The Colorado Avalanche are on the rise. Okay, that’s pretty simple to say, considering that they had a league worst 48 points in the 2016-17 season. They rebounded by making the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, unfortunately losing in the first and second rounds. However, with all the action going on in the Central Division, and the Western Conference, Colorado could see themselves on top fairly soon, considering they have a legitimate core group coming. Let’s discuss that core group.
They have an absolute superstar center in Nathan MacKinnon. It’s easy to forget that he’s only going to be 24 when the season starts, and he’s coming off back-to-back 90+ point seasons. He’s also relatively cheap only making a little over $6 million through the 2023-24 season, giving the team more options to surround him with talent. He’s easily the face of the franchise, and it’s fair to wonder if he has even hit his peak yet.
Gabriel Landeskog, only 26, is coming off of a 75-point season, and is essentially a lock to get 60+ points ever year. He’s got two more years on his contract, worth a little over $5.5 million. He’s only 26-years-old, and the captain of this team. He’s been through all the highs and lows and undoubtedly leads this team well. He’s going to demand a new contract soon, but for the time remaining, Colorado would be wise to use it well.
While Mikko Rantanen currently doesn’t have a contract extension with Colorado just yet, it’s priority number one for general manager Joe Sakic to get one done. Only 22-years-old, Rantanen had an absolute monster of a year, scoring 31 goals and 87 points. He’s going to be an absolute stud for a really long time, but he’s going to be costly, with most projections seeing him make over $10 million. If Sakic can get him on a team-friendly bridge deal, it would be huge for them and the future of Colorado.
This group can be compared to the Blackhawks when they were constantly in Stanley Cup contention. MacKinnon is like Jonathan Toews, Rantanen is like Patrick Kane and Landeskog is like Patrick Sharp. These were the forwards, alongside a couple others, that helped propel Chicago to three cups in six years. Colorado has their own version of that, so the future is bright. But Chicago also had defense, which is what Colorado is about to have very soon.
The real potential of the Avalanche is in their defensive prospects. They have two legitimate number one defensemen on that top pairing of theirs in Cale Makar and recent draft pick Bowen Byram. These two are going to be absolute monsters in the league, and Colorado has both of them, and they will most likely start the season for the Avalanche.
Makar, who made his league debut in the playoffs against Calgary, certainly didn’t look overmatched on the biggest stage. He did burn a year of his entry-level contract, but that was a small price to pay to get him in the lineup. Both Makar and Byram are under the age of 21, and with some fo their older players having some expiring contracts, they’re going to be given every opportunity to seize it.
Byram, who was the number one rated defenseman in the 2019 draft, is considered by most analysts NHL-ready. There’s a good chance that he will start on Colorado’s blue line, probably in a third-pair setting. But make no mistake about it; he’s going to be a future number one, and alongside Makar, the Avalanche will have arguably one of the better first line pairings in the NHL.
Again, this is comparable to the Blackhawks when they were winning cups. Byram’s game has been compared to Duncan Keith in his prime, and there’s an argument to be made that Chicago doesn’t win any of their cups without him. And the fact that Colorado could possibly have two of him makes that much better for their chances.
These five players should be the core of the Colorado Avalanche for the foreseeable future. Considering that four of them are under the age of 24, and are on relatively cheap deals, it gives Sakic all the opportunity int he world to surround them with secondary scoring, and role players. It’s not going to be long until the Avalanche are set to act like the Chicago Blackhawks, constantly being Stanley Cup contenders. Who knows, a cup victory might find itself in Colorado in the near future.