As the offseason drags along, it is natural to get a little antsy in anticipation of hockey's return. It is also natural to get a little imaginative to try to pass the time. To that end, Avalanche 101 has decided to imagine what it would be like if there was such a thing as All-Division teams, all-star groups representing divisions as opposed to conferences or fantasy-style drafted teams. So, without further meandering, here is a projection of what the 2014-2015 All-Central Division Team would look like with 12 forwards, 8 defenseman, and 3 goaltenders.
Top Line: Jamie Benn (DAL), Jonathan Toews (CHI), Patrick Kane (CHI)
These are probably the three best forwards in the Central Division as of right now. One could make a case for Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues or Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild. The Colorado Avalanche have several who are not quite at their level, although that could change pretty soon.
Second Line: Alexander Steen (STL), Zach Parise (MIN), Jason Pominville (MIN)
It really is splitting hairs with these top six. There's really not much of a gap between any of these players. That would be a good problem for a head coach to have.
It was tempting to have Nathan MacKinnon centering this line, but for now Duchene gets the nod because we've only seen one year of MacKinnon, who could very well be at the top of a team like this in a couple of years.
Fourth Line: Thomas Vanek (MIN), Nathan MacKinnon (COL), Ryan O'Reilly (COL)
The last line on this team is where MacKinnon will go for now, alongside Avalanche teammate Ryan O'Reilly. In the meantime, Colorado's four best young forwards are depth players on the All-Central Team, but they are players on the rise.
Honorable Mention: David Backes (STL), Blake Wheeler (WPG), Paul Stastny (STL)
Top Defensive Pair: Duncan Keith (CHI), Shea Weber (NSH)
Here's a couple of guys who regularly find themselves in Norris Trophy chatter.
Second Defensive Pair: Ryan Suter (MIN), Alex Pietrangelo (STL)
Ryan Suter could easily be on the top pair, but with three such players, one of them had to not be.
Third Defensive Pair: Jay Bouwmeester (STL), Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)
Seriously, that St Louis Blues defense is loaded.
Fourth Defensive Pair: Seth Jones (NSH), Erik Johnson (COL)
Some may not think of Erik Johnson as being good enough for this team, but he gets a bad rap for not living up to first overall pick expectations. He is still a very good defenseman.
Starting Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov (COL)
The man was just a couple of votes shy of winning the Vezina Trophy last season. For now, he is the best goalie in the Central Division.
Backup Goaltender: Corey Crawford (CHI)
There aren't questions about Crawford's viability as a franchise goaltender anymore. He keeps getting it done.
Reserve Goaltender: Pekka Rinne (NSH)
He has had a couple of down years, but we know he is capable of elite performance.
The Central Division is currently regarded by many as the best division in the NHL, and with a roster like that, the division's reputation isn't surprising. It had four teams reach 100 or more points last year, and it could easily be five teams this upcoming season with the various moves made by the teams within the division. The Colorado Avalanche will have their work cut out for them to compete for a high finish again.
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Tags: Colorado, Colorado Avalanche, Gabriel Landeskog, Hockey, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, NHL, Ryan O'Reilly, Semyon Varlamov