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Colorado Avalanche: 2008-2009 Top 12 Prospects

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Shane Malloy, Prospect Insider
11/29/2008 5:04:22 PM
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A new generation of Avalanche will come tumbling down the mountainside upon the opposition in a few years. Now you may notice that this week it is a baker's dozen this time around as the depth of the prospects they have is very deep. It will be up to the 2005 to 2008 draft classes to give new blood to the organization as looks to retool long term. Of the top 13 players on this list, eight are from the 2005 and 2006 draft class and Colorado is hoping this group can lead the way for the next generation. The scouting and player development department deserves some credit since they have done a great job through the second through fourth rounds from 2005 to 2008 evaluating and projecting talent especially in the last few years.

The Avalanche have a nice group of forwards with excellent depth and all of them have the capability to play at a pro level, however most of them are a couple years away. They do not have elite level talent on the forward ranks, but the Avalanche do have the depth and assets in the organization to cause a log jam when it comes to roster spots. Out of the six forwards on this list none of them is projected to play on the first line however each has a legitimate chance to play professional hockey. The likes of Chris Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, and T.J. Hensick could potentially be offensive contributors with continued development somewhere on the second or maybe third lines. The remaining prospects of Tom Fritsche, Ryan Stoa and Mike Carmen are more likely to fill out third or fourth line roles if they make it to the NHL ranks.

On defense they are in a similar circumstance as at forward positions with no potential number one defenseman on the horizon but they have talent and depth to make up for it. They are led by 2007 first round pick Kevin Shattenkirk who had an impressive freshman season at Boston University. The blueliners behind him of Kyle Cumiskey, Cameron Gaunce, Nigel Williams, Colby Cohen, Kevin Montgomery and Ray Macias are group of puck movers who all have shown the ability to create offense from the backend. Whether or not their skills translate to the NHL speed and tempo remains to be seen but the talent is apparent.

The only netminder of note on this list is Trevor Cann, but Colorado does have Peter Delmas, Kent Patterson along with Billy Sauer in the wings. If this overall group does not produce five players that can garner an NHL roster spot, Colorado may have to dip into free agency more than they hoped for. So far two players from the 2004 to 2008 NHL drafts, Wojtek Wolski and Paul Stastny have already graduated off this list into the NHL with T.J. Hensick and Kyle Cumiskey not far behind. Those players along with the ones on this list show how potentially successful the 2004 to 2008 NHL draft could be for the Avalanche.

Kevin Shattenkirk - Defense, 19 (1st round 14th overall 2007)
Currently with Boston University (NCAA)
Not the biggest blueliner at 5 foot 11 and 193 pounds, however he is strong and can handle forwards down low with a lower center of gravity and body position. He has a physical edge to his game and will make some big hits in open ice and along the boards. An intelligent defenseman that makes consistent smart decision with the puck and adapts to situations on the ice quickly. A great passer who can start the rush from his own end with a nice pass that does not expose the forwards and hits them with speed. His speed and agility are his biggest assets and it allows him to jump into the offensive rush or recover defensively and thwart speed rushers. Possesses a good low accurate shot from the point that can be tipped and can cause scoring chances. Shattenkirk had a good freshman season last year at Boston University with 21 points in 40 games along with 38 penalty minutes and a +5 rating. Has the potential to be a good number two defenseman with the ability to run a powerplay but will need a couple more years of development in college before he is ready for the NHL. Expect to see him on the USA WJC team come this Christmas where he could open some eyes.

