The Dallas guys
There are actually four of these guys that the Avs signed away from the Stars this offseason (Tanner Kero, the fourth, is on an AHL contract) but each of Joel Kiviranta, Fredrik Olofsson and Riley Tufte had great moments in this. Kiviranta and Tufte each scored goals but it was the way the trio played together that really stood out.
While Colorado’s top line tonight of Miles Wood, Ross Colton and Tomas Tatar is certainly more naturally gifted, you could tell which line had spent time playing together before and which was still figuring it out.
Olofsson was probably the best of the three in my book because of his all-around play as he played with physicality, added a little offense (he assisted on Kiviranta’s goal) and looked really good at points on the penalty kill. Throw in that he did it all while playing center, easily Colorado’s weakest position of depth among the forward corps, and he stood out to me the most but all three were pretty good overall.
I loved Clurman’s game today. I thought his physicality was notable and he was significantly more active in the offensive zone than I would have ever expected from a player who never scored 10 points in a season in his entire college career and had just 15 last year in the AHL.
It’s not his calling card, which has long kept him on the outside looking in at Colorado’s NHL roster math for me, but seeing him activating today and being willing to get aggressive like that has me wondering if he could take advantage of the weaker blue line depth and sneak in a call-up at some point this year.
Not a player I was familiar with at all coming into this training camp, the Avalanche clearly have seen something they’ve liked because they had him paired alongside Josh Manson all three days of camp and then gave him all-situation minutes today.
He doesn’t look like a natural fit on the power play so I’m not going to make too much of that but the rest of his game looked solid to me. He was effective with the puck and did a good job of getting it out of his zone when he had chances. Preseason games are defined by being mistake-filled messes (for obvious reasons) and Schueneman appeared to me to play a safe and steady game.
We don’t know Colorado’s plans for keeping a seventh defenseman but I liked enough of what I saw today to hope that he gets another preseason game to state his case, even if it is a longshot.
Another PTO guy, I really liked Kozun’s game today. He played with the kind of speed the Avs are always looking for but also didn’t shy away from any of the rough stuff and put his head down and went hard to the net when he had the puck.
Overall it was an encouraging performance. I’m not sure I’d be signing him ahead of Kiviranta, but if he was willing to do an AHL deal, I think that could be a good fit for him. I liked what he had to give in this game.
Now this is the fun version of Wood that Avalanche fans are going to really love. He showcased that blazing trademark speed of his and made life difficult for the Wild players. He was involved in a handful of scoring chances but couldn’t finish them off, which is something Avalanche fans should get used to because it happens a lot.
This was all of the good stuff that Wood has to bring to the table. When he has games like this, he’s going to be a fan favorite, full-stop.
Three penalties and some really hit-and-miss play running the top power unit leave me wanting a bit more in this game. He didn’t activate with his feet as often as you’d expect given his profile and that could have easily been nerves for his first game and a lot of pressure on his shoulders right now.
As far as “duds” go, this could have gone much worse but he’s a guy we’ve spent a lot of time talking about so far and he struggled a bit out of the game. I did like his defensive work, which is going to be a key for him, but the things that make him Sam Malinski were a little more lacking than I’d have liked. Hopefully, he will calm down and settle in if he gets another preseason game, which he definitely should.
Colorado’s “top” line
The trio of Wood, Colton and Tatar was easily the most talented group of established NHL talent in the game on either team and yet they didn’t accomplish a whole lot. Wood had the best individual game and I thought Colton had some fun moments, but overall it would have been nice to see a little more from them.
It’s not a huge deal and exactly what I was advocating for yesterday when I wrote and talked on the podcast about this line needing a little time to find their chemistry and work out some of the kinks because the group isn’t a natural fit on paper.
They should definitely get another game as a group to try to smooth out some of the rougher edges.
This is mostly just hilarious to me because we know Johnson knows his own limitations and keeps within the confines of his “keep it simple” approach to the game now so seeing him wild out a bit in this one was very entertaining. He was trying to shimmy shake with the puck inside the offensive zone, tried spinning a guy away from him, and jumped into the offense with the intention of creating some chances.
None of those are things we’ll see from Jack Johnson when the season begins, but for tonight I found it very fun and loved that he would cut loose while he felt comfortable doing so.
He’s auditioning for Colorado’s backup job right now and I’d say he did plenty well for himself in his first outing. He only gave up one goal and the primary culprit there was a broken PK coverage by Clurman that left a shooter in the middle of the ice just three or so feet from the net. It’s fine to give that one up.
Annunen looked calm and in control throughout the game and it had to inspire some confidence that he’s the man for the job. I won’t be surprised if the Avs still explore veteran backup options, but Annunen at least controlled what he could today in giving the front office something additional to think about.