Niether are fantasy relevant any longer, althought Grimaldi would have value if he were to become a long-term injury fill-in.
– Barberio will contend for an NHL spot (I predict full-time duties), and will remain a 7th d-man (rather than be sent down) at the very worst. Siemens will likely get cups of coffee given how poor the defence corps is, but even if he manages to stick with the club, he holds no fantasy relevance outside of peripherals that are a dime-a-dozen. Warsofsky will stay in the AHL.
– Overall, the club really needs to wait one more year for a real roster turnover. Once Comeau and Colbourne are off the books, bottom-six minutes will open up and give the team a good chance to mix-and-match young players and create multiple lines of compatibility. Just like how the Leafs found productive homes for solid non-superstars Brown, Hyman, and Kapanen, the Avs can think about doing for Compher, Greer, Andrighetto, and Nieto.
– Lots of AHL turnover has also occured this off-season, but most names are completely fantasy-irrelevant so I wont waste anyone's time. This will probably lead to a rebuilding year in San Antonio, so stat lines of prospects may take a hit.
– There's still a good chance of a giant wrench being thrown into the above notes if Matt Duchene finally gets traded. If (when) it happens, expect it to be primarily for help on the back end rathen than up front.
– Tyson Jost will be playing in the NHL full time in 2017-18. Draft accordingly.
– JC Beaudin is turning pro and will play in the AHL for the first time. He's grown in every way while in the QMJHL and has developed into a complete centerman who can contribute offence while being given defensive responsibilities. A coach's dream.
– Same goes for stud d-man Nicolas Meloche. If he can do in pro what he did to the QMJHL, he is a fantasy sleeper to be a multi-category beast. This has been said about many players however.
– Julien Nantel disappointed in the AHL in his first attempt, but will be returning after a stellar ECHL playoff performance. Expect him to have some jump after proving to the doubters than he's still got offensive to provide. He's still very far down the NHL call-up pecking order though so dont make him a sleeper pick.
– Andrei Mironov is coming to North America after a lengthy negotiation process and will fight for an NHL spot out of camp. Unconfirmed rumors suggest his contract has a KHL out-clause if he doesn't get NHL minutes. Given his strong play in Russia, and how weak the Avs' blueline is right now, he's a good bet to get decent minutes.
– Chris Bigras has a big year ahead of him following a severe concussion in 2016. He still has all the tools to be a fantasy-relevant d-man but needs a healthy season under his belt to prove it. He will push for a bottom-piring spot out of camp but will probably spend most of the year in the AHL. When he is getting his tryouts, he has potential to become a PP producer so keep an eey on him.
– The Avs let AHL 1A netminder Jeremy Smith walk so the Spencer Martin can take hold of the crease full-time in San Antonio. He's not a blue-chip prospect, but he's the top G prospect in the organization right now and being given the minutes he needs to improve.
– The organization couldn't secure Hobery Baker winner Will Butcher to a contract. This is a big loss for the club, but gives a better shot to Mironov, Lindholm, and Bigras who would have been competing alongside him for a roster spot.
1. Tyson Jost – All but guaranteed a full-time NHL gig on a team that will be all about development rather than winning every night.
2. JC Beaudin – Has blossumed into a top prospect through dedication at both ends of the ice.
3. Andrei Mironov – Russian star has every opportunity to step straight into a big defensive NHL role.
1. Mason Geertson – Once considered an all-around threat, the big d-man seems to have become a PIM producer and not much more. Still time to become a workhorse-type though.
2. Sergei Boikov – Very disappointing rookie pro campaign after having a career year in Junior and the WJC in 2015-16.
3. AJ Greer – Still one of the team's top prospects, but clearly waiting another year after the team's off-season signings.
Top 10 Prospects
1. Tyson Jost
2. Cale Makar
3. AJ Greer
4. JT Compher
5. Andrei Mironov
6. Nicolas Meloche
7. Chris Bigras
8. JC Beaudin
9. Rocco Grimaldi
10. Spencer Martin
For up-to-date Avs news and notes throughout the season, give me follow on twitter @soboleskih