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The Weekly 5-on-5: Avalanche Rookies are going camping

Jesse Montano Avatar
September 12, 2022

I was getting ready to write this piece for the week, and was sitting there wracking my brain thinking “hmmm… what should the ‘theme’ be this week?”. Then I realized, the reason I love this piece so much is that… there is no theme! We’re just here to talk about what is going on with the Colorado Avalanche and around the league. 

With just days until Rookie Camps open around the league, things are ramping back up and we are getting back to the rink on Thursday (yay)!

With some actual news starting to pour in from around the hockey universe, let’s get into it. 

1. You get a PTO, you get a PTO, you get a PTO!

Whooo boy. Last week I wrote about the number of impact players still sitting on the open market waiting for either a new contract or Professional Tryout Offer. In the week since the PTOs have been flying. 

Zach Aston-Reese, Calvin de Haan, Cody Eakin, Nathan Beaulieu, and Danny Dekeyser all received PTOs in the seven days. 

I talked about it a week ago in the 5v5, it’s still so puzzling to me that these players are getting Tryouts and not actual contracts. Aston-Reese and de Haan in particular, in my opinion, are legitimate NHL players who would upgrade 95% of teams in the league. 

Now keep in mind, all of these guys are still technically UFAs, and it’s very possible (though it doesn’t happen often) another team could swoop in and get them signed before they show up to camp. Either way, I just don’t see any way that those names that I just listed don’t get contracts from somebody, they’re just too good.

Let’s look at Calvin de Haan.

That’s a quality defenseman. This is a guy that had the Avs not been able to bring Josh Manson, I thought de Haan would have been a really solid addition to Colorado’s backend in a bottom-pairing role.

So why is it that only the Carolina Hurricanes thought he has the potential to add something to their roster, and even then… they’re obviously still apprehensive and not quite ready to make the full commitment. 

My best guess is that GMs around the league are pinching pennies a little more than we’ve been used to in the past, and they are really drilling down on a player’s flaws before going out free-agent contracts. 

Continuing to use de Haan as the example, his play isn’t the question mark. It’s his health. 

Last season was his first in three years that saw the former #12 overall pick make it past 45 games, and in his age-31 season, you have to wonder if the body is going to really start to breakdown. Is this what scared teams off until the second week of September? If so, that’s a surprising change to the mindset of the NHL’s roster builders. 

2. The most intriguing team in Canada

I want to take a second to pause on the Calgary Flames because this group intrigues me maybe more than any other team in the NHL. The offseason starts with them losing *arguably* their best player for nothing when Johnny Gaudreau walked in free agency, and that was followed up the other player you could make an argument for, Matthew Tkachuk, saying he had no plans of re-signing in Calgary next summer when HIS deal expired. 

Pretty much the worst-case scenario for a team that has felt like they were on the verge of being true Stanley Cup contenders. 

Well obviously we all know what has happened since. The Flames flipped Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Johnathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, not exactly a couple of “nobodies”, and then added to it by finally striking a seven-year deal with Nazem Kadri.

The Flames suddenly have fantastic depth down the middle and a defensive core that ranks near the very top of the league, potentially behind only Colorado.

On paper, it’s hard not to say that they likely improved over last year’s roster. Will that translate onto the ice though? I think we can sometimes underestimate the impact that large changes can have, both good and bad. 

Two of the biggest leaders in that locker room, two faces of the franchise, just walked out. Who steps up in their place? Both Huberdeau and Kadri had massive career years last season, will they be able to produce to that same level, or at least in the ballpark?

I give Brad Treliving a massive amount of credit for being able to turn a disaster of an offseason into one where they could potentially come out ahead. Now it’s on the players to make it all worth it. If things click, I think this could be Colorado’s biggest threat out West.

3. Sergei Federov is a lunatic coach, and it works apparently

I remember once when I was probably 16 or 17, playing in a tournament that did five minutes of 3-on-3 OT, and if neither team scored, it was followed by three minutes of 2-on-2 OT.

There was a team from… somewhere in British Columbia, I don’t remember exactly (not important), and my team played them to a tie through regulation and the first overtime.

The opposing team won the face-off and skated the puck back behind their own net. Where they then proceeded to run the clock down for about two-and-a-half minutes.

It’s two on two, you can’t really take a ton of chances chasing someone behind the net, ya know? So, myself and my line-mate stood there, trying to figure out what it was they were doing, while also unsuccessfully making a case to the official to blow the play dead if they were just going to stand there. 

Sure enough, once the clock hit 30-seconds remaining, their goaltender sprinted to the bench while the puck carrier slowly started creeping out from behind the net. Then we realized, this was all to try and generate a quick 3-on-2 rush and maybe get a look or two with a man-advantage.

This team from BC did all of that just to miss the net twice and accomplish nothing as the clock wound down, and we ended up beating them in a shootout. Our whole team laughed so hard in the locker room after. You can’t do something like that and not be certain it’s going to work. 

Well, HHOFer and Head Coach of CSKA of the KHL, Sergei Federov sure looked like he was certain last week.

Can you believe that? Pulled him right away, and his team went to work for almost four minutes! It’s gutsy, big time. Even with the high success rate of a 4-on-3, all it takes is one missed pass and you are heading to the locker room looking really silly. 

I don’t think we see this in the NHL anytime soon, barring a situation where for seeding purposes at the very end of a season a team has to win before the shootout or something like that. 

It’s a high-wire act that fits in right at home in the KHL.