Chris Stewart - Right Wing, 21 (1st round 18th overall 2006)
Currently with Lake Erie (AHL)
A potential power forward at 6 foot 2 and 228 pounds who possesses the soft hands to score big goals and enough puck skills to be a force in the NHL. Being a right handed shot could be a valuable asset on the powerplay in the future. He is not a playmaker but he does use his options well enough and he can surprise you with his vision, passing ability. At the junior level he put up big offensive numbers with 199 points in 187 games with 271 penalty minutes. As a rookie in the AHL he was third in team scoring with 44 points in 77 games but his -24 was ugly but that was more of playing on a bad team. He is a natural athlete at his size and it shows in his skating ability where he has surprising speed and agility. Is a bruising tough forward who will crush players with big hits and has no problem dropping the gloves and taking care of business. Needs some work in his defensive zone but is improving in some areas and shows the tools to be decent in this area. His work ethic and commitment to becoming a professional in the off-season was a step forward for him and the Avalanche were very pleased with his progress. He could play on the second line one day as he displays the talent but he needs another year or two in the AHL to develop.  

Trevor Cann - Goalie, 19 (2nd round 49th overall 2007)
Currently with London (OHL)
Has quietly had two solid seasons and gave his Peterborough team a chance to win every night despite them being 23 games under .500 over that time. The 5 foot 11 and 195 pound netminder does not have the size of other netminders but he competes hard and never gives up on a play. Of all the statistics his save percentage of .908 is a true indication of his play compared to his 3.49 goals against average and a 59-62-10 record. Now that his has been traded to a competitive London Knights squad this season he will be expected to lead them far into the playoffs.

Is highly regarded due to international play with team Canada in the Under 17's and Under 18's where he back stopped them to a couple gold medals. Is a strong skater inside and outside of the crease and can move smoothly without any awkwardness. Shows very good lateral movement, agility and his push-off is consistent and efficient. Since he has added 15 pounds to his frame and added core strength, his balance and endurance has improved especially in heavy traffic. He has made a concerted effort to maintain good position and keeps a compact frame since he does not have the size to always just let the puck hit him.

He must however continue to be more patient and not drop down in the butterfly too early since he does not have the size to cover the top half of the net when he does down. Has solid rebound control and does not let the puck out to the slot very often and uses his stick and blocker well to angle pucks to the corner but it still needs work. Flashes a good glove hand at times but his glove hand tends to drop down sometimes to often around his leg pads. Do not surprised to see him suit up for Team Canada at the U20 WJC next Christmas. Has the potential to be a NHL netminder and his work ethic and poise under pressure should help greatly has he continues to develop.

Kyle Cumiskey - Defense, 21 (7th round 222nd overall 2005)
Currently with Lake Erie/Colorado (AHL/NHL)
He is the prototypical smaller defenseman at 5 foot 10 and 185 pounds that should flourish with how the game is being called and played in the NHL. His ability to process information quickly and move the puck not only to thwart the forecheck but to find forwards with break out passes is his forte. He shows enough puck skills to stickhandle and create time along with the poise needed not put the puck in a bad position and give up turnovers. Cumiskey's other obvious asset is his ability to out skate the opposition and dodge hits with his exceptional agility and lateral movement. He surprises some with his defensive awareness as he generally has good body position and maintain gap control while getting his stick in the passing lanes. He does not play a physical game but he works hard and is not afraid to compete against larger forwards ad he has shown some intangibles in the leadership department. One day in the near future he will be a solid contributor on the powerplay and penalty in the NHL however like most young defenseman consistency is still a work in progress. Most likely will he will have a similar season as last year splitting his time between the AHL and NHL while he figures out all the nuances of his position but he is projected to be a full time NHL defenseman soon.   

Cameron Gaunce - Defense, 18 (2nd round 50th overall 2008)
Currently with Mississauga (OHL)
A no nonsense hard working blue collar defenseman who brings his lunch pail every game but is more well rounded then most people realize. He has good size already at 6 foot 1 and 203 pounds and has the core strength and power to battle down low below the circle. At this time he lacks some quickness and footspeed but that is something that can be worked on over time and it is not considered a detriment in his long term development. He shows the hockey sense and ability to process the game quick enough while showing the ability to create offense. In terms of puck skills his passing and stickhandling ability are good and he makes decent decisions with the puck under duress. His slap shot from the point is a weapon and gets it away pretty quickly so it rarely gets blocked. Due to his aggressive nature Gaunce tends to take some undisciplined penalties and he will need to learn to pick his spots better and try to walk that line a little more effectively. The Avalanche have time to be patient with him and he will be a four year project for them before he gets a legitimate shot at a NHL roster spot.

