NHL

Fantasy Preview: Colorado Avalanche

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Scott Cullen
9/17/2013 1:05:20 PM
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The Colorado Avalanche have no shortage of viable fantasy forwards. The question is how many minutes will be available to them and can any of their defence or goaltending provide value?

Top Picks: Following a down year in 2011-2012, Matt Duchene rebounded with his highest points-per-game (0.91) of his career, playing a career-high 20:55 per game. Among all the skilled young forwards in Colorado, he's the best bet to lead the scoring race in 2013-2014.

Colorado's 20-year-old captain, Gabriel Landeskog, wasn't as productive in his second season, but his peripheral numbers (shots on goal and hits) alone make him a quality No. 2 left wing option. If he would score on more than 8.2% of his shots on goal (his career rate), then his offensive totals could take off.

Value Plays: PA Parenteau proved last season that he's more than just a product of playing on John Tavares' wing. The late bloomer has 163 points in three seasons since becoming a full-time NHLer. That's good enough for 31st in the league in scoring over that time. If not for a run of minus ratings, he'd be even more valuable than a No. 3 RW, though he's a high-end option in that respect if your league rewards penalty minutes.

A three-time 70-point scorer, Paul Stastny's points per game has steadily declined, to a career-low 0.60 points per game last season, so even though he plays 19 minutes per game, he's being used in more of a two-way role. So keep offensive expectations in check.

After a protracted contract negotiation last season, Ryan O'Reilly still finished with a career-best 0.69 points per game and he's going to shift to left wing this season to make room for Nathan MacKinnon at centre. That move could put O'Reilly in a more offensive position, allowing him to continue increasing his scoring output.

33-year-old Alex Tanguay returns to Colorado and he's no longer the point-per-game threat that he was when he left as a much younger man, but he's a skilled two-way player who can score enough to have value in deep leagues.

LW Jamie McGinn has 19 goals and 35 points in 64 games since arriving in Colorado, and he plays a physical game, so his hit totals help too, but he's likely starting the year on the third line. Even if it's a good third line, that could limit his offensive upside enough to keep him a waiver wire candidate in anything but the deepest leagues.

Sleepers/Breakthrough: Surely the Avalanche had higher hopes for Semyon Varlamov than the .909 save percentage he's provided in 88 games over two seasons, but he still has appeal because he's the starting goaltender for a team that has some potential to be competitive.

The story of the Avalanche defence is that they don't provide much offence, so any options on the blueline are going to be speculative plays. Tyson Barrie might be the best choice, as he's put up 13 points in 42 NHL games as well as 61 points in 87 AHL games in two pro seasons. In a full season, he could put up 30-plus.

An agitator who is skilled enough to contribute offensively, Steve Downie played just two games before suffering a torn ACL last season and he may not be ready for the start of the 2013-2014 season, but for leagues that count penalty minutes, he's a rare commodity -- one of three players since 2009-2010 to score at least 45 goals while accumulating at least 500 penalty minutes.

Rookies: It's not like the Colorado Avalanche needed to improve at centre, but when they deemed Nathan MacKinnon to be the best prospect in the 2013 Draft, he was their pick at No. 1 and is set to open the season as the No. 3 centre.

There seems little doubt that MacKinnon is ready to play in the NHL, but how much ice time he receives, with Duchene and Stastny ahead of him on the depth chart, could have a limiting effect on his overall production. As an upside play, though, he's worth a try as a low-end No. 3 or good No. 4 centre for fantasy owners.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Avalanche celebrate (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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