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Avalanche need big season from Nathan MacKinnon

Top pick in 2013 NHL Draft must score more for Colorado to return to Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Colorado Avalanche:

The Colorado Avalanche failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth time in the past six seasons in 2015-16, leading to another summer of trying to figure out what it will take to get back.

It appears the Avalanche will enter this season with a pretty similar roster. They made only a few subtle moves, though they did sign forward Nathan MacKinnon, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, to a seven-year contract on July 8.

MacKinnon, who was a restricted free agent, put up decent numbers last season (21 goals, 52 points in 72 games), but he hasn't been able to match the 24 goals and 63 points he had as a rookie in 2013-14, the last time Colorado qualified for the postseason. It is imperative MacKinnon at least gets back to that level if the Avalanche are going to find their way back into the playoffs.

Here is what the Avalanche look like today:

KEY ARRIVALS: Joe Colborne, F: Colborne, 26, signed a two-year contract with the Avalanche on July 1 after setting NHL career highs in goals (19), assists (25) and points (44) last season with the Calgary Flames. He is expected to vie for a top-six role. ... Fedor Tyutin, D: Colorado landed another veteran defenseman by signing Tyutin on July 1. Tyutin, 32, has played more than 800 NHL games and spent the past eight seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Video: VAN@CGY: Colborne's tip leads to a power-play goal

KEY DEPARTURES: Reto Berra, G: The Avalanche feel comfortable with Calvin Pickard as their backup, so they traded Berra to the Florida Panthers for forward Rocco Grimaldi on June 23. Berra played 33 games for Colorado during the past two seasons and had a .922 save percentage in 2015-16. … Nick Holden, D: Holden, who played in all 82 games for the Avalanche last season, was traded to the New York Rangers for a fourth-round pick at the 2017 draft. He had six goals, 16 assists and 24 penalty minutes.

ON THE CUSP: Mikko Rantanen, F: The 19-year-old was the 10th player selected at the 2015 draft and got his first taste of the sport's highest level last season but was held without a point in nine games. Rantanen played 60 games for San Antonio of the American Hockey League, where he had 24 goals, 36 assists and a plus-20 rating in 52 games. Rantanen, who turns 20 in October, will be vying for a spot on Colorado's roster at training camp. … J.T. Compher, F: A big piece of the trade that sent center Ryan O'Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres last summer, Compher signed an entry-level contract with the Avalanche in April after finishing his third season at the University of Michigan with 16 goals, 47 assists and a plus-35 rating in 38 games. … Chris Bigras, D: A second-round draft pick in 2013, Bigras split last season between Colorado and San Antonio. The 21-year-old had a goal and two assists in 31 games with the Avalanche, who will have to determine if he's better-suited to be a depth defenseman in the NHL this season or play top-four minutes in San Antonio.

WHAT THEY STILL NEED: The Avalanche would receive a big boost if they can land another top-six forward in a trade before the season gets underway. Blake Comeau could continue to play important minutes if the roster stays as is; Comeau had 12 goals and 36 points in 81 games last season. Not a single player on the Avalanche roster had 60 points in 2015-16. Perhaps with MacKinnon's contract out of the way, that could change this season.

Video: COL@NSH: Comeau steals puck to open the scoring

PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: Semyon Varlamov arguably was the most inconsistent goalie in the NHL last season with an .850 save percentage or worse in 10 games (tied for third-most in the League) and a .950 or better SV% in 18 games (tied for eighth). He's no longer worth drafting among the top 20 at his position but could be a late-round steal if he has a bounce-back season. The Avalanche have added Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch to give themselves more depth on defense, so Varlamov may be worth taking a chance on as the third or fourth goalie on your roster beginning in the 13th or 14th round.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Nathan MacKinnon

Blake Comeau - Carl Soderberg - Jarome Iginla

Andreas Martinsen - Mikhail Grigorenko - Joe Colborne

Cody MacLeod - John Mitchell - Rocco Grimaldi

Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie  

Eric Gelinas - Fedor Tyutin

Semyon Varlamov

Calvin Pickard

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