Three Colorado Avalanche NCAA prospects ready to go pro following 2013-14 season

By Chau Vo

Will Butcher - Denver Pioneers

Photo: Freshman defenseman Will Butcher (#7) made his mark with 16 points in his first year for the University of Denver. The Pioneers won the inaugural NCHC tournament with a win over Miami (courtesy of Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

In the last four drafts, the Colorado Avalanche only selected a combined six players from the USHL, a pipeline to the NCAA, and European junior leagues. To date, only four of those players still remain a part of the Avalanche organization.

Two of the Avalanche picks from the USHL from 2013, Will Butcher and Ben Storm, are playing as true freshman for their respective college teams and Luke Moffatt, drafted in 2010, is a senior.

Moffatt, Nate Condon, and Gus Young, all seniors, will have the choice of signing with Colorado if the Avalanche choose to offer a contract or enter unrestricted free agency and sign with another NHL team at the conclusion of their seasons.

Wilhelm Westlund remains the Avalanche’s only prospect playing overseas.

NCAA

Luke Moffatt, RW, University of Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Drafted 7th round, 197th overall, 2010

Twenty-one-year old Luke Moffatt, native of Paradise Valley, Arizona, surpassed his previous career high total of 21 points with a two goals, one assist effort against Minnesota on March 15th.  The previous weekend, against Michigan State University, Moffatt had a total of four points in two games. In 34 games this season, Moffatt scored 25 points for the Wolverines and ends his collegiate career with 75 points in 148 games.

In the inaugural Big Ten hockey tournament, the third seeded Wolverines faced the sixth seeded Penn State University Nittany Lions. Unfortunately for Moffatt and the Wolverines, the Nittany Lions would win the game in double overtime at the Excel Energy Center in Saint Paul.

Moffatt was Michigan’s selection for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.

Nate Condon, C, University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
Drafted 7th round, 200th overall, 2008

In his first year as captain of the Gophers, Condon wishes he could have contributed more on the score sheet but his leadership allowed the young talent on the Gophers squad to flourish and exceed expectations.

As the top seed in the Big Ten conference, the Gophers earned a first round bye and awaited the winner of the Ohio State and Michigan State game. After Ohio State beat Michigan State in overtime in a Thursday afternoon bout, the Friday game between Minnesota and Ohio State was set. The Gophers were heavily favored to advance to the championship game with a 4-0 regular season record against the Buckeyes but it was the Buckeyes who would get the best of the Gophers this time in a 3-1 victory.

For Condon and the Gophers, this loss does not end their postseason as they are set to be the top seed in the national tournament.

Condon received the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award awarded for good academic standing and demonstrating good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.

Gus  Young, D, Yale University Bulldogs (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 184th overall, 2009

As the Yale Bulldogs’ undisputed top defenseman this year, much was expected of Gus Young in not only his end but in the offensive end as well. With high expectations, Young delivered in spades and in his final season with Yale he notched career-highs with seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 33 games. Together, with sophomore defensive partner Ryan Obuchowski, the two formed Yale’s top pairing.

The defending National Champion Bulldogs were unable to clinch an NCAA tournament spot after they fell to Quinnipiac in the ECAC tournament quarterfinals. That defeat marked the end of Young’s playing days at Yale.

Despite the 2013-14 season ending earlier than he would have liked, Young closes this chapter of his hockey career with a Frozen Four All-Tournament Team nomination, and most importantly, Yale’s first ever National Championship in Division I hockey.

Will Butcher, D, University of Denver Pioneers (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 123rd overall, 2013

Will Butcher started his college career in the midst of a coaching change. After 19 years, the George Gwozdecky era ended and Jim Montgomery took over the helm of the longtime NCAA hockey powerhouse. While the coaching change led to the decommitment of recruits, it did not deter Butcher.

As a true freshman and recently drafted by the nearby NHL team, Butcher brought high-end talent and extensive international experience to the Pioneers team. On a team with upper classmen already rounding out the top four spots, Butcher was given the opportunity to grow into his role and not be thrust into the spotlight.

Butcher was also chosen to represent Team USA in the 2014 World Junior Championships held in Malmo, Sweden where he had five points in five games. The defending champions would finish out of medal contention after a 5-3 loss to Russia.

The Pioneers will face Boston College in the first round of the NCAA tournament after winning the NCHC Championship. After 37 games, Butcher has 16 points on the season.

Ben Storm, D, St. Cloud State University Huskies (NCHC)
Drafted 6th round, 153rd overall, 2013

Ben Storm earned considerable playing time this year as a true freshman for the St. Cloud State Huskies. On a relatively young blue line, Storm will have the opportunity to grow with the Huskies defensive corps in the following years. In 30 games, Storm registered one assist and 14 penalty minutes with an even rating. The Huskies fell to Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the NCHC playoffs but with their regular season ranking earned a spot in the NCAA tournament where they will face Notre Dame on March 29th.

Europe

Wilhelm Westlund, D, Farjestad BK Karlstad (SHL)
Drafted 7th round, 183rd overall, 2013

The Avalanche’s lone European prospect had the rare opportunity to play on North American soil this year when Farjestad BK played the AHL All-Stars in the 2014 AHL All-Star Game at the Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The AHL All-Stars would defeat Farjestad 7-2 and Westlund was unable to get on the score sheet. In 34 games for Farjestad’s SuperElit J20 team, Westlund has 17 points in 34 games and for the SHL team, Westlund has no points in 11 games.