Ryan O'Reilly (left), Matt Duchene (center) and Paul Stastny (right) are the corps of the Avalanche forwards. They will need to have great seasons for this team to make the playoffs.
There are very few teams with this luxury, and the Avalanche can definitely reap the benefits of such depth at center. All three players have the qualities of a top-six center, but only two will get the chance. It is possible that the odd-man-out plays a wing, but it's important to acknowledge the talent the Avs have down the middle.
Stastny had a great rookie season. Mind you, when considering the 2006-07 Colorado Avalanche, he had help. However, Stastny surpassed 70 points two other times in his first four seasons while almost averaging a point-per-game pace.
Sadly, his past two seasons have been terrible, at least by his own standards. If Stastny can turn it around and get back to flirting with the 70 to 80-point plateau, he could help the Avs reach the playoffs in 2012-13.
Ryan O'Reilly brings more of a defensive game to the ice, but he had a breakout season last year with 55 points. His chemistry with newly-found phenom Gabriel Landeskog will definitely have them playing together next year as well.
O'Reilly's all-around game will become an asset for the Avs in the games that matter. If he can continue to produce over 50 to 60 points, he will be more than a reliable center for the Avs.
Ma tt Duchene
Save the best for last.
If you are a true fan of hockey, you not only follow Duchene's story, but you sympathize with him. He has the potential to be great, and he's shown it with a goal like this, a pair of goals like these or even this goal. He has outstanding offensive instincts and skill, while demonstrating great leadership qualities throughout his hockey career. If he can shake the injuries, Duchene will soon become one of the NHL's best.
If there's any factor to get the Avalanche back to the promise land, it is these three individuals. If all three players can perform at their best consistently, the Avs will have all the makings of a playoff team for not only next year, but for years to come.