Youth is no longer an excuse for the Colorado Avalanche.
Stocked with high draft picks, the Avs are entering a period where young players are no longer prospects that the organization will patiently coddle. This season marks a point where youngsters will be counted on to deliver, and the jump starts with Matt Duchene and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Both Duchene and Landeskog recently signed lengthy extensions with the Avs; Duchene for 5 years worth $30 million and Ladeskog for 7 years, $39 million. The youngsters have been introduced to big money.
Entering his fifth season in the NHL, Duchene, 22, is now heading into what the Avalanche expect to be be the prime of his career. Duchene, the third pick in the 2009 draft, has had ups and downs since entering the NHL but seemed to elevate his game last season. While only playing 47 due to the lockout, Duchene proved to be stronger on his skates than in past years, which showed in his puck control on the offensive end and was a factor against opposing players in his own end.
Duchene racked up 17 goals and 43 points last season, and the Avalanche will need him to further progress his consistency next season. Colorado will need him to come close to a scoring at least a point per game and be a leading offensive force, much like the 2009 first overall pick John Tavares is for the New York Islanders. Duchene will get a glorious opportunity to put points on the board since head coach Patrick Roy announced Duchene will be the team’s first line center, playing on a line with P.A. Parenteau and Ryan O’Reilly. Duchene and Parenteau showed great chemistry playing on the same line last season, and another year of experience should bode well for the Avs.
Landeskog, 20, is the youngest captain in the NHL and second youngest to be appointed captain in NHL history. With the captaincy, he’ll not only be expected to lead a young team, but grow up fast himself. Physically, Landeskog has proven he belongs in the NHL. He invites physical play and hasn’t looked like a boy playing a man’s game, a problem many young professional athletes faces when arriving at the highest level of competition. After a disappointing season where he only scored nine goals and 17 points in 36 games, the Avs will need Landeskog to provide a more consistent offensive punch this season while playing on the second line with Paul Stastny and the newly acquired Alex Tanguay.
The Avs should be expecting immediate and significant contributions from their newly extended forwards, and locking them up for the future was simply a smart move on behalf of the Avalanche management. With contract discussions out of the way Duchene and Landeskog can now focus on the ice.