Skip to content

A lack of depth played a big role in Colorado Avalanche’s 2023 series loss to the Seattle Kraken. Star power can only carry a team so far, and the Avalanche didn’t get enough from its bottom-six forwards to outlast Seattle. In seven games against the Kraken, every Colorado goal was scored or assisted by Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar or Devon Toews.

After its disappointing exit, Colorado shook up its depth players this offseason, bringing in Ross Colton and Miles Wood and saying goodbye to the likes of Alex Newhook, Matt Nieto and Lars Eller. A month out from training camp, the Avalanche have 10 forwards who, if healthy, will be in the opening night lineup: MacKinnon, Rantanen, Valeri Nichushkin, Artturi Lehkonen, Ryan Johansen, Colton, Wood, Logan O’Connor, Andrew Cogliano and Jonathan Drouin.

That leaves two spots open, at least for now. Colorado could also end up signing an additional free agent or two with its projected $2.025 million of remaining cap space. Whether that happens, there will be training camp battles for forward spots. Let’s examine who is in the mix.

2022-23 stats: 1 goal, 3 assists in 28 NHL games with Dallas; 5 goals, 9 assists in 37 AHL games with Texas

The 27-year-old Olofsson has only 28 regular-season NHL games to his name, but Dallas trusted him to enter its 2023 playoff lineup after Jamie Benn got suspended in the Vegas series. The Stars won both games Olofsson played, and he had five shots in his playoff debut, earning praise from coach Pete DeBoer. The Avalanche took note, too.

“I just felt like I was ready to make a difference and prove that I can make a difference, even in a high-pressure, high-level opponent situation,” Olofsson said in an interview this week. “If anything that’s given me more confidence going into this next year.”

The Avalanche acquired the rights to Olofsson after the season for future considerations and immediately signed him to a one-year, $775,000 contract. The trade initially came as a surprise to the Swedish forward, but after talking to his agent and management, he began to feel he might have a better opportunity to contribute in Colorado than he did in Dallas.

Before this past season, the former Chicago draft pick spent three years in Sweden, where he played center. His best statistical year came in 2021-22, when he had 42 points in 49 games for IK Oskarshamn. Avalanche scouts had positive reports on him over recent years, and the team views him as a versatile, two-way player who can fit in at center or wing. He’s in a position to battle for a lineup spot immediately.

“The way Colorado plays, the players they have, I think it fits me. I’m a two-way guy who can do anything,” Olofsson said. “I think my pace and my smarts will fit in great.”

Coming to Colorado is also a homecoming for Olofsson. Though born in Sweden, he moved frequently growing up for his father’s work and spent a chunk of his childhood in Broomfield, Colo., where he played for the Colorado Thunderbirds.

Fredrik Olofsson. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )

2022-23 stats: 4 goals, 0 assists in 39 NHL games with Colorado; 6 goals, 18 assists in 30 AHL games with Colorado

Meyers signed with Colorado in spring 2022 as a highly-touted college free agent out of Minnesota. He wasn’t ready to seize a consistent NHL role in his first full professional season but showed flashes late in the year. The NHL season is longer than the NCAA one and has more compact games, and Meyers admitted that was an adjustment.

“I look back at the start of the season, (and) I think I’m a much better player (than) then,” he said after the regular season.

In the postseason, Meyers was part of the struggling bottom-six group. He played in six games against the Kraken, averaging 5:30 of ice time per contest and posting zero points with a minus-two rating. He’s still only 24, though, and the Avalanche remain hopeful he can develop into a more consistent fourth-liner. He will be waivers exempt to start the year, so if he doesn’t earn a spot out of camp, Colorado can start him in the AHL without fear of another team claiming him.

2022-23 stats: 0 goals, 0 assists in 3 NHL games with Dallas; 19 goals, 16 assists in 63 AHL games with Texas.

Tufte’s huge frame immediately jumps out. The No. 25 pick in 2016 is 6-foot-6 and skates well for someone his size. Though he’s primarily played wing at the professional level, the Avalanche also believe there’s a chance he can slot in at center. Tufte said the Avalanche were one of the teams reaching out to him the most during free agency, and he likes that there’s an opportunity to seize a role in the bottom six.

“I’m really hard on the forecheck,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest things (the Avalanche) said to me: We always want the puck. We want guys tracking back. For me, I’m not going to be probably the fastest guy out there, but I’m going to be hard and physical.”

Tufte’s AHL numbers improved in each of the past few years. He and Olofsson were sometimes AHL linemates in the Stars organization, and he also trains with Meyers in the offseason. Now they’ll all be competing for NHL spots.

“Hopefully I can turn some heads and get some new eyes on me,” Tufte said of his mindset going into camp. “That’s all you need: One person to believe in you.”

Jean-Luc Foudy

2022-23 stats: 0 goals, 0 assists in 9 NHL games with Colorado; 11 goals, 25 assists in 46 AHL games with Colorado

The 21-year-old Foudy was having a strong AHL season, earning a selection to the league’s All-Star Game. But injuries derailed the latter part of his season. If he’s healthy and back to his midseason level, he could contend for a spot, but he might end up needing time to get his conditioning back after being out. That will be worth monitoring during training camp.

Oskar Olausson

2022-23 stats: 0 goals, 0 assists in 1 NHL game with Colorado; 11 goals, 9 assists in 63 AHL games with Colorado

As Colorado’s first-round pick in 2021, Olausson has skills that other borderline players do not. That could end up separating him in training camp. Whether he makes the team could come down to other elements of his game such as winning battles and playing sound defense. He’s only 20 and might need more time to develop at the AHL level.

(Top photo of Ben Meyers: Ric Tapia / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

[ad_2]

https://theathletic.com/4785592/2023/08/18/avalanche-fredrik-olofsson-ben-meyers/?amp=1