The Colorado Avalanche currently sit in the first wild-card spot by one point. They are one point ahead of Minnesota, Anaheim and Vancouver and just three points ahead of Edmonton. They have lost 7 of their last 10 games, are on a current three-game losing streak and to put it lightly have stunk over the last month and a half. It is bizarre because the Avalanche were nearly a top-three divisional team and looking like another shoe-in to the playoffs just a little over a month ago. Now, they have won only 5 games in their last 18 games (over December and now into January). What has been the Avalanche’s biggest issue, well aside from Semyon Varlamov going down with an injury, their depth scoring has been nearly non-existent.
Avalanche lack of depth scoring
Looking at the Avalanche’s top scorers, Mikko Rantanen (68) , Nathan MacKinnon (66) and Gabriel Landeskog (51) the Avalanche’s next top scoring forward is Carl Soderberg with 25 points. After Soderberg the next in line is Alexander Kerfoot with 24 points. Therefore from the top Rantanen’s 68 points to Soberberg’s 25 points there is a 43 point difference. From Landeskog to Soderberg there is a 26 point drop off. That will for sure cause some loses and a rough period of hockey for any team. Anyways not to highlight only Soderberg here (which 25 points for him is not too shabby) but guys like Tyson Jost, with 15 points in 41 games, Matt Nieto with 14 points in 41 games, Colin Wilson 13 points in 36 games and Matt Calvert with 14 points in 45 games is a major reason the Avalanche have struggled greatly. All the players mentioned above are either second liners or third liners, lines that should produce. The Avalanche have a major depth scoring issue and it is not only apparent on the front end, it is apparent on the back end as well. Aside from Tyson Barrie’s 32 points in 41 games the next defenseman up is Erik Johnson with 14 points in 45 games, Samuel Girard with 13 points in 45 games, the Avalanche’s top-three have not been all that productive as well.
Avalanche need to find a top-6 forward ASAP!
Which leaves us to the only solution for the Avalanche go out and get a forward. The Rangers are looking to move, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, Vladislav Namestikov, three guys that will be in your top six right away plus if you add one of those three you move MacKinnon or Rantanen down and even out the production a little. Or even go after Wayne Simmonds someone who can play with MacKinnon so Landeskog and Rantanen can play together or Gustav Nyquist, or Michael Ferland, Tyler Toffoli their are players out there that can be added to add some depth and the Avalanche need to do something sooner or later before they are really out of it. They need to break up MacKinnon and Rantanen or add another top-six winger as soon as possible!
This is usually an award that goes to someone who makes the biggest impact to their team but is also one of the top point scorers in the league. Last years nominees were Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall and Nathan MacKinnon. Giroux bounced back big time in 2017-18 to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a playoff match up. Giroux tallied 102 points (34G, 68A) in 82 games after only scoring 58 points in 82 games during the 2016-17 campaign. Nathan MacKinnon played a major role in why the Avalanche went from being the worst team in the NHL in 2016-17 to being a playoff team last season. The 23-year-old tenured forward tallied 97 points in 74 games last season, if it were not for missing eight games this award may have been his last season. MacKinnon bounced back from 53 points in 82 games to 97 in 74 games last season. The winner Taylor Hall lead the underrated, unskilled, inexperienced New Jersey Devils team to a playoff spot for the first time in almost ten years. Hall shook up the NHL with his record setting point streak last season but more importantly led the Devils in every facet of the game. Hall had 93 points in 73 games, in just his second year on the team, Hall helped put the Devils back on the map.
This years nominees are different than last years, which is a good thing. It would be hard to not mention at least the top five considerations for this trophy. Based off what last years nominees did for their club last year and what the winner Taylor Hall did for the Devils last season, we can all realize as to why these players below are being nominated for one of the more prestigious NHL awards.
- Mikko Rantanen (18G, 43A, 59 points in 37 games)
- Connor McDavid (19G, 33A, 52 points in 35 games)
- Nikta Kucherov (16G, 41A, 57 points in 37 games)
- Johnny Gaudreau (16G, 32A, 48 points in 37 games)
- Mark Scheifele (22G, 27A, 49 points in 36 games)
Mikko Rantanen has been a freak of nature this year, he has been apart of almost every Colorado win, a major reason the Avalanche are back in a playoff spot right now and continues to do it night in and night out. Sure he has Nathan MacKinnon so his accreditation is a little less valuable. But Rantanen being at 1.56 points per game is incredible.
Johnny Gaudreau has single handily (with the help of Sean Monahan) turned this Flames team around if you ever watched a Flames game, Gaudreau is by far the most impactful player on the ice for Calgary, his ability to take control of the game, create separation and just constantly be involved in every play when he is out there shows his importance to Calgary.
Connor McDavid we all know his significance to Edmonton, he has no one around him besides Leon Draisaitl (they do not always play together) but McDavid has consistently been the one of the biggest reasons all year the Oilers are hanging and fighting for a playoff spot right now. Not to mention he plays upwards of 22 minutes a game, which is unheard of from a forward.
