by Dan Adkisson
One year after hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup for the third time in franchise history, thanks to a four-two series victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Colorado Avalanche would find themselves dropping out of the 2022-23 playoffs early.
As the top seed in the Western Conference and third-best team during the NHL’s regular season, the Avalanche would match up with the Seattle Kraken, a second-year team who had already exceeded expectations just by making the postseason. However, losing 4-3 in the first-round series, the Avalanche, who were assumed to be the far better team on ice and paper, now have to reload for next season.
With Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, Artturi Lehkonen, Valeri Nichushkin, and Alexandar Georgiev already securely under contract and full intention of resigning star Nathan MacKinnon, the best Colorado Avalanche players make up a roster that can compete for a championship for the next couple of years.
However, with all that talent and the need to sign several component players, the Avalanche may not be big spenders in the offseason. Instead, they will likely have to develop and rely on young talent from within their organization.
The right winger from Stockholm, Sweden, is the best young prospect in Colorado’s organization. Drafted by the Avalanche 28th overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Olausson suited up for both the Oshawa Generals and the Barrie Colts of the OHL this season, tallying 49 points in 55 games.
While the twenty-year-old Olausson failed to tally a point in his one appearance with the Avalanche this season, he did record a twenty-point season in sixty-three games with the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.
If the twenty-four-year-old left winger can find a way to translate his success with the University of Minnesota and the Eagles into the NHL game, the Avalanche could have a solid two-way player on their hands.
During the 2022 Beijing Olympics, Meyers proved that he was capable of playing on a bigger stage as he recorded two goals and two assists in four games as a member of Team USA. While Meyers underperformed during his thirty-nine games with the Avalanche this past season, finishing with just four points, there is still a bright future and hope for the once-free-agent signee.
While Alexandar Georgiev has the number one goalie spot locked down for at least the next two seasons, and Pavel Francouz has proven to be a capable backup, the NHL has shown that you can never have too many options in the net.
Drafted 64th overall in 2018, Annunen has already made four appearances for the big team with a respectable 2-1-1 record. Currently locked in as the Eagles starting goaltender, Annunen is just twenty-three years old; Avs fans shouldn’t be surprised to see the Finnish native between the pipes for a few more games next season.
Behrens just wrapped up his sophomore season with the University of Denver Pioneers. Coming off of an NCAA championship during his freshman season, Behrens had a solid second year on campus while also protecting the blue line for the USA U-20 Team during the World Junior U-20 Championships.
Unfortunately for Behrens, a logjam of young and talented players is making up the Avs’ current defensive unit. Just twenty years old, Behrens can either return to the Pioneers or join the Eagles with hopes of being called up at some point in 2023.
The one catch to having the multi-talented forward from Russia join the Avalanche next season is that the team would have to buy out his contract from Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL.
The son of former NHL player Andrei Kovalenko, the twenty-three-year-old winger recorded 54 points in 56 games this season. A sixth-round pick in 2018, Kovalenko has the ability to not only play a finesse style but has shown he isn’t afraid to muck it up along the boards and crash the net.