COACH: Jared Bednar (291-192-53 over seven seasons).
SEASON OPENER: Oct. 11 at Los Angeles Kings.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK STANLEY CUP ODDS: 8 1/2-1.
LAST SEASON: The Avalanche used 43 different players in an injury-filled 2022-23 season that still ended with their third straight division title. Entering the first round of the postseason against Seattle, the Avalanche had experience on their side with 18 players on the playoff roster from the Stanley Cup title-winning team the year before (19 if injured captain Gabriel Landeskog was included). Valeri Nichushkin, one of their most valuable players from the year before, missed the final five games of the playoffs for personal reasons. Colorado's Cup defense ended with a Game 7 loss to the Kraken.
STRENGTHS: Plenty of them, which is why the Avalanche are a favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup for a second time in three seasons. Up front, there’s the high-flying duo of Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. The tandem combined for 97 goals and 119 assists. On defense, there’s Cale Makar, the 2021-22 Norris trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman. The smooth-skating Makar was banged up last season and limited to 60 games. There's also Devon Toews, who's in the final season of his contract. In net, there’s Georgiev, whose 40 wins were a career high.
WEAKNESSES: Secondary scoring to complement Rantanen and MacKinnon. They will be without Landeskog, their longtime captain, for a second straight season. He remains optimistic of an eventual return after undergoing cartilage replacement surgery in May on his knee. Colorado will be banking on getting some scoring help from Johansen, Colton and Drouin. Johansen had a 26-goal season in 2021-22 with Nashville.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The Avalanche would take a repeat season from Rantanen. He finished with a career-high 55 goals, which broke the Avalanche record of 54 set by Joe Sakic in the Stanley Cup season of 2000-01. Rantanen also surpassed the 100-point mark for the first time and was one of just four Avalanche players to dress in every game last season. Drouin and MacKinnon are reunited after being teammates in juniors, where they won the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2013. MacKinnon went first overall in the 2013 draft, while Tampa Bay picked Drouin at No. 3.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL
The Associated Press