Previewing the 2020-21 Colorado Eagles roster, Part 1

  

All eyes are on the NHL playoffs right now, but for me, the Colorado Eagles always come first. I thought this would be a good time to do a run-down of the team — who’s staying, who’s going, who’s new, and which players are free agents and could sign elsewhere. Obviously that’s a lot to cover in one article, so I will break it down into three parts. For today, I am going to concentrate on the easy part: the players who are staying.

Disclaimers

We all know anything can happen. Preseason had already started last year when defenseman Nicolas Meloche was traded for goalie Antoine Bibeau. Any one of these guys could end up being part of a surprise trade down the road. Also, these are the players on contract, but where exactly they’ll play still remains to be seen. Some of them, like Martin Kaut, may very well spend the season in an Avalanche jersey. Others may see more time in Utah than Loveland. Anything I say with regard to which team they’ll play for is merely speculation. Either way, these are the players we know will probably be in the system, one way or another.

Josh Anderson (D):

Drafted in the third round in 2016 (#71 overall), Anderson spent the better part of the last two seasons in Utah. He has played a total of 13 games in the AHL, earning one goal in that time, but Anderson is a defensive defenseman, so points don’t tell the whole story. Overall, Anderson seems to have improved a great deal in his two years, going from a +/- of -13 in 2018-19 to a +6 in 2019-20. The coaches seem to like him, as he is often chosen for call-ups. I suspect he will spend most of next season in Utah as well but will see time on Loveland when needed.

Travis Barron (F):

In 2017-18, Barron finished his OHL career and showed up in Loveland just in time for playoffs. He scored two goals and five assists in the postseason, including this one in game 7 of the Kelly Cup Finals.

In 2018-19, he played most of the season in Loveland, where he netted 3 goals and 2 assists. But the Eagles had a great deal more depth in 2019-20, and Barron spent most of the year in Utah, where he scored 11 goals and 16 assists. This season will be the final year of Barron’s ELC. He is an energetic, hard-working grinder who has earned a lot of fans in Loveland, but whether or not he will make the AHL roster this year remains to be seen.

Shane Bowers (F):

Bowers was drafted in the first round in 2017 by Ottawa and came to Colorado as part of the Duchene trade. He had a slow start this year and an injury that sidelined him for three weeks, but he found his legs in December and never looked back. He finished the season with 10 goals and 17 assists. He is one of the prospects currently in Edmonton with the Avalanche. If Bowers does not make the Avs roster straight out of camp, he will undoubtedly be at the top of the call-ups list this season.

Kevin Davis (D):

Kevin Davis played for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL before being signed to an AHL deal by the Avalanche in 2018. He has split the last two years between Utah and Colorado and was reliable enough to see his contract renewed for the 2020-21 season.

I suspect he will remain on that bubble — spending most of his time with the Grizzlies, but always one of the first to be called up when the Eagles need a D-man.

Josh Dickinson (C):

Dickinson was an undrafted free agent who signed a three-year ELC with the Avalanche in 2018. He has split the last two years between Loveland and Utah.

He may end up spending most of the season with the Grizzlies, but he is a reliable player who can always be counted on to hold his own when injuries result in call-ups.

Nick Henry (F):

2019-20 was the first year of Henry’s ELC, and I think many people expected more from him. He ended up being a healthy scratch through much of February and was even sent to Utah for two games (It is possible he was injured. We often do not know about injuries in the AHL unless somebody asks the coach directly. As far as I know, nobody did). Henry finished the season with three goals and six assists in 42 games played with the Eagles. Maybe this season was not all we had hoped it would be for him, but he is a hard worker, and I suspect we will see a lot more of him in 2020-21.

Nick Henry (Photo by Ashley Potts, courtesy of the Colorado Eagles)

Martin Kaut (F):

Drafted in the first round (and 16th overall) in 2018, Kaut has been the center of much speculation since joining the team. His first season was a bit underwhelming, but he showed marked improvement this year, and even scored two goals and an assist in his nine games with the Avalanche. I’d say it is a pretty slim chance he ends up back in Loveland this year. If he is, he will be right next to Bowers at the top of the call-up list.

