Every Friday during the offseason, Gazette beat writer Kyle Fredrickson will take you around the NHL and inside the Avalanche.
What they said
“Georgiev, for me and our staff, we all view it very similar. This is a guy that has been on an incline in his game here for the last few seasons. With the emergence of (Igor) Shesterkin in New York, he finds himself looking for a starting position. We have one that’s available or at least up for grabs.” — Avalanche coach Jared Bednar on the trade addition of Rangers backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev.
What I’m thinking
— Hockey is back, folks. The Avalanche started training camp Thursday with a pair of two-hour sessions at the Family Sports Center. Remember, these practices are open to the public. Head down to Centennial on Friday or Saturday for a (free) look at the Stanley Cup champions. A truly unique fan experience.
— Avs training camp is split between two groups: veterans and roster hopefuls.
— Veterans had a lighter practice with foundational drill work. After all, it’s been less than three months since Colorado’s run to the championship. Their early focus is building chemistry with prominent newcomers on the roster. There are also top-six forward roles up for grabs.
— Roster hopefuls went through a more intensive practice that ended with conditioning. Many players were visibly exhausted after each skate up and down the ice. It was a good test to see which guys were already in elite shape and others that were lagging.
— A few prominent Avalanche players were unavailable to begin training camp because of injuries: Darren Helm (lower body), Gabe Landeskog (lower body) and Val Nichushkin (lower body). Josh Manson was absent due to family obligations.
— Bednar was pleased after the first training camp practice: “I wanted it to feel like our guys — Group 1 especially — that we were getting right back into practice and getting prepared to play tomorrow or the next day. I don’t want this to feel like a long grind. … Lots of teaching, slowing it down and making sure the details are right,” he said.
What I’m reading
Global conflict. Russia’s war on Ukraine is impacting the NHL. Russian-born players from the Predators and Sharks, with two October regular season games scheduled in Prague, are not welcome into the Czech Republic (per ESPN).
Coaching carousel. The Avalanche should be especially pleased to have coaching consistency with Bednar behind the bench. There have been 13 NHL head coaching changes since the start of last season (per The Athletic).
Zdeno Chara, P.K. Subban and Keith Yandle have all announced their respective retirements.Incredible careers 👏 pic.twitter.com/v3zGXwT6xt— ESPN (@espn) September 20, 2022
— Tip your glass to a trio of highly respected NHL defensemen who all retired this week: Zdeno Chara, P.K. Subban and Keith Yandle. Chara played 22 seasons with four different teams. Subban won the 2012-13 Norris Trophy. Yandle is the league’s all-time leader in consecutive games played (989). All legends in their own right.
— You’ve got to feel bad for Golden Knights forward Nolan Patrick. The former No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft will not play this season, Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon told reporters Thursday. Patrick has suffered from a migraine disorder that has limited him to just 77 games over the past two seasons. Let’s all hope that Avs’ defenseman Bowen Byram is over his concussion issues.
What’s on tap
Avalanche training camp (Family Sports Center)
Friday — Group 1 on ice: 8:45 to 10:15 a.m. Group 2 on ice: 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Saturday — Group 1 on ice: 8:45 to 10:15 a.m. Group 2 on ice: 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday — Preseason home opener against Vegas Golden Knights at Ball Arena (7 p.m.)
Alexandar Georgiev has the confident bravado reminiscent of a young Patrick Roy.
Don’t believe me? Go inside the Avalanche locker room Thursday after the team’s first training camp practice. Listen to his response to the following question: What are your biggest strengths as a goalie?
Georgiev: “I would say that I’m a really fast goalie side to side. I read the game well. Good reaction. A really good skater. I could keep going. But I think you’ll see me on the ice soon enough.”
You’ve just gotta love it.
The new goaltender in town (teammates and coaches call him “Georgie”) isn’t afraid to speak his mind. A reporter’s dream. Georgiev enters his first season in Colorado well aware of the expectations tied to his three-year, $10.2-million contract. He needs to be the starter.
“I’ve always wanted to become the number one guy,” Georgiev said. “So, this is a big opportunity for me. I’m really grateful to be here.
Of course, time will tell if Georgiev’s talk matches his walk. He never got that “number one guy” opportunity after five seasons in New York, based mostly on the meteoric rise of Igor Shesterkin for the Rangers. Georgiev is ultimately unproven as a featured goaltender.
But it’s OK to be optimistic that he’ll thrive in Colorado. Just look at his supporting cast. The Avalanche have arguably the best defensive corps in the NHL.
“I’m grateful to have a chance to play behind these guys,” Georgiev said. “Hopefully, we’ll help each other a lot during the season.”
It’s impossible to know at this point how far ahead Georgiev is on the depth chart of returning backup Pavel Francouz. Avs coach Jared Bednar used the term “competition” to describe the team’s goaltending plans. It means that Georgiev is not simply guaranteed the role. Georgiev said: “(Francouz) is an awesome guy. A really, really good goalie.”
Just don’t get it twisted. Georgiev is here to win the job. Speak your truth.
“It’s exciting. We get to fight for the Cup again,” Georgiev said. “We’ve got pretty much the same group as last year. … The guys are really confident. They feel good about it. But at the same time, everybody is hungry for more. That’s what you want to see.”
The EA Sports NHL 23 video game will be released on Oct. 14. Here are the highest-rated Avalanche players, according to Bleacher Report.
1. Nathan MacKinnon: 94
2. Cale Makar: 94
3. Mikko Rantanen: 91
4. Gabe Landeskog: 89