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2014-2015 Season Player Preview: Ryan O’Reilly

July 28th, 2014 at 2:32 PM
By Corey Dunkin

It was a bit of long wait to be able to preview the upcoming season for Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly. For almost three months since the Avalanche had their last campaign cut short, O'Reilly was not under contract with Colorado, and until that changed, it was not reasonable to project his role for the 2014-15 season. Now that O'Reilly is officially back in the fold, we can examine his career thus far and see where he fits in now. 

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The way O'Reilly first entered the league was highly unusual. He was a second round draft choice (33rd overall) by Colorado in the 2009 NHL Draft, and he made the Avalanche roster that same year. Players not drafted in the first round immediately making the opening day roster for the team that drafted them is almost unheard of, but O'Reilly did it. That was the year that Colorado took Matt Duchene with the 3rd overall pick. 30 picks later, the Avalanche struck gold and found another NHL ready player who has since proven himself to be a talent equal to Duchene. 

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2014-2015 Season Player Preview: Semyon Varlamov

July 25th, 2014 at 7:27 PM
By Corey Dunkin

Last season was a genuine breakout campaign for Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov. He silenced all the doubters by posting a career high .927 save percentage while facing more shots than any other goalie in the NHL, recording a franchise-record 41 wins, and being nominated for the Vezina Trophy. At the end of January, the Avalanche rewarded Varlamov with a five year extension that will keep him around through the 2018-2019 season.

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Since entering the NHL with the Washington Capitals in 2009, Varlamov has shown high level talent, although he, like all upstart players, was a bit raw in his early years. In the summer of 2011, Colorado was in the market for goaltenders, and Washington had several young goalies, all of whom they could not keep and develop. The Avalanche had their minds made up that Varlamov was the guy they wanted, and the Capitals decided they were willing to trade him for a first round pick in the 2012 Draft. Since then, Varlamov has proven that the trade that brought him to Colorado was a extremely good move for the Avalanche. 

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Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado Avalanche Finally Agree to Terms and Avoid Arbitration

July 23rd, 2014 at 2:48 PM
By Corey Dunkin

In mid June, the Colorado Avalanche announced that they would arrange for a salary arbitration hearing with restricted free agent Ryan O'Reilly, as the team and O'Reilly's agent had been unable to agree on an extension for the talented forward. Now, almost a month and a half later, the Avalanche and O'Reilly have come to terms in advance of the arbitration hearing, meaning it will not be needed. O'Reilly has signed a two-year contract, the financial terms for which were not announced, although TSN's Darren Dreger has reported that the deal is for $12 million over the two years, although that cannot be conclusively confirmed. 

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The respective fates of Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stastny this offseason were in considerable doubt in May and June. The Avalanche had said that they wanted to keep both players and would make every effort to do so. On the first day of free agency, however, Stastny, an unrestricted free agent, split for the St. Louis Blues. Most people then assumed that with Stastny already gone, there was no way the team would fail to retain O'Reilly. Yet the days and weeks went on, arbitration drawing nearer, and there was no inclination that a deal was forthcoming. Now this issue can be put to bed. 

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The Colorado Avalanche Announce the Addition of an ECHL Affiliate, the Fort Wayne Komets

July 22nd, 2014 at 5:40 PM
By Corey Dunkin

The family of hockey teams affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche got a little bigger on Tuesday, as the Avalanche and the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets have announced a new affiliation agreement. Colorado now has affiliate teams in three minor leagues: The AHL's Lake Erie Monsters, the aforementioned Komets, and the CHL's Denver Cutthroats. The addition of the Komets to the group completes a line of affiliations through all levels of professional hockey, as they moved up from the CHL to the ECHL just two years ago, after having won the CHL Championship in their final year as a member of that league.

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The Avalanche themselves represent the highest level of pro hockey, the NHL. The Lake Erie monsters are at the next level down, the AHL (American Hockey League). The level below that is the ECHL (formerly East Coast Hockey League, now the name is not an abbreviation of anything), and the Komets are at that level. The Denver Cutthroats are at the lowest level in the CHL (Central Hockey League). 

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2014-2015 Season Player Preview: Matt Duchene

July 18th, 2014 at 7:57 PM
By Corey Dunkin

At the forefront of the Colorado Avalanche's core of young stars is center Matt Duchene, who was the first of those core players to be brought to the Avalanche when he was drafted 3rd overall in 2009. He is coming off a season where he had a career high 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) in only 71 games. Over the last two seasons, Duchene has been nearly a point-per-game player, producing 113 points in 118 games. If he continues to improve, the offensive frontman for Colorado could have a 30-goal season next year. 

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Duchene spearheads a group of extremely talented forwards, some of them young like himself, Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon, and a couple of still very capable veterans in Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay. With that group forming the top-6 for Colorado, it's about time they had a 30-goal scorer, something the Avalanche have not had since Milan Hejduk had 35 in 2006-2007. In fact, it would not be terribly surprising if Colorado has more than one 30-goal scorer next season. For Duchene, it's the next logical step in his career trajectory to eclipse 30 goals in a season. But one might wonder if that depends on which line Duchene centers as much as it depends on his continued progress as a player. 

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