Ty Lewis (F):

Lewis was another undrafted free agent signed to a three-year ELC by the Avalanche in 2018. He spent most of his first pro year with the Eagles where he scored eight goals and 11 assists. Late in the season, seemingly out of the blue, he was sent to Utah and was never brought back. Last year, he scored 25 goals and 26 assists in 44 games in the ECHL. On the Grizzlies, only Tim McGauley and Griffen Molino had more points, and yet when it comes time for call-ups, Lewis is always snubbed. There’s been a lot of speculation amongst Eagles fans as to why Lewis is perpetually stuck in Utah when he’s arguably good enough for a role in the AHL. I do not have an answer to that mystery, and I probably never will. But I hope for his sake he finds his way out of Cronin’s doghouse sooner rather than later.

Anton Lindholm (D):

Lindholm was drafted in the 5th round in 2014 by the Avs and they liked him enough to sign him for two more years after his ELC ran out. He doesn’t bring a lot of offense to the table, but he is a strong skater and he is, in my opinion, vastly underrated as a defenseman. The fact that he is one of the extra players currently in Edmonton with the Avalanche backs this up. He may see a few call-ups next year. Either way, the Eagles will be happy to have him on the blue line.

(Photo by Ashley Potts, courtesy of Colorado Eagles)

Jacob MacDonald (D):

Despite spending the last few years bouncing around the ECHL and the AHL (and even playing two games in the NHL for the Florida Panthers), MacDonald still does not have enough pro games under his belt to qualify as a veteran player, based on AHL guidelines. Last season was his first year with the Eagles and he did well enough to earn a two-year renewal.

Although he’s billed as a defenseman, he’s just as good playing up. He led the AHL in goals for D-men, largely due to playing so many games as a forward. I personally think MacDonald is one of the most exciting, dynamic players on the Eagles roster and wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a call-up at some point next year.

Dan Renouf (D):

One of only two AHL vets on this list, 2019-20 was Renouf’s first year with the Eagles. He had two goals and 14 assists, and a +/- of 13. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman who is solid and dependable. He’s also not afraid to drop the gloves to stand up for a teammate.

(Photo by Ashley Potts, courtesy of the Colorado Eagles)

Conor Timmins (D):

Anybody reading this knows Timmins’ story — drafted by the Avs but then sidelined by a concussion for an entire season. This was his first full year in the lineup and he did not disappoint. The improvement of the Eagles’ power play from dead last in the league to 17th can largely be attributed to Timmins. On the downside, he lacks consistency. In Ryan Clark’s article in the Athletic, Coach Cronin is quoted as saying, “[Timmins] makes mistakes by trying to make a better play… He ends up trying to bypass the simple play so he can get the puck 60 feet further up the ice.” Even late in the season, that hadn’t changed. Whether he’ll make the Avs roster this year or spend a bit more time in Loveland remains to be seen, but I think it is safe to say he won’t be stuck in the AHL for long.

Peter Tischke (D):

Tischke participated in the Avalanche 2019 Development Camp, including the 3-on-3 tournament, and I thought he looked good.

2019-20 was his first pro year. He spent most of the year in Utah where he netted four goals and 11 assists. The Eagles re-signed him for this year, so I think there is a good chance we’ll see a bit more of him in 2020-21.

TJ Tynan (C/F):

Tynan is an AHL veteran player who came to Colorado from the Chicago Wolves in 2019 (along with the next player on this list, Ryan Wagner). He quickly made a place for himself, becoming one of the most valuable players on the team. His five goals may not seem impressive, but he also earned 42 assists in only 42 games. He was second in the league in assists, even though call-ups meant he played significantly fewer AHL games than the players in first and third place. Tynan can always be counted on to make a play when the team needs it most and was named this year’s MVP. He’s one of those guys who gets very little respect from the general Avalanche fanbase, but as an Eagle he is outstanding.

Ryan Wagner (F):

2019-20 was only Wagner’s second pro year, and he split the season evenly between the Eagles and Grizzlies, doing reasonably well both places.

The Eagles liked him enough to renew his contract for this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a lot more time in Loveland this year.

Adam Werner (G):

Last but not least is the only goalie on today’s list, Adam Werner. Drafted in 2016 by the Avalanche, 2019-20 was the first year of his two-year ELC. He played 31 games and ended with a 2.92 GAA and a .909 save percentage. He also played two games for the Avalanche, earning a shut-out in his emergency debut against Winnipeg. Anything could happen (especially when it comes to goalies), but I suspect Eagles fans will be seeing a lot of Werner in 2020-21.

Conclusion

I’m reasonably sure that’s everybody we know about so far! Any player from last year who isn’t on this list will be covered in part two of this series, where I’ll run down the free agents (restricted and otherwise). And in part three, I’ll give you a glimpse of new players we might be seeing in Loveland if/when the AHL season finally begins.

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