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31 in 31

Inside look at Colorado Avalanche

MacKinnon leads talented core hoping for run at Stanley Cup

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

31 in 31: Colorado Avalanche

31 in 31: Colorado Avalanche 2019-20 season preview

NHL.com's Dan Rosen and NHL Network's Mike Johnson discuss the biggest questions facing the Colorado Avalanche for the 2019-20 season

  • 05:46 •

NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Colorado Avalanche.

The Colorado Avalanche want to put themselves in the best position to compete for the Stanley Cup this season. That makes earning home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs an important goal after qualifying each of the past two seasons as the second wild card from the Western Conference.

"Playoffs [are] the priority," Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. "Try in the regular season to get home-ice advantage. Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, that's the end game. We want to be better and be more consistent during the regular season."

 

[Avalanche 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

The Avalanche will continue to rely on center Nathan MacKinnon, whose 99 points (41 goals, 58 assists) tied with Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand for seventh in the NHL last season, but need to sign restricted free agent forward Mikko Rantanen, who had an NHL career-high 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) despite missing the final eight regular-season games with an upper-body injury. Gabriel Landeskog, who had 75 points (34 goals, 41 assists), rounds out the top line, one of the best in the NHL.

"We've tried to go with the youth movement, tried to get younger and faster, and we believe we've accomplished that," Sakic said. "There's been a lot of growth with the players in the dressing room and now we've got to try and keep making steps and keep getting better and keeping the excitement going in this marketplace."

Colorado made several offseason moves, the most significant on July 1 when it acquired forward Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen and a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Tyson Barrie, forward Alexander Kerfoot and a sixth-round pick in 2020.

Kadri is expected to fill what has been a big void at second-line center. He had 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) last season after scoring 32 goals in each of the previous two.

"I feel like I'm having a great summer so far and I'm feeling really the best I ever have working for redemption [this] season," Kadri said. "I feel strong, I feel great, and I strongly believe that my best years are yet to come. I think Colorado's a nice step for me."

Depth was added at forward by acquiring Andre Burakovsky in a trade with the Washington Capitals on June 28 and signing free agents Joonas Donskoi and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on July 1.

The Avalanche have been stockpiling young puck-moving defensemen: Cale Makar, 20, Samuel Girard, 21, and Bowen Byram, 18, who was the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and could play in the NHL this season. Girard signed a seven-year contract extension July 31. Because Makar, the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, was so impressive in his NHL debut during the playoffs, Colorado was comfortable trading Barrie, the highest-scoring defenseman in its history.

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: MacKinnon

Erik Johnson (shoulder surgery) might not be ready at the start of the season and Ian Cole (hip surgery) isn't expected to be available until December, giving the young defensemen even more responsibility.

Philipp Grubauer is the No. 1 goalie after completing his first season in Colorado with NHL career highs in games (37) and wins (18). He was 8-1-2 in his final 11 regular-season games and 7-5 with a 2.30 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in the playoffs after replacing Semyon Varlamov, who signed a four-year contract with the New York Islanders on July 1.

Coach Jared Bednar was signed to a two-year contract extension July 9 that runs through 2021-22.

"He's a calm coach, a player's coach, but the players know his expectations," Sakic said. "There's a good respect and good relationship the way he handles the players and the way the players respond to him."

Now it's time for the Avalanche to take the next step as a Stanley Cup contender.

"It's a real bright future for this organization, and I'm excited to be a part of this," Landeskog said. "We want to win, we want to be the last team standing, winning that last game of the season. I know there's a lot of good things in store for this group. We're still young and guys are going to develop."

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