DENVER (KDVR) — Hockey season is here, and while the Colorado Avalanche had an early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season there is hope anew.

Yes, last season the Avs were the No. 1 team in the Central Division, but in the first round of the playoffs they were beaten in seven games by the No. 4 ranked Seattle Kraken.

This season the Avalanche will have Valeri Nichushkin back on the ice after he missed the last five playoff games for personal reasons. The team also added a few players in the off-season including:

  • Center Ross Colton
  • Left wing Jonathan Drouin
  • Center Ryan Johansen
  • Right wing Chris Wagner
  • Left wing Miles Wood

However, there are also some notable departures, including the following players:

  • Left wing J.T. Compher
  • Center Lars Eller
  • Defenseman Erik Johnson
  • Left wing Matthew Nieto
  • Center Alex Newhook
  • Center Evan Rodrigues

That’s not to mention the absence of captain Gabriel Landeskog, who is expected to miss his second full season in a row after a knee injury during the Avs’ 2022 Stanley Cup Championship run.

Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev will remain between the pipes this season after a successful season last year going 40-16-6 allowing just over 2.5 goals per game with a 0.918 save percentage. He will be backed up by Ivan Prosvetov and Justus Annunen while Pavel Francouz recovers from a groin injury for which he underwent surgery during the offseason.

What to watch for from the Colorado Avalanche this season

The Avs have plenty of strengths, which is why experts at the Associated Press consider the Avalanche a favorite to hoist the Stanley Cup for a second time in three seasons.

Up front, there’s the high-flying duo of Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. The tandem combined for 97 goals and 119 assists.

On defense, there’s Cale Makar, the 2021-22 Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman. The smooth-skating Makar was banged up last season and limited to 60 games. There’s also Devon Toews, who’s in the final season of his contract.

“Colorado’s Cale Makar bounces back from an injury-shortened season to win (the Norris trophy) for the second time in three years,” Associated Press hockey writer Larry Lage said.

Lage also picked the Avs to win the entire season, with AP writers John Wawrow and Stephen Whyno having them as playoff teams. Wawrow picked the Dallas Stars to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals and Whyno had the Vegas Golden Knights in that position.

On the flip side, AP’s experts warn of concerns around secondary scoring to complement Rantanen and MacKinnon. Colorado will be banking on getting some scoring help from Johansen, Colton and Drouin. Johansen had a 26-goal season in 2021-22 with Nashville.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.