While early on in the 2000s was kind to the Colorado Avalanche, who captured a second Stanley Cup early in the decade, the club’s roughest years also took place during the past two decades. But, with a resurgence in young talent, things could once again be on the upward swing for the Avs.
Star-studded is perhaps one of the better descriptions of the Avalanche players who’ve passed through the halls of the Pepsi Center during the past decade, including a handful of Hall of Famers.
Take a look back on the past 20 years of burgundy and blue, as we rank the top Avs players since the dawn of the new millennium:
20 | Cale Makar | D | 2019-20
Yes, Makar has played only 41 NHL games in his career thus far. And yes, the rookie defenseman was 14 months old at the start of the millennium. But Makar has had arguably one of the best starts to a career in Avalanche, if not NHL, history.
Just days before making his professional debut, Makar earned the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in college hockey, and led his UMass team to the NCAA’s Frozen Four final. And with the ink barely dry on his three-year, entry-level contract, Makar scored his first NHL goal, on his first shot, in his first game, which just so happened to be in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Through the first half of the Avs season, Makar’s become the first Colorado rookie to earn Third Star of the Week honors, became the second Avalanche defenseman to record 18 points in 18 games as a rookie and set a new franchise record for most goals by a rookie (11).
19 | Ryan O’Reilly | C | 2009-15
Things may have come to a bumpy end in Colorado for O’Reilly, but during the franchise’s roughest stretch he became one of the best two-way centers in the league.
During his six seasons in Colorado, O’Reilly accounted for .58 points per game, had a point share of 23 (including a 7.7 defensive point share), led all forwards in average time on ice three times and earned the Lady Byng in 2013-14.
18 | Martin Skoula | D | 2000-04
Not necessarily a household name, Skoula ranked among the top Avalanche defensemen during the past two decades despite playing just four full seasons in Colorado.
A member of the 2001 Stanley Cup-winning team, Skoula played in 383 games, earning a plus-minus of 23 and posting a defensive points share of 17.2.
17 | John-Michael Liles | D | 2003-11
Among the best scoring defensemen for the Avalanche during the past 20 years, Liles utilized his scoring prowess to earn a spot on the 2003-04 NHL All-Rookie team.
In that season, Liles led all rookie defensemen with 10 goals and 34 points, becoming the highest point-scoring d-man in Avs history.
16 | Tyson Barrie | D | 2011-19
Until this most recent offseason, Barrie had spent his entire NHL career in burgundy and blue, ranking only behind Erik Johnson and Adam Foote for time on ice by Colorado defensemen during that time.
Barrie’s accolades include the most points (307), goals (75), assists (232), offensive point shares (28.3) and overall point shares (45.9) among all Avs defensemen since 2000.
15 | Ray Bourque | D | 2000-01
While Bourque played less than two full seasons with the Avalanche, one can argue Colorado does not win its second Stanley Cup without the Hall of Fame defenseman.
A first-team all-star and Norris Trophy winner in his only full season with the Avs, Bourque earned his first Stanley Cup in 2001 after 1,612 regular season and 214 playoff games — the longest stretch in league history.
Bourque’s No. 77 is not only retired by the Avalanche but also his long-time team the Boston Bruins, making the defenseman one of nine players to have his jersey retired by multiple clubs.
14 | Matt Duchene | C | 2009-18
During his rookie season, Duchene notched 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists) on his way to a spot on the NHL’s all-rookie squad and a third-place finish for rookie of the year.
Among the team’s top forwards during one of the bleaker parts of club history, Duchene ranks seventh among all forwards in points (428), fifth in goals (178), fourth in time on ice (10,759 minutes) and seventh in point shares (46.0) since 2000.
13 | Erik Johnson | D | 2010-20
No other Avs defenseman has played in more games (552) and served as much time on the ice (12,548 minutes) as Johnson since the start of the new millennium.
The first-overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the St. Louis Blues, Johnson joined the Avalanche via trade in February 2011. Since that time, he’s scored 205 points, including 58 goals, and earned 37.1 point shares — all which rank fourth among Colorado defensemen since 2000.
12 | Paul Stastny | C | 2006-14
Stastny’s ties to the Avalanche organization run deep. First, his father, Peter, played for the Quebec Nordiques from 1980 to 1990, just before the franchise relocated to Colorado. The younger Stastny also played his college hockey at the University of Denver before being drafted by the Avalanche in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
Among Avs forwards since 2000, Stastny ranks fifth in points (458) and ice time (10,599 minutes), seventh in goals (170) and sixth in point shares (47.9).
11 | Rob Blake | D | 2000-06
Blake’s time in Colorado was relatively short but memorable. The perennial all-star joined the Avs shortly before the club’s second Stanley Cup victory in 2001 after spending a decade with the Los Angeles Kings.
Among Avalanche defensemen since 2000, Blake ranks third in goals (62) and points (208), fifth in time on ice (8,268), third in point shares (40.6) and best in plus-minus (55).
10 | Adam Foote | D | 2000-11
An Avalanche lifer, for the most part, Foote’s time with the organization spans back to the days of the Quebec Nordiques, where he was selected 22nd overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.
Foote sits only behind Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk in terms of games played in an Avalanche uniform (760), which is the most by any Colorado defenseman. He also leads the franchise in defensive point shares (43.0).