Mark Scheifele, the Jets have tools around him but Scheifele’s presence is definitely known when he is out there and not out there. He is always scoring big goals, plays the best two way game among most centers in the league and is not just a one-sided player. Aside from his leadership Scheifele is one of the most underrated forwards in the game today.
How could a very young guy unexpectedly lead mediocre team to the top and make himself the best point producer in the league?
It was almost three years ago, when Finland became junior world champions. That Finnish team was highlighted mainly by Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi or Sebastian Aho. Well, all those guys are still great, but there is one other guy, who currently leads the NHL in points and that´s Mikko Rantanen. Not many experts were focused on Rantanen that time, but he was the captain and main leader of golden team of Finland.
The trio Rantanen formed with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog is the best in the franchise history after relocation from Québec. Rantanen was born in just a small town in Finland, which has approximately 5000 habitants. His first year in the NHL was that year when Avalanche ended dead-last in the competition with only 48 points, but it was a great learning experience for the young Fin.
Last year there was a lot of buzz around Matt Duchene’s trade and his trade after all made a very positive impact on the team. MacKinnon-Rantanen-Landeskog line has been created and the rest is history. Avalanche finished last season with 95 points and shockingly making the play-offs. It was one heck of a turn-around for Rantanen and his Avs.
Mikko Rantanen picked up 84 points in the process. This season he already has 46 in just 26 games. The Finnish forward is on pace for a year we may remember for an eternity. Second in the league in points is his teammate MacKinnon with 41 points. It was last year when MacKinnon ended up with 97 points and was strong candidate for the MVP award.
This time around, Rantenen has come out stronger than MacKinnon. MacKinnon is one of the most quickest guys in the NHL, Landeskog is the captain and a great two-way player and he is the catalyst between them, who is a playmaker, said Rantanen what he thinks about chemistry built between three stars.
Besides Rantanen’s great individual play, he leads Colorado to the very top. Really a 48-point team traded such a star like Matt Duchene and then they can reach 48 points by Christmas nowadays? Give a huge credit to Mikko Rantanen. Avalanche´s GM Joe Sakic will have plenty of work to do next summer, when Rantanen becomes a restricted free agent. But there should be no doubt about his extension, he is a generational talent and a franchise leader.
We are now 10-12 games into the NHL season which means we have seen about 3 weeks of games now from teams. With that comes some surprising stars through the first month of play.
#1 on the rising stars list….
- Gabriel Landeskog: After Colorado absolutely sh*t the bed in 2016-17 as did Landeskog with only 33 points in 77 games, he managed to bounce back big time last season tallying 62 points in 78 games. While now he is off to an even bigger tear totaling 16 points in 12 games. Landeskog has seemed to be getting back into his rhythm playing hockey like the 1st round, 2nd overall pick he was set out to be.
- Mikko Rantanen: Another Colorado counter part, but holy sh*t has Rantanen been on a tear to start the year. He leads the league with 21 points in 12 games, tallying 5 goals and 16 assists along with 4 power play points. He made his mark last season with a 55 point season but Rantanen is on pace for 55 points by All-Star break time. Started out ranked 62 in Yahoo rankings and is now #1, what a jump.
- Sebastian Aho: We can say this kid knows a thing or two about finishing. Aho has been the bright spot in Carolina now once again, but he is dong it an consistent rate thus far. Aho has 4 goals and 12 assists along with 3 power play points and 2 game winning goals. Aho started out 61 and is now ranked seventh. Last year he totaled 65 points in 78 games, but right now we are witnessing a possible career high for the young Finland star.
- Morgan Rielly: Toronto has scored some absurd amount of goals to start the regular season and Rielly has picked up his fair share of helpers in that. Rielly has 10 assists on the year along with 4 goals and 6 power play points. Rielly has not scored more than 9 goals in a year during his career, he has 4 already. He is coming off his best year of 52 points and seems to be making a push for that high caliber #1 defenseman role the Maple Leafs need. Rielly started out ranked 129 and is ranked #12 now.
- Ryan O’Reilly: What a change of pace for this beauty. O’Reilly has always been a solid center and a decent fantasy option but this year he seems to be really be gelling in St.Louis and enjoying his time with David Perron. O’Reilly has 3 goals and 11 assists along with 6 power play points. Definitely a player that can continue down this trend and keep it up all year round. O’Reilly started ranked #137 and is ranked 42. Hopefully now St. Louis wakes up.
- Kyle Palmieri: This guy dealt with a handful of injuries last season and was never really healthy, it is obvious to see what he can do when he is healthy and playing with competent line mates. Palmieri has 8 goals and 5 assists on the year along with 6 power play points and 2 game winning goals. If Palmieri can stay healthy this season it seems like it can be a constant to see him in the top 50 rankings throughout the year. He was ranked 130 at the beginning of the year and is now ranked 13.