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It’s time for the Avalanche’s vaunted youth to step up

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Avalanche’s Stanley Cup bid has taken some direct hits lately, with injuries to Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Matt Calvert and Philipp Grubauer. Luckily, the Avs have better depth than they have had in years thanks to some savvy moves by general manager Joe Sakic.

The additions of veterans like Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Valerie Nichushkin and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare have not only given the Avs the kind of secondary scoring I’ve begged Super Joe to add over the last few years, but they’ve also helped cushion the blow with all these injuries.

The “Next man up” approach only goes so far, though. At some point, the roster is stretched thin with these types of injuries.

How does a team weather this kind of storm? Now is the time for the Avs vaunted youth to step up.

This is a sore spot for me. For the last few years, all I’ve heard from Avs fans is this exciting pipeline of hotshot young prospects coming up through the system. Whenever I had the nerve to suggest the Avs go out and acquire some of the kind of veterans like those mentioned above, I would hear back “No, don’t you dare trade so and so,” or, “That guy is too old; he’s only going to block the progress of so and so.”

The promise of tomorrow got so bad that one year ago almost to the day, when I suggested the Avs were not only a playoff team but had the chance to do some damage in the postseason, I heard from a lot of reluctant Avs fans who insisted it wasn’t about 2019. It was about 2021, when all the prospects would be here in full flower.

2021!!?? Talk about kicking the can down the road! But the fanbase had been sold for so long on the potential of their minor league system that any real expectations for the present never truly existed.

Well, clearly those fans didn’t know what they were talking about. Overrating young talent is a potentially costly mistake for any franchise in any sport.

For example, a couple of years ago, I suggested the Avs should be willing to include Tyson Jost in a blockbuster deal. “Noooooo!” came the screams. Jost was a top-10 overall pick destined for greatness. Instead, he’s become a bottom-six forward. Jost is Exhibit A when it comes to overrating young talent.

What about J.T. Compher? The Avs signed the 24-year-old left winger to a four-year contract worth $3.5 million per year. Last season, he scored 16 goals. Thus far in 2019-20, he has but eight strikes. He has failed to make “The Leap.”

Meanwhile, touted prospects like Connor Timmins, Shane Bowers and Logan O’Connor continue to get seasoning in the minors. To be fair, Timmins is a defenseman who has battled injuries and is sort of blocked with what the Avs currently have on the varsity. But with a number of veteran forwards going down, where are these young players?

Martin Kaut was a first-round pick of the Avs in 2018. He’s been called up to get a chance to make his mark in the NHL.

It was always a silly strategy to think every young Avs prospect was going to be a “hit.” Thankfully, Sakic understood that and didn’t waste the prime years of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabe Landeskog by sitting back and waiting for years for all these young pups to ripen.

But there is an opportunity, right now, for some of these celebrated Avs youngsters to come up and give the big club the jolt they sorely need as they deal with injuries and the dog days of the long NHL season. If some of these prospects can provide a boost then Sakic doesn’t have to be overly aggressive at the trade deadline.

Because the last thing we want is to trade any of these sure-fire, can’t-miss prospects. Right?

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