Erik Johnson

Colorado Avalanche ’15-16 Outlook


The Colorado Avalanche can be a tough nut to crack.

If you bounce around “Hockey Twitter” at all, the team very much stands as a guinea pig in the “stats vs. tradition” debate (or whatever you’d like to call it). That debate often gets a little weird and then overshadows the team itself.

When you look at the Avalanche, it’s an odd mix of old and new.

You have old ideas and old faces in management with Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic running the ship. They seemingly lean toward signing old veterans from Jarome Iginla to Francois Beauchemin.

The fresh faces make this squad awfully interesting, however. Gabriel Landeskog is still one of the NHL’s youngest captains at 22. With all the pressure on Nathan MacKinnon to make the next step, one might forget that he’s just 19. Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie remain in the meat of their primes at 24.

What if all four of those promising young players make significant strides that often come at such ages, particularly MacKinnon, who may just be scratching the surface of his skill set as people move onto to the next big thing in Connor McDavid? Could the Avalanche see earlier-than-expected results from still-blooming prospects like Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko?

Ryan O’Reilly is a tough player to let go – and he’s also just 24 – but when you look at that group, it’s quite a bit easier to stomach, isn’t it?

Yes, that defense looks pretty shaky beyond a handful of solid players such as Barrie and Erik Johnson, meaning the Avalanche will again lean heavily on Semyon Varlamov.

Still, with the abundance of talent at the forward position in particular, even the most ardent number-crunchers would shudder to dismiss the Avalanche outright.

Avs without Erik Johnson for up to eight weeks


Erik Johnson was a late omission from the All-Star Game because of what was initially described as a lower-body injury. The Colorado Avalanche revealed more about his condition on Monday and the news wasn’t good.

The 26-year-old defenseman needed to have his knee scoped and will miss the next three-to-eight weeks as a result. This comes at a time when Colorado is just three points shy of the second Wild Card spot.

Filling the void left by Johnson will be a substantial challenge for the Avalanche. He’s by far their leader in playing time, averaging 24:25 minutes per contest and he’s recorded 23 points, 93 hits, and a team-leading 107 blocks in 47 games.

On top of all that, the team tends to play significantly better from a Corsi/Fenwick perspective when he’s on the ice, which is important to note given that Colorado continues to struggle in that regard. The Avalanche have a 44.1% Corsi For and 44.3% Fenwick For respectively, per the War on Ice.

Colorado will resume the regular season with back-to-back games against Nashville on Tuesday and Friday.

Update: Aaron Ekblad’s in the All-Star Game, Johnny Gaudreau doesn’t get bumped up


Update: Contrary to an earlier report, it appears that Aaron Ekblad will appear in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game while Johnny Gaudreau will be limited to the skills competition. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston clarified as much.

Ekblad takes Erik Johnson’s spot among All-Star defensemen while Sidney Crosby’s slot will simply remain empty (rather than being filled by Gaudreau as originally expected).


Before you split hairs about the likes of P.K. Subban not getting the call, note that some players probably didn’t want it at this point. As Johnston points out, a lot of players are already on vacation, so the league is making a logical decision in using players who are already planning on being there anyway.

Ekblad, 18, is tied for second on the Florida Panthers in scoring with 25 points and is averaging 22:04 time on ice per night. Gaudreau, 21, is third on the Calgary Flames with 35 points, almost defying the nickname “Johnny Hockey” in that he’s enjoyed about the opposite first campaign of his Cleveland Browns counterpart.

Even though Gaudreau isn’t getting the nod after all, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both as All-Star fixtures going forward.

First overall pick, Calder next? Ekblad says it’s ‘no doubt’ a goal

COLUMBUS, OH — Part of Aaron Ekblad’s ‘support system’ in Florida includes Panthers TV analyst and Hockey Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history.

Pretty good guy to lean on for advice. Even better guy to emulate.

And as we hit the All-Star break, Ekblad’s doing just that. Firmly in the conversation as this year’s top rookie, Ekblad could become the first defenseman to go No. 1 overall and win the Calder in the same season as, yup, you guessed it — Potvin.

“[He’s] is always in the room for media stuff, and we often talk off the record about different things,” Ekblad said of Potvin. “It’s a good support system to have, that’s for sure.”

Back in December, Brough wrote about the possibility of Ekblad becoming one of the few defenseman to ever win the Calder. The count sits 10 all-time, but includes legends like Potvin, Ray Bourque, Brian Leetch and Bobby Orr — who’s also part of the aforementioned support system, serving as Ekblad’s advisor.

No surprise the 18-year-old has his eye on the trophy.

