DENVER--The annual media day routine proceeded like any other year, players completing physical and medical exams while reacquainting with teammates and meeting with reporters. But already for the Colorado Avalanche, a day before the start of on-ice activities at training camp, the expectations for the 2019-20 season were present.
And that's a good thing.
"It's nice to have some pressure," said center Nathan MacKinnon, who recorded a career-high 99 points (41 goals, 58 assists) in 2018-19 and was tied for seventh in the NHL in scoring. "We're not the 'Bad Avs' anymore. We're a contender. I think we all want pressure--it's no fun coming in as an underdog."
"I definitely think we got better over the summer, 100 percent," added captain Gabriel Landeskog, who had a career-high 75 points (34 goals, 41 assists) in 2018-19. "I think we know what's expected, and that's to take the next step, both individually and as a team."
The Avalanche improved its depth since its Game 7 loss in the second round to the San Jose Sharks in early May. After back-to-back playoff trips in 2018 and 2019, Colorado looked to keep momentum rolling in the offseason, bolstering its roster through trades and free agency. Among the new arrivals is forward Nazem Kadri.
Video: Landeskog previews the 2019-20 season
The former Maple Leafs' star was known for his physical play and offensive contributions in Toronto, where he spent his first nine seasons as a pro.
MacKinnon recently spent a few days with Kadri at a pre-season pro camp in Vail, Colorado, and saw a player who can move pucks through the zone and create space
"He's a great check down player, and he'll continue to do that, but he has a lot of offensive upside that I don't think we've seen yet," MacKinnon said. "We're definitely going to see that this year."
Kadri, for his part, got his first sense of the atmosphere at the Pepsi Center on Thursday. Feeling at home, clad in Avalanche gear, he called his new team "special."
"I've been around some good teams," said Kadri, who's recorded at least 40 points in six of his last seven seasons. "This is certainly one that can compete to go the distance. We have a good mix of veteran leadership and youth, and I think that's a lethal combination."
Video: Nazem Kadri on joining the Colorado Avalanche
Kadri's been anxious to get started with the Avalanche since being acquired on July 1. While initially shocked by the trade, he recalled coming to terms with his new situation in the following days, quickly realizing the promise of this opportunity.
"[I] sat, looked at the roster, talked to the coach, talked to Joe [Sakic], then talked to some of the players--Gabe, Nate--just about how special this team can be," Kadri said. "I love the expectations, and I love the standard these guys hold themselves to."
In addition to Kadri, head coach Jared Bednar singled out Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi as other exciting new faces. Bednar also addressed the high expectations surrounding his team, insisting that their approach hasn't changed from years past.
"For me, the most important [expectations] are internal," Bednar said. "I know external expectations are high, but no one is going to put more heat on our team than [us]. A lot of that stays the same [as always]. Whether things are going good or bad, we talk to our team about blocking out the outside noise and focusing on what's happening within our locker room and rink. That [mentality] doesn't change this season at all."