Avalanche training camp: Five burning questions as 2021-22 season approaches – The Denver Post

The Avalanche, once again the Stanley Cup preseason favorite, begins its 26th training camp Wednesday with physicals and testing at Ball Arena. On-ice sessions begin Thursday at Family Sports Center under pre-COVID conditions, with media and fans welcome to watch two sessions beginning at 8:45 and 11 a.m. through Saturday.

The camp concludes Monday and Colorado’s preseason opener is Tuesday at the Vegas Golden Knights.

Five burning questions heading into Avs camp

1. Where will 2019 first-round draft picks Bo Byram and Alex Newhook fit in?

The 20-year old Canadians and teammates at the 2021 World Junior Championship should build off their brief NHL stints from 2021.

Byram, who was limited to 19 regular-season games with the Avs because of injuries, might begin on the second pairing with Sam Girard or the third with newcomer Ryan Murray, who is replacing Ryan Graves. Byram could also start as an extra defenseman and slot in when injuries unfold. He is not a likely candidate to play for the Eagles.

Newhook, who played in six NHL regular-season games and eight in the playoffs after his sophomore season at Boston College, will probably be the left winger on the second or third line — effectively replacing Brandon Saad. Newhook could also see time at center, his natural position, if Tyson Jost is moved to left wing or is injured.

2. Who is the Avalanche’s No. 1 goalie?

Newcomer Darcy Kuemper, who was acquired in a trade with Arizona after Philipp Grubauer signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the expansion Seattle Kraken, will compete with Pavel Francouz, who missed all of 2021 after undergoing hip surgery.

Look for the Avs to equally balance starts and playing time for Kuemper and Francouz through the six preseason games before naming the opening-night starter. Colorado has four other goalies under contract, including Jonas Johansson, who had a 2.06 goals-against average in eight 2021 appearances after begin acquired from Buffalo ahead of the trade deadline.

3. What should fans expect to see from newcomer Kurtis MacDermid, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound enforcer?

Yes, the high-flying Avs have gone back to using a heavyweight enforcer. MacDermid, 27, had 14 fighting majors in 118 career games with the Los Angeles Kings, plus another 26 for the Kings’ AHL affiliate since 2014-15. He’s a left-shot defenseman whom the Avs could use as a fourth-line forward, and he will serve as a deterrent for a club that lacked that player since Cody McLeod was traded to Nashville in 2017.

4. What newcomer might make the biggest impact?

The Avs hope it’s Kuemper to solidify the game’s most important position, but MacDermid will have an impact by just being in the lineup and forwards Darren Helm and Mikhail Maltsev step in for a rebuilt fourth line. Also, Murray — the No. 2 pick of the 2012 draft — could become more than a third-pair defenseman.

Kuemper, MacDermid and Maltsev were acquired in offseason trades. Helm and Murray were free-agent additions. The other newcomers looking to impress the club include forwards Stefan Matteau, Andreas Wingerli and Dylan Sikura, and defensemen Jordan Gross and Roland McKeown.

5. Will forward Artem Anisimov and defenseman Jack Johnson have much of a chance to make the team out of professional tryout contracts?

If these veterans test well off-ice Wednesday they will be given adequate time to prove themselves in the ensuing on-ice sessions. However, they are still long shots in a young man’s game.

Anisimov, 33, is a four-time 20-goal scorer with Columbus and Chicago, and he’s reached 15 goals in eight of his 12 seasons in the league. He scored just two goals in 19 games with Ottawa in 2021.

Johnson, 34, was bought out of the last three years of his contract by Pittsburgh a year ago and played just 13 games for the New York Rangers in 2021 before undergoing core muscle surgery. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 draft has a window of opportunity with Colorado having just 14 defensemen under regular contracts, and he could add depth if he’s willing to play for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles.

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