We saw loud and clear that the Avalanche are on the rise when they gave the Predators everything they could handle in the first round of the playoffs. The Predators may have taken them for granted early on, but you still have to credit the Avalanche putting up an impressive fight.
Heading into this season, the Avalanche are looking to maintain their momentum. Their top two scoring threats, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, make the top line deadly. There are question marks after that, but I see some promise for improvement for role players like Matthew Nieto and Tyson Jost. It’s a gamble to say they maintain their surge up the division hierarchy due to their depth.
The Avalanche are in an interesting situation at goaltender. They have a battle between Philipp Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov. Both are good enough to keep the Avalanche in plenty of games. I expect Grubauer to end up being the primary starter when the season starts.
Can MacKinnon repeat his MVP-caliber season with another? I think he can, but that won’t be enough to carry them to fourth in the division. If a few role players take the load off the top line, they’ll take another step forward.