“It’s a goal, that’s for sure,” Ekblad said during Wednesday’s All-Star media session at Nationwide. “Any trophy or any recognition like that is a goal, there’s no doubt.”

But it’s not like Ekblad’s been light on recognition this year. In addition to going No. 1 overall, he’s already set a Panthers’ record for points by a rookie defenseman and was named to this year’s All-Star game… even though he didn’t know much about it. (Reports of him replacing injured Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson surfaced just prior to media day, so Ekblad hadn’t been officially told he was in.)

Now, there’s just one more accolade he’d like to have — helping get Florida into the playoffs for just the second time in 14 years.

“You play the game of hockey to win hockey games and make it to the Stanley Cup Final, and win it,” he said. “That’s something that’s embedded in every player here, and that’s something that every player’s dreamed of.”

Note: Bryan Berard also went No. 1 overall and captured rookie of the year, but was drafted in ’95 and didn’t win the Calder until ’97.

Girgensons, Vrbata favored to go last at fantasy draft, says oddsmaker


For the record, Friday is Media Day for the 2015 All-Star weekend, not Pick on Zemgus Girgensons Day.

Brovada released some 2015 All-Star odds today, covering obvious questions such as who will be selected first and last during the fantasy draft (as well as more esoteric ones, like Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price being on the same team).

Let’s start with who might be selected last:

Who will be picked last in the 2015 NHL All Star Draft 
Any Other Player                       3/1
Zemgus Girgensons (BUF)         4/1
Radim Vrbata (VAN)                  4/1
Patrik Elias (NJ)                        5/1
Bobby Ryan (OTT)                     6/1
Tyler Johnson (TB)                    6/1
Phil Kessel (TOR)                      9/1
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)           15/1
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM)     15/1
Tyler Seguin (DAL)                    20/1
Patrice Bergeron (BOS)             30/1
Jakub Voracek (PHI)                  30/1
Claude Giroux (PHI)                   50/1
Alex Ovechkin (WAS)                100/1
Steven Stamkos (TB)                 100/1
Ryan Johansen (CLB)                100/1
Anze Kopitar (LA)                      100/1
John Tavares (NYI)                    100/1

(Don’t sleep on the “one of the captains outright trolling a friend and/or teammate,” by the way.)

On the flip side, who might get selected first?

Who will be picked first in the 2015 NHL All Star Draft 
Alex Ovechkin (WAS)                2/1
Steven Stamkos (TB)                 2/1
Ryan Johansen (CLB)                4/1
Duncan Keith (CHI)                    10/1
Corey Crawford (CHI)                 10/1
Shea Weber (NAS)                    12/1
Anze Kopitar (LA)                      30/1
John Tavares (NYI)                    30/1
Phil Kessel (TOR)                      30/1
Brent Seabrook (CHI)                 40/1
Carey Price (MON)                     40/1
Claude Giroux (PHI)                   40/1
Patrice Bergeron (BOS)             40/1
Tyler Seguin (DAL)                    40/1
Any Other Player                       40/1
Zemgus Girgensons (BUF)         50/1
Jakub Voracek (PHI)                  50/1
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)           50/1
Jaroslav Halak (NYI)                  80/1
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM)     80/1
Ryan Suter (MIN)                       80/1
Tyler Johnson (TB)                    80/1
Bobby Ryan (OTT)                     80/1
Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)             80/1
Roberto Luongo (FLA)               80/1
Mark Giordano (CAL)                 80/1
Brent Burns (SJ)                        100/1
Dustin Byfuglien (WPG)             100/1
Erik Johnson (COL)                   100/1
Justin Faulk (CAR)                     100/1
Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)              100/1
Patrik Elias (NJ)                        100/1
Radim Vrbata (VAN)                  100/1
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHO)      100/1

Despite being one of the better offensive defensemen in the NHL, Oliver Ekman-Larsson said he wouldn’t be shocked if he went last:

As far as who will win, Team Toews is at even odds while Team Foligno’s -140 (5/7). Finally, some of the odder bits:

Will Carey Price (MON) and Jaroslav Halak (NYI) be on the same All Star Team?        
Yes                  EVEN   (1/1)
No                    -140      (5/7)
Will Ryan Johansen (CLB) and Nick Foligno (CLB) be on the same All Star Team?     
Yes                  – 200     (1/2)
No                    +150     (3/2)
Will Jonathan Toews (CHI), Corey Crawford (CHI), Duncan Keith (CHI) and Brent Seabrook (CHI) and be on the same All Star Team?   
Yes                  +550     (11/2)
No                    -900     (1/9)

Is anyone else a little disappointed that “uncomfortable Phil Kessel facial expressions” wasn’t a category? (Taking over-four.)