Roy: Gormley can be top 4 'D'
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Watched the "Patrick Roy Show" late Friday night on the Altitude Network, basically a preview of the upcoming season, and the third-year Avalanche coach had some interesting things to say.
Not only has defenseman Brandon Gormley made the team, Roy plans to use him on his second pairing with Tyson Barrie. Gormley was acquired a week before training camp from Arizona for Stefan Elliott, another young defenseman who hasn't progressed as hoped.
Gormley, 23, was the Coyotes' first-round pick (No. 13) in the 2010 NHL draft. He's 6-feet-2 and 190 pounds. Born in Murray River, Prince Edward Island, he's a left-shooting defenseman who had two goals, two assists and 10 penalty minutes in 27 games with the Coyotes last season.
He had three goals, seven assists and 18 penalty minutes in 23 games with Portland in the AHL, with a goal and four assists in five playoff games. He had no points in five games with the Coyotes in 2013-14.
"We're going to give a shot at Gormley with Barrie," Roy said on the telecast. "We think that he's a guy that's capable of playing in the top four. He's having a really good training camp with our team so far and certainly (we're) looking forward to seeing him play with Tyson. I think that's going to be a pretty good pairing."
I recently spoke with Gormley, who is "excited" about getting a fresh start with a new team. He missed six weeks last season because of an ankle injury.
"When I was healthy last year I played really well," he said. "I got hit from behind in Edmonton and I sprained my ankle. I felt all right (on returning), but I wasn't quite the same. I'm skating now better than I ever skated. I worked a lot this summer getting stronger.
"I'm a good two-way player, I play well defensively and at the same time I move the puck well and create some offense. They have a ton of great skilled forwards here and it's an exciting chance for me to get to play with those guys. It's a good opportunity for myself and I'm looking forward to it. It's a clean, fresh start."
The Avalanche will have two other new left-shooting defensemen: Francois Beauchemin, who signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract as a free agent, and 6-5 Nikita Zadorov, who was included in the Ryan O'Reilly trade with Buffalo.
Beauchemin will be paired with Erik Johnson. It looks like Zadorov, at least to start, will be with Brad Stuart.
"(Beauchemin) has a lot of experience, he won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim," Roy said. "I think he's going to help EJ tremendously, to communicate on the ice, be loud on the ice, and I think that's going to help him a lot. Also with the experience that he has."
On Zadorov: "We're very happy with him. He's a big guy, great skater, good reach, good stick. You don't see that very often with defensemen of that size."
Roy also talked about his decision to move Nathan MacKinnon from right wing to center.
"We drafted Nathan as a center and we believe that this his natural position and we feel it's his third year and we want to give him a shot at center," he said. "I think we're going to have a lot of speed in the middle and I think we're going to be a lot tougher to play against because of it."
MacKinnon is ticketed for third-line duty with wingers Mikko Rantanen and Blake Comeau. Rantanen was the Avalanche's first-round pick (No. 10) in the 2015 NHL draft and Comeau signed a three-year, $7.2 million contract as a free agent after getting 16 goals and 15 assists in 61 games with Pittsburgh last season.
The other centers: Matt Duchene, Carl Soderberg and John Mitchell.
Don't know that these are written in stone, but Altitude showed a graphic with the following line combinations and defense pairings:
Curtis Glencross - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Alex Tanguay
Mikko Rantanen - Nathan MacKinnon - Blake Comeau
Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Jack Skille
Borna Rendulic - Mikhail Grigorenko - Dennis Everberg
Francois Beauchemin - Erik Johnson
Brandon Gormley - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Brad Stuart
Nick Holden - Nate Guenin
Listing Grigorenko as a reserve comes as a bit of a surprise, as does putting Glencross on a line with Duchene and Iginla, even if Glencross and Iginla did play together in Calgary. Glencross and Skille are on pro tryouts, so we'll have to see how all this shakes out.
The Avalanche still have to reduce the roster from 26 players to 23, with Jesse Winchester (concussion symptoms) likely to go on injured reserve.
On the team's improved depth, Roy said: "It shows that we're going in the right direction."
The Avalanche (1-3-1) play their final preseason game Saturday night in their annual "Frozen Fury" match with Los Angeles (3-1-1) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The game will be televised live on the NHL Network and Altitude TV at 8 p.m. MT, and available on the Altitude Radio Network (950 AM in the Denver metropolitan area) and online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.