Welcome to the latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. Each day, we will take a look at a new team and examine three of their potential breakout or bounce-back players. These players have the chance to make a serious difference with their teams this upcoming season. These players can be new faces or familiar ones looking to have a strong return to form. Each day we will be looking at a different team! Today we will take a look at the potential 2020-21 Colorado Avalanche key players.
2020-21 Colorado Avalanche Candidates
Tyson Jost probably has only one more season in Colorado to prove himself. It’s good then, that he has the best surrounding team of his still-young career. The former 10th overall selection from 2016 probably starts the year next to J.T. Compher and Joonas Donskoi.
That is a quality third line with plenty of utility and upside. That trio did not play or produce much together last year, but the top-nine shifted so often due to injuries and new faces. Things should be much more stable and give Jost, who is still just 22 years old, an appropriate opportunity to excel.
Some of his underlying numbers support a potential breakout going into the coming season. Jost’s Corsi For jumped from 48.3 in 2018-19 to 51.6 in 2019-20. That is despite a higher percentage of defensive zone starts than the previous two seasons. His relative Corsi also improved from -1.6 to just -.1, meaning he was basically neutral on team offence when skating.
Just doing a better job helping control the puck is going to be huge. It’s also promising that his expected goals per 60 minutes according to Evolving Hockey were .81 compared to .56 actual goals. It isn’t hard to imagine some better luck leading to a new high in multiple categories.
Compher doesn’t have the same statistical backing for a breakout as Jost, but he still seems like a solid candidate for such a thing. No major numbers jumped in 2019-20, but nothing got seriously worse either. Compher’s case is simply one of steady play with the same linemates leading to a sort of boom.
He already handles a solid chunk of faceoffs and defensive zone starts. The team probably gives him the same amount of time with the second power-play unit as well.
It is highly likely that if Jost breaks through, Compher benefits from being either Jost’s centre or wingmate. They are basically at the same point in their careers games-wise. Compher is two years older, but has only 15 more career games.
He’s just over the threshold where if any breakout is coming, it will happen now. Fans shouldn’t be expecting 50 or more points, but a new career-high of 35-40 certainly qualifies as a huge jump for the 35th pick in 2013.
Colorado is so stacked and so many players did well in 2019-20, that Erik Johnson is one of the very few that didn’t excel last year. However, that could definitely turn around given a few key numbers. His shooting percentage dropped to 3.0, but his career mark as an Av is 4.9.
The veteran is also one of the few skaters on the team that had a higher expected goals per 60 minutes than actual, same as Jost. The final number of note is points-per-game, which fell from .31 in 2018-19 to .27. That is trivial when you consider he was hurt for a period of time and that the season ended early.
Now, Johnson is not going to get much time on the power-play unit. Nor is he going to receive sheltered minutes in the offensive zone. However, the Avalanche added Devon Toews in the offseason.
That move might push Samuel Girard down the depth chart and into a role where he takes over some of the tough minutes Johnson was seeing. Merely finding a way to lessen the amount of time killing penalties could get the first overall pick from 2006 back into more familiar 25-point territory.in