The Avalanche have been a struggling team for some time now and it appears they have set the reset button on whatever plan they had and are overhauling. GM Joe Sakic has acquired a significant number of quality prospects in the past six months to bolster the prospect pipeline via draft, free agency and trade.
The players he has acquired should all be ready to make an impact on the team in the very near future. Top 2017 draft pick Cale Makar is off to a fine start in the NCAA and could be a one and done. Free agent Alex Kerfoot is already in the Avs line up and producing while the players acquired in the Matt Duchene trade are on the cusp.
This season could be a difficult one as the team is sharing their AHL affiliate with the St. Louis Blues which could provide some challenges in development in terms of ice time and systems for some players. With a young core on the roster, the team is set to mature soon, offering a potentially much brighter not too distant future.
1. Tyson Jost, C – Colorado (NHL)
Drafted: 10th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Colorado
Jost only needed one year of College hockey before he was ready for the NHL. His emergence made the Duchene trade flexible. Wth Nate MacKinnon and Jost set as the top two centers, Sakic was able to address other needs in the deal. Jost has so far been making a slow transition to the NHL with six games at the end of last season and the first six games this year before an injury put him out of the lineup. When he returns he should be a lock for an expanded role with the departure of Duchene.
2. Cale Makar, D – Umass (NCAA)
Drafted: 4th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Colorado
Makar has an extremely high ceiling as a top pairing offensive defenseman. The game today is all about skill and speed and for a defenseman, it’s about creating transition offense; that is what Makar excels at. His skill level is obvious and his vision is also excellent. His skating completes the whole package. He sees the game well, has the puck skills to make high-end offensive plays and can do it all at speed while in possession of the puck. The only way to acquire players of his potential impact is to draft them. The Avalanche have a franchise player in waiting with Makar.
3. J.T. Compher, C – Colorado (NHL)
Drafted: 35th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Buffalo
Compher was the key asset in return in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. Compher played his first full pro season last year playing the majority of the season in the AHL where he posted a very strong 30 points in 41 games as a rookie after a strong College career. Compher has also had two impressive showings with USA at the World Championships and is poised to be a full-time NHL rookie this year. With MacKinnon and Jost also at center, the Avs have tremendous center depth. They could also play Compher on the wing to ensure he plays a top-six role, and he is certainly capable of such a role. Compher is a key piece of the future in Colorado.
4. Samuel Girard, D – Colorado (NHL)
Drafted: 47th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Nashville
Girard is an exceptional puck moving defenseman, an excellent skater with high-end offensive skills and vision. Girard may be the most effective player at the spin-o-rama since Dennis Savard made the move famous. The question with Girard is if he can be an effective defender in his own zone. In junior he was mainly deployed on offensive zone starts and in offensive situations. He is undersized but compensates with his hockey IQ and skating ability. Girard was a surprise player to start the year in the NHL with the Predators as he still has junior eligibility and could yet be returned to the QMJHL and become available to Team Canada for the WJC. With Makar and Girard the Avalanche have two of the top offensive defenseman prospects, they should have no trouble getting the puck to the skilled forwards they also own.
5. Vladislav Kamenev, C/LW – San Antonio (AHL)
Drafted: 42nd overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by Nashville
The other major acquisition in the Duchene trade. The big Russian projects as a potential top-six winger at the NHL level as soon as next season. Kamenev has established himself as a point producing player at the AHL level with two full seasons to his credit already. The 21-year-old was second in team scoring last year in Milwaukee and will have a transition phase with a new team that shares it’s affiliation with some high-quality St. Louis Blues prospects. His time in the AHL this year may be limited as he is close to being NHL ready now.
6. Alex Kerfoot, LW – Colorado (NHL)
Drafted: 150th overall in the fifth round of the 2012 draft by New Jersey
Losing Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher to free agency really hurt, but the Av’s used the same loophole to sign their own college free agent in Alex Kerfoot. The undersized forward had a tremendous NCAA career with Harvard and as a senior a Crimson Captain Hobey Baker finalist and Beanpot Champion. His transition to pro hockey has been easy as he made the Avalanche out of training camp and is off to a hot start with nine points in 14 games.
7. A.J. Greer, LW – San Antonio (AHL)
Drafted: 39th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Colorado.
The hulking winger had a strong training camp and preseason but missed the start of the year due to a concussion. When he returned he played in six NHL games with the Avalanche but struggled posting just one assist in that time. He has since been assigned to the AHL where he has two points in as many games. The big winger likely will not be in the AHL for long before he is recalled to the NHL where his ceiling is as a top-six power forward and his floor is on the third line as a big physical presence with offensive upside. He is a key piece of the Avalanche future going forward.
8. Shane Bowers, C – Boston U. (NCAA)
Drafted: 28th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Ottawa
It is safe to say Joe Sakic hit a grand slam home run in the Duchene deal, acquiring Girard, Kamenev, and a first-round pick and Ottawa’s first-round pick from ’17 in Bowers. As an NCAA freshman with the Terriers, Bowers has four goals and six points in ten games already. The 18-year-old has size and skill and can skate. He may need to transition to the wing to play in the NHL but the Avalanche added a solid future asset. Bowers may need more than one season in Boston before he is ready for the pro game, but don’t count on him playing his full four years of eligibility.
9. Nicolas Meloche, D – San Antonio (AHL)
Drafted: 40th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Colorado
With Makar and Girard carrying the offensive responsibility role, Meloche should slot in nicely alongside one of them as he is a responsible two-way defenseman. Meloche has some size and can skate with them and has underrated offensive upside. He’s well suited to be a top-four pairing defenseman but would possibly be miscast as a number one, putting him in an ideal situation with the Avalanche future. Meloche is a bit of a jack of all trades, he has size, can skate,and has a heavy shot. He can play both special teams effectively, is a smart player and has leadership ability; but also is arguably a master of none. Meloche is making his pro debut in the AHL and has two points and 26 penalty minutes in his first seven games.
10. Conor Timmins, D – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Drafted: 32nd overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by Colorado
One of the fastest rising prospects during his draft year, Timmins kept developing and improving last year and was nearly a point per game player by seasons end. He picked up right where he left off last year and is already a point per game player in the Soo in his D+1 year with 15 points in the first 15 games. Timmins also was a standout in his first look at NHL rookie training camps where he showed flashes. With one more year of junior eligibility he is a few years away from the NHL but with the likes of Makar, Girard, Meloche and Timmins coming down the pipe, defense is a position of strength for Colorado for the foreseeable future.