Further growth and success are imminent for the Avalanche.
Winning 7-5 in the playoffs and winning just before reaching the final of the Western Conference is an experience that will help shape the core players in a fledgling NHL team for the next season.
The Avs will continue to include all-star strikers Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog, their most talented and deepest blue line in more than 15 years, and goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer, who ended the regular season and made the playoffs.
MacKinnon is only 23 years old, Rantanen 22 and Landeskog 26. Grubauer, 27, plays behind a blue line with the 20-year-old, puck-moving sensations Sam Girard and Cale Makar.
It looks like the Avs will shed some fat this off-season and come back leaner and stronger in September, and possibly with a free agent splash or first round 2019 draft pick. They’ll likely get four unrestricted free agents with a total salary of more than replacing $ 15 million (Semyon Varlamov, Colin Wilson, Derick Brassard, Patrik Nemeth) with promising teens – and allowing the team to afford to re-sign a handful of young restricted free agents like Rantanen and the fellow strikers JT Compher and Alex Kerfoot.
Keep an eye out for strikers AJ Greer and Logan O’Connor, defenseman Ryan Graves and goalkeeper Pavel Francouz who will become full-time NHLers in 2018/19 after just getting a taste of it. Francouz can test the market as UFA in July, but chances are the American Hockey League all-star will stay in Colorado with the Colorado Eagles and provide Gruabauer’s support.
“This organization, this hockey team, has a really bright future. It’s really exciting to be there, ”said Landeskog, the captain of the Avs on Wednesday evening after the 3-2 defeat in the 7th game of the World Cup semi-finals against San Jose. “But we won’t say that every year either. We want to win. We want to be the last team to make the last game of the season. It really is. But I know that a lot of good is in store for this group. We are still young and the boys will continue to develop. “
He added, “That’s a veteran team (San Jose) on the other side. Dragging these guys to a one-goal game in Game 7 – I think we pushed them pretty well. “
A year ago, the Avalanche made the playoffs for the third time in 10 years and lost in the first round to Nashville, who won the series 4-2. That season, the Avs slipped again to eighth and final playoff spot, but upset conference champions Calgary in five games before taking the Sharks to seven.
Next season, expect the Avs to have a more consistent regular season, gain a home advantage, and make one more playoff jump – up to the conference finals or beyond.
“I’m definitely proud of the way we treated ourselves – especially in the last part of the season and in the playoffs,” said coach Jared Bednar. “It was a big step for many of our boys.”
Colorado went 15-6-2 in their last 23 games, including 8-1-2 to end the regular season.
“We will learn from it. The further we got in the playoffs, the more we learned about our team and how hard it is to win and how we have to adapt, ”said Bednar. “We will take what we learn here in the playoffs with us and drag it into the regular season next year and hopefully make it easier for us.”
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