Colorado Avalanche season preview: The Central Division is too strong for the Avs

If Nathan MacKinnon returns to his rookie form, the Avalanche will have lethal top-six forwards. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Plus: The Colorado Avalanche have a potent mix of forwards that can put the puck in the net. They were the only team in the NHL last season that boasted five forwards with 50 or more points. One of those forwards, Ryan O’Reilly, was shipped to the Buffalo Sabres in a five-player trade this offseason, but the Avs received Nikita Zadorov in return, and he gives the Avalanche a defenseman with a lot of potential on the backend.

Minus: Colorado converted on 15 percent of their power play opportunities last season. That was good for second-to-last in the NHL last year ahead of the Buffalo Sabres. Matt Duchene, who is supposed to put up plenty of points for Colorado, finished with six points on the power play last year, the same amount of power play points as depth blue liner Zach Redmond, who appeared in only 59 games for the Avalanche. 

X-Factor: Nathan MacKinnon

MacKinnon took the league by storm in his rookie year in 2013-14 with 24 goals and 63 points in 82 games. He ultimately won the Calder Trophy with an overwhelming 98.32 percent of the total votes. This past season, MacKinnon finished with 14 goals and 38 points in 64 games. MacKinnon’s shooting percentage dipped from an impressive 10 percent in his rookie season to a more pedestrian 7.3 percent. Can MacKinnon return to that high-flying rookie form? If he does, he will help out the Avalanche immensely.

Prediction: In an absolutely brutal Central Division, the Avalanche will find themselves on the outside looking in in the playoff picture. The defensive unit still has too much to prove, and the bottom-six forwards simply can’t match the depth of the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks or St. Louis Blues.