Welcome to the Five-Year Plan. In this summer exercise, we forecast the rosters for all 31 current NHL teams for the 2023-24 season. Are we bound for folly? Sure, but the point of the exercise is to give some sense of where an organization is heading based on current long-term contracts and the prospects they have in the system.
Some ground rules: No trades will be made and no future draft picks will be included - so you won’t see the likes of Alexis Lafreniere or Quinton Byfield on any roster, even though they will certainly be NHL stars in 2023-24. All current contracts are honored and most restricted free agents are projected to stay with their teams, unless it is determined the player will lose his spot or move on in the future. Some future unrestricted free agents will be kept on if the players are deemed integral and likely to re-sign. The Seattle expansion draft is not considered. With all that established, let’s take a look at Colorado.
Colorado’s top unit is already the best in the Western Conference and MacKinnon’s line should still be a force five years from now. After that? There’s a lot of promise. If there’s a “problem” in Colorado it’s that the Avs have a lot of young centers coming up, but that can be fixed by sliding guys like Newhook and Bowers to the wings in order to take advantage of their offensive prowess. Current newbies Burakovsky and Donskoi weren’t included as their contracts run out before 2023-24. The same goes for Kadri, but he would be a valuable veteran for the bottom-six by then.
Here’s where things get really fun. GM Joe Sakic has done a wonderful job building up his defensive pipeline and we’ll get a full dose of Makar this season. Byram shouldn’t be too far behind, while Timmins needs to rebound from a head injury but has a lot of potential. With Girard already in the fold, the Avs will have puckmovers on every pairing, making for a deadly top-six buttressed by big dudes Johnson and Zadorov.
In his first year with the Avalanche, Grubauer proved that he is a No. 1 in the NHL and that should continue for the foreseeable future. After years of having little to nothing in the goalie pipeline, Colorado now has options for the future and Annunen is the leading candidate to make noise eventually.
Overall, this Avalanche lineup looks pretty spicy. The key is how the defense will be able to constantly activate the rush and transition the puck up ice, where that big top line and some of the young forwards can really make hay with it. Assuming Grubauer has established his base line of talent as an NHL starter, the Avs have everything they need to make a run at the franchise’s third Stanley Cup. That is, of course, if all (or at least many) of the team’s high-end prospects turn out the way we think they can.
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