Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Colorado Avalanche
For the last 12 years over at The Hockey News, I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. Now that I am no longer with THN, my 13th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – For the second consecutive season, the Avalanche suffered from starting far too many shifts in their own zone and not enough in the offensive zone. This time, they paid for it by missing the playoffs and just having a pretty back year in general. To solve this, they move out their third best possession forward in O'Reilly and bring in players with some upside. Soderberg, Grigorenko and Comeau weren't terrible in the possession department, but they weren't great either. And Beauchemin is an 'okay' replacement for Hejda in terms of this metric. But throw in the fact that Zadorov was extremely sheltered in terms of his minutes for Buffalo last season, and the Avalanche could be in for another tough season.
As things stand now, all that can save them and get them back into playoff contention would be for Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene to truly turn it up a notch and become the stars that they are capable of being. A 'slight' improvement from those two won't be enough.
Ready for full-time – Grigorenko is still only 21 years old. Don't write him off just yet. And not only wasn't he given much of a chance with Buffalo, but for the most part he was treated pretty badly in terms of how he was implemented. Say what you want about the coaching style of Patrick Roy, I do think he does right by the kids. I think Grigs makes this team and he gets at least 20 points, or as many as 45 this year, depending on linemates.
Joey Hishon is close to being ready to become a checking-line center. Don't count on him for too many points, and don't count on too many games either. He is an injury risk to say the least.
Stefan Elliott is now 24 and running out of chances. Last season he only got in a few games because Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie were injured, otherwise he wouldn't have been called up at all. He needs to make his mark based on earning the job, not by default. He is recovering from a very forgettable 2012-13…but that recovery is moving along at a snail's pace. He has to clear waivers to be sent down, but that was the case last year as well – and no other NHL team wanted him.
Calvin Pickard is the better of the two backup goalies, but Reto Berra is signed for two more years. Berra also finished strongly after a weak start so it's likely he will be the No.2 goalie for the Avs. That puts Pickard in the minors to start, but as always – he'll be back.
Mikko Rantanen was the 10th overall draft pick this past summer and he boasts tremendous size for an 18-year-old (6-4, 211). He could very well make this team and he would make an impact if he does so. The Avalanche rushed Duchene, MacKinnon and O'Reilly in as 18 year olds so this would be nothing new. Definitely watch in training camp.
Andrew Agozzino is a smallish player and likely career AHLer, but he deserves a chance. He keeps leading his AHL team in scoring and during his one NHL game last season he picked up an assist. A long shot, but worth noting.
Andreas Martinsen is a 25-year-old undrafted free agent the Avs signed out of the German league. He had a breakout campaign that saw him finish third on Dusseldorfer EG in scoring and lead them in PIM. A third-liner if he makes the squad.
Fantasy Outlook – Lots of good young pieces on the NHL roster, but little to get excited about in the prospect pipeline. In fact, beyond the Big 5 of MacKinnon, Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Barrie and Semyon Varlamov, there isn't anybody in this system I would make a big effort about acquiring.
Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was B)