4. John Tortorella

Well, we’re a week from training camp and John Tortorella is already making headlines in his first season as the Head Coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Everyone can see what this is. The Flyers’ top brass didn’t hire Torts because they think he’s just that nice of a guy. I mean, I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but that’s not the point!

It is time for a shake-up in Philly, and they brought in the one guy who they know isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers and be honest. I’m not sure how successful of a season they’re going to have, but I do know this, that organization is going to have a much better idea of who they are and what direction they’re heading by the end of the season. 

5. Still plenty of talent out there

One last thing on the UFAs still out there. We saw plenty of them get scooped up last week and at the very least get some camp invites, and I’m just left wondering… has the league moved on from guys like Antoine Roussel and PK Subban? Guys who have been on the decline, but seem like they have hockey left in them.

It would be absolutely mind-blowing to see PK Subban, five-six years removed from being considered one of the best defensemen in the league (2015 Norris winner), to not even getting a camp invite in 2022. 


I was sitting here on Sunday night, thinking “well damn, pretty much everything I have on the Avs for this week is prospect related”. It makes sense, right? Rookie Camp opens on Thursday, the Prospect Tournament is this weekend and we finally got a look at the rosters for that. All fun, all exciting.

Then at the last second on Monday morning, the Avs threw me a bone. 

1. Evan Rodrigues

After literal MONTHS of speculation about what the Avalanche were going to do to fill the gap in their lineup left by Nazem Kadri, GM Chris MacFarland signed former Pittsburgh Penguin Evan Rodrigues to a one-year deal work $2M.

I love it.

To me, this is the EXACT type of move a contender makes in this situation. They needed to do something. I had been saying I thought they’d roll into the season and let Mikko Rantanen be that stop-gap at 2C while they ramped up Alex Newhook but bringing in Rodrigues just gives you a touch more flexibility throughout your lineup. 

He’ll start at 2C, I would imagine. This whole thing, in my eyes, is about giving your team a player that can pay up and down the lineup. You know, up on the second line to start the year, then down to the third line once you feel comfortable enough to have Newhook slide into that 2C role full-time (which I do think happens this year).

Is this the perfect pickup and a set-and-forget second-line center? No.

Does this accomplish exactly what the Avs needed it to while staying cost-effective enough to keep the team with a little cap flexibility? Yes, and that’s how you stay relevant in the salary-cap era.

2. Rookie Camp

The official start of the season, Rookie Camp is upon us.

This is going to be such an interesting year in terms of prospects for the Avs. They’re in their championship window, and I expect them to be going “all in” for the next several seasons. That means they’re going to be looking to identify the players from their system that they think can help them win another Cup in the next couple of years, and moving on from the ones who can’t. 

That typically involves trading players that may have a high upside, but are maybe still a few years away from being impact players in the NHL. 

A lot of your favorite prospects will likely be on the move in the next couple of seasons as the Avs try to add as much hardware to the trophy case as possible. We have truly shifted to a new era of Avalanche hockey. Quite different from the 2010s, eh?

3. Ben Meyers is the center of attention this week

I talked about him last week in this piece, but I just wanted to touch base on this again. 

Meyers is one of the guys that will be in Rookie Camp, that I don’t think the Avalanche will be looking to move at any point this season. The exact opposite, in fact.

Some of the folks I’ve spoken to, along with what DNVR’s AJ Haefele has heard, there are some sizable expectations for Myers. 

Nobody is expecting to him to go out there and be a top-six player on opening night, let’s not be ridiculous. I do, however, think the organization believes Meyers can be someone that is an impact player right away. Some scouts are very high on this kid and say he has the potential to surprise a lot of people. 

I want to see him POP this week. He’ll be playing and skating with a lot of guys who would be considered “fringe-NHLers” at best. Most of them will very much be prospects or AHLers. I want to see Meyers really stand out as more polished. Similar to the way Newhook stood out in Rookie Camp last year, even when Newhook looked somewhat flat, you could just tell he was the best player out there. 

Keep a close eye on Ben Meyers this week.  

4. Justus Annunen

Another guy that will be getting plenty of attention this week. An up-and-down year last season for Annunen, but finished on a high note (for him personally) with a really strong playoff performance. 

I’ve been told that, at least as of last season, the organization really believes in Annunen as having the potential to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. He’s got a long way to go, but they think the potential is there. 

We need to see a significant step this season though. His season started so strong last year, even earning the AHL Goaltender of the Month in November before earning his first call-up and getting his first NHL win.

After being sent back down, it was a battle for Justus. If he can come out this season and build on what he did to start last season, I think you can still be sold on him having the upside to take over at some point in the future. 

If it’s more up and down with no real consistency, it may be time to readjust expectations. 

5. Olausson expectations 

This is one I really don’t have much on, but I felt like I wanted to just drop a quick blurb on what we can expect from the skilled Swede. 

Oskar Olausson is going to be jumping into pro hockey this year and there’s quite a bit of buzz throughout the fan base that we’re going to see him push for an NHL roster spot. While I will NEVER rule anything out, the reality is that’s just not quite where Olausson is at yet. 

In last year’s preseason, Olausson impressed many with his shot. That release is NHL-ready. 

The rest of his game still needs some improvement though, before he can be a full-time NHL player. That’s not a bad thing. We’re talking about a 19-year-old kid here, who is trying to crack the lineup of the defending Stanley Cup Champions. There’s no rush at all. 

Olausson will be a rookie with the Eagles, and I think is going to show whether or not he’s got what it takes to take that next step at some point in his career. His shot is ready, now can the rest of it catch up?


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