Ryan Stoa - Center/Left Wing, 21 (2nd round 34th overall 2005)
Currently with Minnesota (NCAA)
The 6 foot 3 and 213 pound forward had a two solid seasons in Minnesota posting 49 points in 82 games along with 87 penalty minutes and impressed many with is defensive play. Unfortunately he missed almost the entire 2007-08 season except for two games due to injury so that may slow his development somewhat before he turns pro. He is one of those players that has offensive abilities, but is a force when he plays with heart and grit. His hockey sense and ability to process at a high level tempo is good enough to play pro and he can score goals in bunches with his soft hands and hard shot. He must continue to work on his quickness but once he gets rolling he moves with surprising speed for a big kid. When he is consistently playing an edge he can take advantage of his strength and power. Defensively he is improving and has been well coached at Minnesota and he is beginning to understand all the nuances of the game that will make him a good pro. Early in this season Stoa has exploded in the goal scoring department with 10 goals in 12 games and if he keeps that pace he could post 34 goals in 41 games. Expect Stoa to turn pro next season and how quickly he adjusts to and play against men will be the true indicator of whether he can make the jump to the NHL right away. Most likely will be a North-South winger in the pro ranks who can bang and crash and be a responsible two-way player.

T.J. Hensick - Center, 22 (3rd round 85th overall 2005)
Currently with Lake Erie/Colorado (AHL/NHL)
At times Hensick looks like another version of Todd Marchant due to his speed but they have different dominant characteristics when it comes to offensive and defensive prowess. At 5 foot 10 and 185 pounds, he will need to utilize his speed to be effective at the pro level. He possesses the puck skills and hockey sense to produce offense at the NHL level and could be a menace on the powerplay. He lacks some grit and tenacity in his game and he needs to have a greater commitment to the defensive side of the rink if he wishes to play consistently. He has put up excellent offensive numbers in college and those numbers have translated at the AHL level where he posted 45 points in 50 games as a rookie in Lake Erie last season. Due to his play and injuries in Colorado he was given 31 games in the NHL in 2007-2008 and picked up 11 points and was only a -4 to his credit. He seems to be in a similar situation this year as Hensick has been called up again after a fast start early in season so it is a matter of playing consistent in all three zones if stays permanently. Has the capability to play on the top two lines in the NHL and it remains to be seen if he can find a way to stay there. 

Tom Fritsche - Left Wing, 22 (2nd round 47th overall 2005)
Currently with Lake Erie (AHL)
The 5 foot 11 and 185-pound winger has put up solid numbers in college over his four seasons even with missing some games to injury with 108 points in 137 games. He has character, leadership and speed teams look for in the new NHL and garnered valuable experience on the USA WJC squad a few years ago. His puck skills, vision and hockey sense are solid but not elite to play on the top two lines in the NHL but to his credit he makes smart and quick decisions with the puck. His bread and butter are his smart and responsible defensive two-way game with the ability to kill penalties. Maintains good positioning, hustles in the defensive zone and shows poise and composure under pressure. He made his pro debut at the AHL last spring and did not look out of place posting 5 points in 15 games with Lake Erie. In is official rookie season as a pro he has started where he left off and will need a little time to develop and his work ethic and intangibles should help in that regard. He could become a fixture on the fourth line one day in the NHL and be a fine role player.

