Avalanche 2008-09 junior update

By Justin Dickie

The Colorado Avalanche prospect crop is thin throughout the Canadian Hockey League, with only five players in the three leagues. Of the five, four were selected in the 2008 draft and just one of those is truly living up to his billing so far. The fifth of the five prospects, Trevor Cann, is starting to turn some heads, too. The Avs also have one player in his first season in the United States Hockey League.

Here’s a recap on their performances so far this season.

Forwards

Kelsey Tessier

Acquired: 4th round, 110th overall in 2008

Tessier, a small but slick centerman with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, had a slow start to the 2008-09 season. In his first 14 games, he notched just two goals and one multi-point game, totaling nine points over that span. He has turned up the heat as of late, though, returning to the form that earned him 36 goals and 81 points in 68 games last season. In his last seven games, he has notched 13 points.

He had just six goals on the season as of mid-November, half of them coming in a three-goal, five-point game Nov. 7 against Baie-Comeau. But Tessier will earn his keep as a playmaker anyway if he ever makes it to hockey’s highest level, evidenced by his 16 assists in 21 games to date.

One thing that may be hindering his point totals this season is the top-to-bottom depth on the Remparts squad. Eleven players on the team have hit double digits in point just 25 games into the season. The scoring is being spread around in Quebec, so it’s not fair to say that Tessier has plateaued offensively based solely on numbers, because when he was counted on last season, he pulled through. The fact the group is deeper this season and he’s still posting lots of points after a slow start is a testament to Tessier’s high scoring potential.

Nathan Condon

Acquired: 7th round, 200th overall in 2008

Described as an "electrifying offensive player" by his high school coach, Condon’s power has flickered early in his first season of junior hockey. Through 13 games this season with the Fargo Force of the USHL, Condon has managed five goals, but has chipped in just two assists – not a great number for a kid praised for his playmaking prowess. Despite his low assist total so far, his surprising number of goals so far this season places him second on his team. He is currently fourth on the struggling Fargo team in scoring. Condon is committed to the University of Minnesota for the 2009-10 season.

Defensemen

Joel Chouinard

Acquired: 6th round, 167th overall in 2008

On a Victoriaville Tigres team that has been reeling as of late, Chouinard has provided a steady, stay-at-home presence on the back end. Chouinard, just 18 years of age, pitched in 35 points in 69 games last season, but vowed to take a defense-first approach this season. He had just two goals and seven points through 23 games this season, but also held up a -1 rating on a losing team.
 
Chouinard has decent size for a blueliner, at 6’1, 190 pounds. He projects as a decent two-way defender.

Cameron Gaunce

Acquired: 2nd round, 50th overall in 2008

The Avalanche made Gaunce its first pick in the 2008 draft based on his imposing size and scoring ability. So far this season, he has lived up to the billing offensively.

Gaunce led all blueliners on his team in his draft year with 40 points in 63 games. He has one-upped himself this year, posting 15 points in 20 games, placing him in a three-way tie for the team scoring lead on the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors. One a goal-starved team, he sits second on the team in tallies with seven.

He also won’t shy away from the rough stuff, collecting 35 penalty minutes this season. Gaunce also provides character and a solid leadership presence on the young Mississauga team and is quickly entrenching his place among No. 1 defenders in the OHL.

Goaltenders

Trevor Cann

Acquired: 2nd round, 49th overall in 2007

Cann served as the No. 1 goaltender for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes for two seasons, but with the emergence of Montreal Canadiens towering goaltending prospect Jason Missiaen, Cann was shipped to the London Knights.

After a fantastic rookie season, the 19-year-old Cann was peppered with rubber over two years as the No. 1 on a losing team, recording respectable save percentages, but ballooned goal-against averages in excess of 3.50.

He’s showing now in London that those below-average stats had little to do with his ability and more to do with Peterborough’s mediocrity.

Through his first six games in London, he was a perfect 6-0 with a 1.81 goals-against average, .931 save percentage and two shutouts. On an elite team, Cann is proving he can be an elite goalie. He will surely be a welcome addition to AHL Lake Erie next season.

Peter Delmas

Acquired: 2nd round, 61st overall in 2008

Delmas served as a backup to Los Angeles Kings prospect Jonathan Bernier for two seasons in Lewiston before taking over the No. 1 role for the graduated Bernier this season. Delmas displayed consistency over his first two seasons and sported eerily similar but solid statistics, earning status as a top goaltending prospect for the 2008 draft.

Since he was selected 61st overall in 2008 and returned to the Q for the 2008-09 season, the wheels seem to have fallen off. On a bad Lewiston team, through late November Delmas had a 4-12-0 record, 4.77 goals-against average and .843 save percentage. What’s worse for the 18-year-old Bedford, Nova Scotia native is that second- and third-stringers Philip Wright and Jonathan Connelly are performing just as well, if not better, posting a 5-4-0 record combined.

Delmas is a tall, lanky goaltender whose strong point is positioning. Delmas could help his own cause by breaking down his game and getting back to the basics, but there’s also only such much one man can do on a bad team.