The Avalanche’s impressive depth and skill on defense is bound to push legitimate NHL players out of the lineup. Colorado’s blue line is the best Erik Johnson has seen.
“What once was seen as a weakness, I think could be a strength for us,” Johnson said Thursday when veterans reported for training camp at the Pepsi Center. Johnson, the Avs’ top defenseman, is beginning his ninth season with the team.
He probably will continue to lead the team in ice time but probably won’t be forced to play as much due to the team’s depth.
The Avs acquired one new defenseman in the offseason, signing two-time Stanley Cup winner Ian Cole in free agency from Columbus. But they resigned Patrik Nemeth, Mark Barberio and Mark Alt and they welcomed back Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, David Warsofsky and second-year pros Sam Girard and Anton Lindholm.
“On paper, it looks great,” Barrie said of the Avs’ back end. “Hopefully it’s a bit of a nightmare for other teams. We’ve got a couple guys who can throw the body and a couple guys who can jump in the play.”
Barrie and Girard are the smaller, offensively gifted players who can carry the puck end-to-end, while the much bigger Cole, Nemeth and Zadorov primarily focus on the defensive end. Johnson is a versatile do-it-all defenseman and Barberio is a “poor-man’s” Johnson.
“In the past a lot of people have questioned our blue line. This year, there should be no questions,” Barrie said. “We’ve got some veterans back there mixed with some great young players. We kind of got it all. We’ve got some big guys, some smaller, faster guys — we’ve got guys who can do everything.”
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Rookie Conor Timmins was expected to compete for a spot on the blue line before concussion-like symptoms plagued his summer. Timmins, who turns 20 on Tuesday, has not been cleared for training camp and is considered week-to-week, coach Jared Bednar said.
Currently, the top six defensemen figure to be Johnson, Zadorov, Barrie, Cole, Nemeth and Girard. Barberio is on the outside looking in and Alt, Warsofsky and Lindholm will likely be pushed to the Colorado Eagles — the Avs’ new American Hockey League affiliate in Loveland — along with young defensive prospects Josh Anderson, Sergei Boikov, Mason Geertsen and Ryan Graves.
“We’re really deep …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Sports