T.J. Galiardi - Left Wing, 20 (2nd round 55th overall 2007)
Currently with Lake Erie (AHL)
A lanky winger at 6 foot 2 and 180 pounds but has produced big offensive whether he played in the Alberta Junior League three years ago and Dartmouth University two seasons ago.
Last season after leaving school for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL he had 70 points in 72 games with 77 pims, +31 rating and 3 shorthanded goals. Shows the vision, hockey sense to play at a high tempo and speed makes quick smart decisions. Is more of a playmaker and a thinker then a scorer on the wing but he has a decent wrist and slap shot. He is not a physical grinding player but he does show the willingness to go to the corners and in front of the net for loose pucks. He plays a smart reliable defensive game at the junior level and keeps things simple and works hard. Shows the ability to be a clutch player in the playoffs and wants the puck on his stick in crucial times. Has not put up the offensive numbers yet in the AHL as a rookie but it is still early in the season and it takes time for most players to make the adjustment. By the end of the season it will be easier to give a full evaluation of his progress and whether he can translate his game to the next level.

Nigel Williams - Defense, 20 (2nd round 51st overall 2006)
Currently with Lake Erie (AHL)
He is brings a load at 6 foot 4 and 225 pounds and is a physical presence every time he steps on the ice will unload big hits when given the chance. He has pretty good passing ability, vision and hockey sense but the question remains will that translate in the NHL. Now sometimes takes unnecessary risks with the puck and he needs to keep things simple. Skated well for a big kid but he needs to work on his acceleration and agility as he could get exposed at the next level. Has a heavy shot from the point and has produced big offensive numbers for a defenseman in junior with 88 points in 113 games with 192 penalty minutes and a decent plus/minus +26. He shoots the puck with power from the point and could be an effective weapon on the point. Defensively he has the size, strength and wingspan to defend against forwards down low but he needs to work on his gap control and maintain position to be more effective. He must learn remain patient in his defensive zone and not get caught running around. He will need two to year years to round out his game in the AHL when he takes the next step but if he works hard and the Avalanche is patient he could be third pairing NHL defenseman. 

Colby Cohen - Defense, 19 (2nd round 45th overall 2007)
Currently with Boston University (NCAA)
An unassuming defenseman that just goes out and tries to take care of the little things and had a good freshman season in Boston University last year. Has some strong puck skills and hockey sense and will make nice passes in or out of his zone. Has good size at 6 foot 2 and 200 pounds with the good skating ability. Shows a good hard low slap shot from the point and gets it on net most of the time. Is getting better defensively and will need time to work on the little things but his +3 last season was encouraging. Is looking to have a breakout year offensively as he is on a point a game pace as a sophomore which should not really surprise anyone since he did the same thing in his second year of junior. Is displaying more confidence in his physical game and has racked up some penalty minutes as well. Another two seasons in college certainly would not hurt his development and his is well coached. It would not be surprising to see him at the U20 WJC for team USA in Ottawa this Christmas.   

Kevin Montgomery - Defense, 20 (4th round 110th overall 2006)
Currently with London (OHL)
After leaving Ohio State early two seasons ago Montgomery adjusted quickly to a rougher brand of hockey in the OHL. His size at 6 foot 2 and 190 and demeanor helped as he did not get pushed around and showed some moxie. Looks to have some offensive instincts and hockey sense when it comes to looking up the ice. He has enough passing ability to make things happen but need to make safer decisions. His offensive statistics were very good in the regular season 60 points in 94 games over the past two seasons with a +22 rating. However he did not fair as well in the playoffs with 1 point and a -12 rating in 14 games in total. Has above average skating ability and it should improve once he gains more power and core strength. His defense game needs to continue to improve if he wishes to play past the AHL and he has some tools but he needs to refine some little things and he lacks the consistency some nights. After being returned to junior after a brief stint in Cleveland Montgomery has come back and played with a vengeance racking up posting over a point a game so far. Coming back to junior and dominating and potentially playing in a long playoff run will not only put him in a position to be successful but help his confidence.

