What are the Avalanche thankful for? 

That Matt Duchene trade.

The impact of a single trade is rarely as extreme as that 2017 deal. The Avalanche, coming off one of the most dreadful seasons in NHL history, ended up sending Duchene to the Ottawa Senators in a three-team deal that netted them Samuel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, Shane Bowers, Andrew Hammond, and three draft picks. The best of those, Ottawa’s first-round pick in 2019, became Bowen Byram, meaning with Girard, Duchene had landed the team–at a minimum–two top-four defensemen.

But it doesn’t end there. In the 2018 draft, when the Avalanche had Nashville’s second-round pick, they decided to trade down when No. 58 was on the board. The team traded that pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who used it on Filip Hallander, for a third and a fifth. The third became Justus Annunen, who has quickly developed into the team’s “Goaltender of the Future.” Annunen is making his NHL debut tonight, coming on in relief of Jonas Johansson, and could find himself battling for regular appearances in the coming years.