Conor Timmins makes case for Avalanche roster spot in NHL bubble

Conor Timmins’ rookie impression at Avalanche training camp was so strong in 2017 that coach Jared Bednar faced a difficult choice: Jumpstart the second-round defenseman’s NHL career? Or ship him back to juniors for more development?

Colorado played it safe but knew his future was bright.

“We had discussions about him playing for (us),” Bednar said. “That’s how good he was.”

On Monday, after three years of setbacks and growth, the Timmins buzz returned to Pepsi Center as Colorado enters its second week of training camp 2.0. The Avs’ postseason seeding games start Aug. 2 in the Edmonton NHL bubble against the St. Louis Blues.

Will Timmins make the trip?

Bednar, on a Monday video conference call, told reporters Timmins is “definitely a guy that we’re considering taking with us.”

“He’s been really good,” Bednar said. “I like his puck-moving ability. I think he’s a real good passer. He’s a real heads-up player and finds a way to move the puck in and out of the zone. … On the offensive side of things, I think he’s really good, and his physicality and competitiveness in practice are starting to pick up in these scrimmages.”

Timmins’ NHL ascension was delayed shortly after he signed his entry-level Avalanche contract in 2018. A concussion he suffered near the end of his final season of junior hockey had lingering symptoms — holding Timmins out of the entire 2018-19 season for Avs’ AHL-affiliate Colorado Eagles.

Timmins appeared unfazed. He returned for the 2019 Avs training camp, and surprisingly, made Colorado’s opening-night roster. But Timmins played in only two NHL games before joining the Eagles, where he went on to miss several weeks with a lower-body injury.

“It’s been kind of a tough couple of years,” Timmins said Monday. “I haven’t really had a lot of opportunities to play a lot of games. Anytime I can be around the rink and get extra reps, especially with these guys, is great for my development. It’s going to be really cool to be on this run.”

Timmins said this past season in the AHL — 27 points (3 goals) over 40 games — allowed his skillset to grow, especially on defense, as Timmins works toward earning a spot on the Avs’ 30-man roster.

“After playing a year in the American League, and battling through some injuries even this year, I feel like (Timmins) is in a pretty good place,” Bednar said. “He’s coming in here as a confident player and a player that wants to help make an impact for our team.”

Makar missing. For the second consecutive training camp practice, the Avalanche were without Calder Memorial Trophy finalist Cale Makar. The rookie defenseman left the ice midway through Saturday’s workout for unspecified reasons, with NHL rules in the coronavirus pandemic allowing Bednar to say only that Makar was “unfit” to complete the practice.

On Monday, with Colorado scrimmaging five-on-five with power-play scenarios, Makar remained absent. Bednar did not have an update on Makar’s status or whether the team is concerned if he will be available to play in Edmonton.

Coronavirus update. The NHL announced Monday that only two players have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 13 for its third phase for return to play (the start of training camps).

“I think (the numbers) are encouraging,” Bednar said. “When you spend time around our guys in our group and you see how serious everyone is taking it, the way they’re going about their daily lives, and making sure they’re limiting their contact with people outside of our little bubble here in Denver, I think other teams are doing the same thing. We’re testing every day and doing everything we can to stay healthy so we can get into Edmonton as a healthy group.”

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