Mike Carman - Center, 20 (3rd round 81st overall 2006)
Currently with Minnesota (NCAA)
The 6 foot 0 and 185 pound center had a disappointing sophomore season due to injury with 11 points in 23 games. However he had a solid gritty performance at the WJC for Team USA and showed his ability to play against a high caliber talent. Has decent puck skills and vision but may not seem to have the offensive instincts to produce points at the next level. Is a good skater over all with the quickness needed but could use another gear which should come when he gets stronger. Plays a smart two-way game and excels on the defensive side of the game due to his hustle and hockey sense. He will need two more years of development in college and perhaps two in the AHL before getting a chance at the NHL.

Colorado Avalanche - NHL Entry Draft Record (1997 - 2003)

 When looking at the drafting and developing record of a NHL organization it becomes an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances with perhaps some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time the General Manager receives kudos for a teams fortunes at the draft table when in reality it is usually never the case in today's NHL. For the most part there are three aspects that make the whole process work; first is the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent which may be the most challenging of all. Next the organizations player development department must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance his talents. Perhaps most importantly is the prospects responsibility to pay the price and sacrifice which generally requires a tremendous work ethic. If one of these aspects fails then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization and having a NHL career becomes remote. 

The reason for the analyzing the years from 1997 to 2003 is to first give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects as players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly the years from 1997-2003 are the players that should be the building blocks of the core of your team as they will be in the 23-29 year old age range. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be real late bloomers and eventually make the criteria set in this analysis down the road but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.

Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully

  Forwards - Defenceman Goaltenders
1997-2001 125-200 NHL Games required 51-100 NHL Games Played
2002-2003 100 NHL Games required 25-50 NHL Games Played
Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria

Colorado Avalanche Prospects 1997-2003

Year Draft Picks NHL Players Produced (Round/Pick)
1997 10 (4) (D) Rick Berry (3/55), (LW) Ville Nieminen (3/78), (LW) Brad Larsen (4/87), (G) David Aebischer (6/161)
1998 10 (4) (LW) Alex Tanguay (1/12), (D) Martin Skoula (1/17), (D) Robyn Regehr (1/19), (RW) Scott Parker (1/20)
1999 11 (3) (RW) Branko Radivojevic (3/93), (RW) Radim Vrbata (7/212), (D) Jeff Finger (8/240)
2000 13 (2) (D) Kurt Sauer (3/88), (D) John-Michael Liles (5/159)
2001 10 (3) (G) Peter Budaj (2/63), (C) Cody McCormack (5/144), (RW) Marek Svatos (7/227)
2002 10 (1) (D) Tom Gilbert (4/129)
2003 8 (1) (C) Brad Richardson (5/163)

Total: 7yrs - 72 draft picks - 18 NHL Players = 25.0% success rate

Success in the first three rounds (1997-2003)

1st rnd Draft Choices: 8 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects: Kevin Grimes 1997 (1/26), Mikhail Kuleshov 1999 (1/25), Vaclav Nedorost 2000 (1/14), Jonas Johansson 2002 (1/28)
7yrs -8 draft picks - 4 NHL Players = 50.0% success rate

2nd rnd Draft Choices: 11 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects - Graham Belak, Ramzi Abid, Phillipe Sauve, Steve Moore, Martin Grenier, Agris Saviels, Sergei Soin, Jared Aulin, Johnny Boychuk, David Liffiton
7yrs -11 draft picks - 1 NHL Players = 9.0% success rate

3rd rnd Choices: 8 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects - Evgeny Lazarev, Sergei Kylazmin, Danny Bois, Eric Lundberg
7yrs -8 draft picks - 4 NHL Players = 50.0% success rate

Total: 7yrs -27 draft picks - 9 NHL Players = 33.3% success rate in first 3 rounds

First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (11) North American, (7) European
Undeveloped Prospects: (10) North American, (8) European

4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 45 total picks
7yrs -45 draft picks - 9 NHL Players = 20.0% success rate

Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.

Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist-covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.

This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.

TJ Hensick (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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