Continuing with my 2023-24 predictions, this edition will cover the Avalanche’s defensemen. I included Sam Malinski because I think he’ll be a regular in the lineup. He is one of just three right-shot blueliners on the roster. The list is nine players deep, all of whom were part of the organization at the conclusion of last season.

You can find my forwards predictions here

Listen to “Prepping for 2023-24” on Spreaker.

Bowen Byram

Byram will finally get a full season under his belt with little to no games missed because of injuries. And by next summer, he’ll be regarded as one of the best blueliners in the NHL, joining teammates Cale Makar and Devon Toews.

Samuel Girard

The team’s longest-tenured defenseman will play his final season in an Avalanche uniform in 2023-24. And it’s not because he’s a scapegoat, but simply because of a salary cap numbers game following a potential Toews contract extension (more to come on that prediction shortly).

Brad Hunt

One of the nicest humans you’ll ever meet, Hunt will once again appear in several games as one of the team’s first call-ups from the AHL.

Jack Johnson

Similar to Cogliano, Jack Johnson will retire following the 2023-24 season. His time with the Avalanche has been a storybook reclamation for a player who was bought out in 2020, suffered a season-ending injury early the following year, and initially joined the Avalanche on a professional tryout after recovering from said injury.

Kurtis MacDermid

One of the NHL’s last remaining true enforcers, MacDermid will dress more as a forward this season than he will as a defenseman. I truly believe this is the best-case scenario for both parties.

Cale Makar

Polish up the Norris Trophy for Cale Makar. He’ll win the Award as the NHL’s top defenseman for the second time in his career. Makar has been a finalist for the trophy in each of the last three seasons heading into 2023-24.

Sam Malinksi

After starting the year with the Colorado Eagles, Malinski will eventually get a call-up and play in more than half of the Avs’ games because of an injury to one of its top-four defensemen. More on that below.

Josh Manson

Not all predictions are fun and this one certainly isn’t. Already on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a 27-game season, Manson will once again struggle with the injury bug in 2023-24. And like last year, he’ll have a positive impact when he’s in the lineup.

Devon Toews

At some point between now and the new year, the Avs’ No. 2 defenseman will sign an eight-year extension, locking him up as Makar’s running mate for many years to come. And while we’re at it, I’ll take a stab at predicting the contract: Eight years, $61.2 million ($7.65 million AAV).