There’s a different feeling this pre-season and it goes beyond the “younger, faster” mantra we’ve been hearing about for the last 6 months. As hopeful as we might have been going into previous years, after the weeks of practices and semi-meaningless games we ended up with a lineup that was predictable in hindsight, mainly based on experience. The illusion of competition was just that, spots went to the veteran players and roles/TOI were doled out beginning the year using that criteria. For once that appears to have changed, there is genuine competition.
As of today, there are 15 forwards plus the injured Joe Colborne, 10 defensemen plus the injured Sergei Boikov and the two goalies, who are set. The final round of cuts should come in the days following tomorrow’s pre-season finale in Sin City. Let’s take a look at what is still to be determined.
Starting with the players not only locked into the roster but also into roles, we have Mack/Mikko as a pair, Landy/Compher and probably Duchene/Yakupov in the top 9. The third player on each is a little foggy still. Sven Andrighetto has been with Mack/Mikko in two games but Tyson Jost took that spot on Monday night. Colin Wilson was with Landy/JTC in his first game back and it sounds like Coach Bednar likes the look of that as a trio. Alex Kerfoot has been with Dutch/Yak and looked good there. It looks like we have 4 guys fighting for 3 spots in the top 9. Pre-season stats are garbage and depend heavily on competition or lack thereof but this is what’s happened:
Kerfoot – 3 games, 2G/2A, CF 52.7%
Andrighetto – 2 games, 1G/1A, CF 79.5%
Tyson Jost – 2 games, 2A, CF 56.3%
Colin Wilson – 1 game, 1A, CF 19.2%
*CF is 5v5 and score adjusted, fwiw
They’re all scoring, Jost & Wilson’s points came 5v5 as well as half of the other two’s points, and possessing the puck other than Wilson’s SSS tire fire. File this under problems you’d like to have, but the Avs pretty much have to sit or bury someone that is productive. Wow!
In a separate group we have the 4th liners: Nieto, Soderberg, Comeau, Bourque and I guess AJ Greer fits in here for right now although he really doesn’t. At first glance it seems an easy choice to keep the first 4 for PK/grinder duties and send Greer to San Antonio where he can continue to develop his offensive presence and jump back into the top 9 group later in the year. I also have a feeling that Dominic Toninato, who was cut yesterday, would be the 1st callup if they need a PK/grinder/4th line replacement.
If the staff keep 14 forwards, and the evidence seems to indicate that they will, one of these fellows will be headed to San Antonio in the next few days. The other issue to be determined is how the 4 complementary top 9 guys will be used. Sven & Kerf do not look like they would be useful in the grinder role so it comes down to who gets the final spot, probably on the Landy/Compher line, and what do they do with the other fellow. Tyson Jost might be the odd man out here, which I’m sure they don’t want, so the question becomes can he be productive in a 4th line/2nd PP role and which of the grinders do they sit.
EJ, Barrie and Z will play every night and it looks like Z/EJ will be the top pair. Other than that they’re still playing with the pairs and matchups. Anton Lindholm returned from injury vs Dallas and was paired with Barrie. Although they got slaughtered in possession that’s a match I think the staff want to make work in the long term. That leaves the 3rd pairing which in all likelihood will be Mark Barberio and someone else. Still on the roster are Mironov, Bigras, Siemens, Warsofsky and Cowen. Tale of the tape:
Miro – 3 games, 1A, CF 59%
Bigras – 3 games, 2A, CF 65.7%
Duncan – 3 games, no points, CF 50%
Wars – 3 games, 1G/1A, CF 42.5%
Cowen – 3 games, no points, CF 41.0%
*CF is 5v5 and score adjusted
Just to quell your fears, I don’t think there’s any way Cowen makes the team. His usage indicates the staff isn’t sold on him at all and he hasn’t looked like an NHLer. Warsofsky has good offensive skills but struggles outside of the o-zone, especially without the puck. He’s something the Avs don’t need and San Antonio does, badly, so I put his chances of not being cut as low.
That leaves 3 guys fighting for 2 spots and it would be shocking if Miro was cut. He might be the 7D until he gets his English and his game on North American ice clicking but it’s been the assumption all along that he will be on the NHL roster from day 1. Duncan and Bigras have totally different styles so this could come down to what role the staff want rather than a straight up evaluation of skill. Bigras can score and contribute on the PP, Duncan can bring physical play and kill penalties. Of the two, Bigras has definitely shown better during camp and pre-season so I’d give him the edge here for now. I just get the feeling that Duncan will be the one they keep.
Prediction for Final Cuts:
Greer, Bigras, Warsofsky, Cowen
What say you, dear reader? Who gets cut and how do the Avs work out the top 9?