The first overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Avalanche was Nathan MacKinnon.
At 17, he was the youngest player ever to suit up for the Avs. The Avalanche were pleasantly rewarded when MacKinnon earned the Calder trophy for rookie of the year in the 2014 campaign.
His sophomore season saw a dropoff in stats, MacKinnon missed 18 games with injuries. He rebounded for his third season nicely and posted 24 goals for a professional career high.
This season Mac scored 39 goals and and added 58 assists. He is a candidate for the Hart trophy, given to the NHL’s most valuable player.
In 2016-17, the Avalanche managed only 48 points, as a team. One of the historically worse seasons in NHL history took it’s toll on the performance of the roster. MacKinnon scored only 16 goals and 38 assists. Discord with the team, particularly disgruntled “star” Matt Duchene had the team in disarray. It was questioned whether the Avs roster had been constructed poorly. Many advocated for sweeping changes from the Front Office down.
Whether by skill or by chance, the adjustments that Joe Sakic made revitalized the Avalanche. Super Joe jettisoned Duchene to the Ottawa Senators for a trio of players. He turned Kyle Turris from that trade to Nashville for breakout performer Samuel Girard.
Sakic remade the blueline and added depth to his forward pool. The results were an immediate improvement as demonstrated by the season-opening 4-2 win over the Rangers.
The Avalanche also acquired Jonathan Bernier via free agency and the goaltender responded with a fantastic .913 save percentage over 34 starts. Bernier was an unsung hero for the Avs, filling in for starter Semyon Varlamov (.920 SV%, 2.68GAA) admirably.
Patrick Nemeth, Nikita Zadorov and Samuel Girard were three big pickups for the Avalanche to patrol the blue line. They responded by putting the Avalanche into the top-15 in team defense and fourth in penalty killing. Once considered the Achilles of the Avalanche, the defense had a solid season.