GDHQNHL15_2pg-Colorado Avalanche 1

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Colorado AVALANCHE WESTERN CONFERENCE Key Acquisitions: C Daniel Briere, RW Jerome Iginla, RW Jesse Winchester, D Brad Stuart Key Losses: C Paul Stastny, RW P.A. Parenteau, D Matt Hunwick, G Jean-Sebastien Giguere Strengths: Multiple elite-level forwards and a Vezina-caliber goaltender lead the way. Weaknesses: Penalty kill strategy needs to improve. Offense What is a team to do that loses their No. 1 center in free agency? The Avalanche answered this loss by bringing in a surefire Hall of Famer in RW Jarome Iginla. The 37-year-old was brought in to provide veteran leadership and playoff experience after a year with the Boston Bruins in which he scored 61 points (30 goals, 31 assists). The Avalanche are hoping that he can continue to play at an elite level after giving him a 3-year, $16 million deal this offseason. Even with the loss of Paul Stastny, the cupboard isn’t bare in the Colorado lineup. The Avalanche top-four point producers from last season were all 23 and under. Patrick Roy’s team is centered around young forwards C Matt Duchene (23 goals, 47 assists), LW Gabriel Landeskog (26 goals, 39 assists), RW Ryan O’Reilly (28 goals, 36 assists) and rookie sensation C Nathan MacKinnon (24 goals, 39 assists). The 2013 first-overall draft pick MacKinnon made the leap to the NHL without any time in the minors, an impressive feat for any player, especially a now 19-year-old straight out of junior hockey. Even with a big year last season, the second-year player was out of position on the wing in his rookie campaign. Colorado is looking for more production out of MacKinnon now that he is returning to his natural center position. In Duchene and Landeskog, the Avalanche has a young leadership group that’s hungry to win. In his first taste of playoff hockey, Landeskog compiled three goals in the series against Minnesota. Duchene played only two games this past playoff year, but he registered three points in those contests. It was a learning process for these young players, but they will surely use the experience they have gained to try and lead their Defense Erik Johnson is the ox that makes this defensive plow move. His defensive play has steadily improved over the last few seasons and has culminated in a career high plus/minus of +5 in 2013-14. He also tied a career high in points, with 39, and set a new career high in assists as he had a hand in 30 goals last season. The Avalanche management is hoping these are the first steps of Johnson moving towards fulfilling the promise of being a former first-overall pick. The big move on defense this offseason was bringing in free-agent import Brad Stuart over from the San Jose Sharks. Executive vice president and general manager Joe Sakic described Stuart as “a proven, CENTRAL DIVISION Semyon Varlamov Bruce Kluckhohn/NHL/Getty Images


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