The Avs dropped their 3rd pre-season game out of 4 last night to a Dallas squad that was pretty much on the same level or below talent-wise. A great 1st period turned into a long downhill slide where most guys ran out of gas around the middle of the 2nd. Ty Lewis scored the lone goal on the PP with assists from Vlad Kamenev and Martin Kaut.
For me, this is where training camp ends and the real pre-season begins. The last two games will be vet-heavy and some cuts today will get the roster down to maybe 4 or 5 extras. Since the last 2 games went sans video I’m going to look at all 4 as a whole and sum up what we’ve learned so far.
Battle for Defenseman Spots
Ryan Graves is the only player to appear in all 4 and Mark Alt the only other D to play more than 2. This is the competition for perhaps the 8th defenseman spot if they choose to go that route or the regime for early callups. Anton Lindholm was probably in this mix but he was bad in the 1.1 games he dressed for then got injured as usual. His time of relevance in the org has drawn to a close.
Between Graves and Alt the competition really isn’t close. Graves has had much better shot metrics and despite exactly the same on-ice save percentages has been on the ice for far fewer goals. Individually, Graves has produced much more offense despite Alt having a ton of PP time and easier zone starts. Since neither will play if they are kept on the Avs I wouldn’t be surprised if Alt sticks around over Graves but that won’t be an indication of the better player.
Battle for Forward Spots
Four forwards played in 3 out of the 4 games and they represent the chase for the final spot on the roster. None are vets or waiver eligible so it wouldn’t make any sense to keep two unless injuries dictate. Kaut, O’Connor, Kamenev and Dries all had their moments and will make for a solid young bunch of extras in the early season.
Going by on-ice numbers, Kamenev is the clear winner here. He and Kaut got tougher competition and were used in all types of situations 5v5 while Dries and O’Connor deployed offensively and had high PDOs. Kam was also the only one that broke over the low-event horizon and exhibited NHL game pace. All but O’Connor saw plenty of power play time and all but Kaut played PK as well. Right this second, I would vaguely rank them Kamenev, Dries, O’Connor then Kaut in overall versatility and effectiveness.
Even though I only saw Kaut for one game by eye, I did like what I saw. He’s got loads of potential but the strength and endurance isn’t there yet and that’s an easy fix. Over the next 3 or 4 months I’m looking forward to him getting more comfortable in the Avs systems and getting used to the speed and lack of space in the North American game. I think it’s entirely possible we see him with the Avs for a few games in the late season looking like a totally different player.
A note on the one PTO in camp, Cody Bass. I have no idea why the Avs would invite a player like this and dress him in 2 pre-season games but it is what it is. He had the worst shot metrics on the team and it’s not even close. Plenty of evidence he made his linemates worse as well, which guys battling for spots like Dominic Toninato and AJ Greer sure didn’t need and held back rookies Igor Shvyrev and Ty Lewis last night.
I’m giving a shoutout to those two rookies, Shvyrev and Lewis, they showed pretty well. Both played 2 games and although used sparingly made impressions on the staff and fans. Coach Bednar singled out Lewis in his presser last night as a guy that he liked and has high hopes for going forward. Along with Kaut there’s a lot of potential upside as they learn and grow with the Eagles this season. That kind of growth is what wins AHL games in the 2nd half of the season and something that’s been completely absent from Avs affiliates for as long as anyone can remember. Throw down your 60 bucks to watch these guys, it’s worth it.
The games this weekend on Friday vs the Wilds and Sunday in Dallas are get-serious time. The Avs haven’t been scoring or playing at NHL pace with the lineups in games 1-4 so it’s time to find high gear for opening night a week from now.