After the NHL lockout in 2004-05, Foote played three seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets before being traded back to Colorado in 2008. The following season, he succeeded Sakic as the team’s captain, the first changing of the guard for the Avs.
Foote retired in 2011 as the last former Nordique player in the NHL and one of just six players on both Avalanche Stanley Cup teams. Two years later he joined Sakic, Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg in the Pepsi Center rafters.
9 | Mikko Rantanen | RW | 2015-20
Among the Avalanche’s young, new corps, Rantanen joined the club in 2015 after being taken 10th overall in that year’s NHL draft.
After playing just nine games in 2015-16, Rantanen scored 20 goals in his first full season in Colorado before a breakout year in 2017-18, where his 84 points were second on the roster only to Nathan MacKinnon’s 97 points.
Following up with another strong campaign in 2018-19, Rantanen signed a six-year, $55.5 million extension with the Avs this past offseason.
8 | Patrick Roy | G | 2000-03
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, goalies of all time, Patrick Roy spent the early 2000s in the waning years of his career in net for the Avalanche.
With Colorado’s Stanley Cup win in 2001 (his fourth overall), Roy earned the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the finals MVP, for the third time in his career. In 2002, Roy earned NHL First All-Star Team honors along with William M. Jennings Trophy for the least goals given up during the regular season.
Roy called it a career in May 2003 following Colorado’s first-round exit in the postseason. He’d have his No. 33 retired by the club later that year.
7 | Semyon Varlamov | G | 2011-19
After three middling seasons with the Washington Capitals, Varlamov joined Colorado in 2011 via trade, after which he immediately inked a three-year, $8.5 million deal.
Despite a rocky start to his Avs tenure, which saw him lose the starting role to veteran backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Varlamov found his groove during the 2013-14 season, in which he earned NHL Second Team All-Star honors while finishing fourth in MVP voting. He was also the runner up for the Vezina Trophy.
Since 2000, Varlamov has the most starts (378), wins (183), quality starts (206) and goalie point shares (73.5) among all Avalanche goaltenders.
6 | Alex Tanguay | C/LW | 2000-16
Without Tanguay’s contributions during Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, the Avalanche perhaps do not earn a second championship in team history.
In just his second season, Tanguay became a major contributor during the postseason, recording 21 points, including two goals against the New Jersey Devils to seal an Avs Stanley Cup victory.
During his two stints with Colorado, Tanguay played in the fourth-most games (598) of any player since 2000 while recording the third-most points (488), third-most assists (321) and sixth-most goals (167) during that time. He also led all skaters with a 130 plus-minus.
5 | Gabriel Landeskog | LW | 2011-20
The second-longest tenured Avs player, Landeskog became (at the time) the youngest captain in NHL history in 2012 at 19 years and 286 days old, besting Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins by 11 days.
Before that, however, Landeskog earned NHL All-Rookie Team honors in 2011-12, along with the Calder Memorial Trophy for the league’s top rookie.
Since 2000, Landeskog ranks fourth among all Avs skaters in time on ice (11,785), third in games played (612), third in goals (190) and sixth in points (437).
4 | Peter Forsberg | C | 2000-11
The early 2000s saw the only two Hart Trophy (MVP) wins in Avalanche history — Joe Sakic in 2000-01 and Forsberg in 2002-03.
That season, Foppa lead the NHL in assists (77), points (106) and plus-minus (52), earning him the aforementioned Hart Trophy along with the Art Ross Trophy for points leader and a First-Team All-Star roster slot.
The following year was Forsberg’s last full season in Colorado, though he would make returns in 2007-08 and 2010-11, totaling just 11 games played.
3 | Nathan MacKinnon | C | 2013-20
Perhaps the most dynamic skater in hockey today, MacKinnon has dominated the NHL since entering the league in 2013.
After going first overall in the 2013 NHL draft to Colorado, MacKinnon earned rookie of the year (Calder Trophy) honors the following season, scoring 63 points in 82 games.
Each of the past four seasons, MacKinnon has been named to the Western Conference All-Star roster while finishing in the top six of MVP voting during the past two seasons.
2 | Milan Hejduk | RW | 2000-13
“The Duke” spent his entire 14-year NHL career with Colorado, retiring in 2013 as the final remaining member of the 2001 Stanley Cup-winning team and with the most career games played with the Avalanche (1,020).
Since 2000, Hejduk owns the lead in most individual team statistical categories, including games played (938), goals (361), points (757), time on ice (17,668 minutes) and point shares (90.6).
In 2018, Hejduk had his No. 23 retired by the Avalanche, joining Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Adam Foote and ray Bourque.
1 | Joe Sakic | C | 2000-09
Much like his teammate at No. 2 on this list, Sakic spent his entire career with the Avalanche organization — including seven seasons with the Quebec Nordiques before the team relocated to Denver.
The all-time leader in most statistical categories for the Avs, Sakic earned one of two Hart Memorial Trophies in team history in 2000-01 — Peter Forsberg did it in 2002-03 as well — the same season Colorado earned it’s second Stanley Cup championship.
That same season, Sakic also won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award and was named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team. He’d receive first-team honors twice more (2002, 2004) and was the 2004 NHL All-Star Game MVP.
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