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Stanley Cup Final

Depth at center strength of Avalanche lineup

Thursday, 08.16.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

There were several bright spots during the 2011-12 season for the Colorado Avalanche, but also some disappointments as general manager Greg Sherman tries to build a consistent winner again in Denver.

Gabriel Landeskog was the League's top rookie, and Ryan O'Reilly took a big step toward stardom. Sherman made a bold move to acquire a young goalie, Semyon Varlamov, and he was able to stay healthy (a big knock against him with the Washington Capitals).

2012-13 Avalanche Fantasy Team Preview



Under-valued: Matt Duchene –
Disappointed with 14 goals and 28 points in 58 games last season, but Duchene has the talent to score 30-plus goals with ease next year after posting 24 and 27 in his first two NHL seasons.

Over-valued: Paul Stastny – Has seen points total decrease in each of the last three seasons to a career-low (in a full season) 53 last year. Still a useful fantasy player, but center is deep -- expect around 20 goals and 50-60 points, not 70-plus.

Sleeper: Jamie McGinn – After being acquired from San Jose at last season’s deadline, McGinn tallied eight goals, five assists and 11 PIMs in 17 games with Colorado. A solid all-around fantasy player, McGinn could post 20-plus goals and 45-plus points.

-- Follow Matt Cubeta on Twitter: @NHLQubes

Still, Colorado's more established young talent -- Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Erik Johnson -- didn't produce to their potential, and the Avalanche missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons. Sherman landed one of the top free-agent forwards available this offseason and bolstered the team's depth on defense.

Given another year of development for one of the youngest teams in the NHL, it could mean a return to the postseason -- something that was a given not that long ago in the Mile High City.

Forwards

Milan Hejduk - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Steve Downie

Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - David Jones

Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Chuck Kobasew

Mark Olver

Defensemen

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Shane O'Brien - Stefan Elliott

Ryan Wilson - Ryan O'Byrne

Greg Zanon - Matt Hunwick

Goaltenders

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

NOTES: Before last season, O'Reilly was this franchise's Jordan Staal, a really nice No. 3 center behind two with bigger pedigrees. He took a big step forward last year while the others did not. The Landeskog-O'Reilly-Downie trio had great chemistry at the end of the season, and the Avalanche have the depth to ice three formidable scoring lines.

Parenteau worked well with John Tavares on the New York Islanders, so he could be moving alongside the player taken one pick after Tavares at the top of the 2009 NHL Draft, Duchene. Stastny has the talent (and the salary) to be more than a No. 3 center obviously, but Colorado could play that trio more than a typical third unit and give him ample time on the power play to augment his role.

The Avalanche have seven defensemen on one-way contracts, but Elliott and Tyson Barrie are talented enough to force their way into the everyday lineup, and the arrival of Duncan Siemens is on the horizon. NHL-quality depth on defense will not be a problem after adding Zanon and with the expected development of those two prospects.

Varlamov had elite potential for years, and he was finally able to stay relatively healthy last season. The problem for Varlamov was Giguere actually outplayed him for a while. The Avalanche re-upped Giguere for another year, so expect this to be a strong tandem through 2013-14.

Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter: @cmasisak22

I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the series-winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round