Avalanche 2008-09 AHL/ECHL review

By John-Eric Iannicello

The AHL Lake Erie Monsters failed to make the playoffs for a second straight season, finishing sixth yet again in the North Division with a 34-38-8 record. They had injury troubles and a young roster. However, they improved from 65 points to 76, saw an improvement in their winning percentage and also marked improvements in both team goals against and goals for.

The ECHL Johnstown Chiefs missed the postseason by just a point, and finished fifth in their division. It would be the first time the Chiefs missed the postseason since 2004-05.

The Avalanche had 14 players playing in the minor leagues this season — four forwards, eight defenders and one goaltender.

Forwards

Codey Burki, C, 21
6’1, 195lbs

A successful junior player with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Burki has bounced around both the ECHL and AHL in his short pro career. Starting the year with Johnstown, Burki was recalled to Lake Erie in late November and stuck since.

Burki has not yet been able to translate his offensive success that he had in junior to the pros, but he saw noted improvement in his offensive totals this season with Lake Erie. In just 54 games this season with the Monsters, Burki recorded 9 goals and 10 assists for 19 points.

Burki is a strong offensive threat with a good two-way game. Next season will be a big stepping stone for his development as he looks to develop his offensive game further and hopefully find his niche at the pro level. It would be a welcomed addition to the Avalanche line-up if Burki can prove to be a strong secondary scoring option the Avalanche hoped he would be when they drafted him in 2006.

Philippe Dupuis, C, 24
6’0, 196 lbs

Acquired in a trade with Columbus, as the leading scorer for the offensively-challenged Monsters, Dupuis saw noted improvement in his point totals. A potential NHL defensive forward, Dupuis showcased some of the offensive talents that he was accustomed with in his junior days.

In 64 games with the Monsters, Dupuis scored a team-leading 46 points. Dupuis also lead the team in assists and was the only player to hit double digits in plus/minus with a +11.

Because of Dupuis AHL success, the Avalanche rewarded him with a short NHL stint. He only participated in eight games and was held pointless in all.

Tom Fritsche, LW, 22
5’11, 183lbs

What was shaping up to be a promising season for Fritsche turned out to be a setback for the 22-year-old.

After overcoming severe ulcerative colitis in his junior year at Ohio State, this season Fritsche had to deal with more injury trouble. He missed a majority of the season with a major concussion in February and was shut down late in the season for precautionary reasons. The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time as he was starting to heat up in the month of February, recording five points in seven games after returning from a six-game suspension for coming off the bench to fight Norfolk forward Steve Downie (TB).

Fritsche did manage to score 10 goals and add 10 assists in the 48 games he did participate in.

T.J. Galiardi, C, 21
6’2, 190lbs

Galiardi is one of the few pure offensive talents in the Avalanche system. The 21-year-old playmaking center had a tough adjustment year in Lake Erie. Points were few and far between for Galiardi, and the lack of team offense was a definite contributor to that. He also had to deal with a broken ankle in the summer which limited his ability to prepare for the upcoming season.

Galiardi was one of the youngest players on the team and finished in the top four in team scoring. He had 10 goals and 17 assists in 66 games.

Towards the end of the season he was given a short stint (like many other Avalanche prospects) with the big club. In only 11 games with Colorado, Galiardi provided finesse, speed and offense for the Avalanche and was able to record three goals and one assist.

Galiardi will need to add strength over the summer and improve his defensive game but could be a surprise player coming out of camp next year, but there is no rush with him. A full year on an improved Lake Erie team with spot duty in the NHL is the more likely path for Galiardi next season.

Marty Sertich, C, 25
5’8, 165lbs

After signing with the Avalanche last summer, Sertich was brought in with the expectations that he’d provide primary offense for the Monsters but unfortunately Sertich was another in a long list of players who suffered major injuries this season.

The undersized center was limited to only 24 games this season, after suffering two concussions consecutively.

In 24 games, Sertich provided the offense that he was advertised for. He had seven goals and eight assists for 15 points. He was on pace to similar point totals that he had a season ago with the Iowa Stars.

Defense 

Kyle Cumiskey, D, 22
5’10, 185lbs

The undersized puck-moving defender Cumiskey seems to have a hard time shaking the injury bug. Last season he suffered an injured groin, and this season he was sidelined indefinitely with a shoulder injury.

The 22-year-old Cumiskey was limited to only 28 games with Lake Erie and provided strong offensive production from the blue line. He notched five goals, 12 assists and was a +7.

Cumiskey also participated in the in the AHL All-Star Game for the Canadian squad. He had a six-game stint with Colorado before his shoulder injury.

Cumiskey is a talented two-way defender with NHL skill but questions still surround his durability over the long grind.

Raymond Macias, D, 22
6’2, 195lbs

Similar to Cumiskey, Macias also has had problems staying healthy for a full season in his pro career. Last season, Macias suffered a wrist injury early on in the season which kept him out for a month. This year he’s had to deal with various groin issues.

Macias has played in three leagues this season. He started the year in Johnstown where he recorded six points in eight games. From there, he was recalled in early November and spent the majority of the season with Lake Erie where he would provide three goals and 15 assists in 36 games. Macias was one of the top offensive defenders of the Monsters this season, and that awarded him a chance to play with Colorado toward the end of the season.

Wes O’Neill, D, 23
6’4, 215lbs

The towering O’Neill is another prospect who saw time in three different leagues this season.

O’Neill started the season with Johnstown but like Macias only spent a handful of games there. He participated in six games and recorded one point. In early October, he was recalled to Lake Erie and spent the majority of the season there. In 54 games with Lake Erie, O’Neill produced just one goal and five assists. He made his NHL debut on March 27.

O’Neill is likely to spend another year honing his skills in the AHL. His size and hard-nosed style make him an interesting depth option for the Avalanche.

Derek Peltier, D, 24
5’11, 190lbs

Another two-way defender in the Avalanche system, Peltier was a top offensive defenseman for the Monsters this season. In 63 games, Peltier scored two goals and 17 assists. He finished second in team defensive scoring.

He was another one of the Lake Erie defenders who saw his first NHL duty this season as he participated in 11 games for Colorado at the end of the season.

Michael Vernace, D, 22
6’2, 200lbs

One of the late-season risers on the Avalanche depth chart, Vernace has started to round his game from the offensive dynamo he was in junior to a stronger two-way player.

In his second full pro season, Vernace saw his point totals dip a bit. In the 65 games before being called up to the parent club, Vernace scored three goals and added 14 assists.

In the stint he had with the Avalanche, Vernace was used in a defensive role, seeing big minutes on the penalty kill and against other teams’ top lines. Vernace still has some rounding to do in his game but he’s made large steps this year without having to sacrifice too much of his offensive game in the process. He could see even more NHL time next season as an injury call-up.

Nigel Williams, D, 21
6’4, 226lbs

A rookie in the AHL, Williams hasn’t had too much of a problem adjusting, at least offensively. At 6’4, he is an intimidating presence on the ice but prefers to play more of an offensive game.

Williams led the Monsters in defensive scoring with 21 points in 70 games — as a rookie. He’s put up similar point totals to those he scored in junior.

His size, skill and skating ability make him a desirable commodity. And though his defensive game still leaves something to be desired it’s an area that can be taught in time. He may take a few years to carve out an NHL career.

Ryan Wilson, D, 22
6’1, 212lbs

Originally signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Calgary Flames, Wilson was acquired by the Avalanche at the 2009 NHL trade deadline in a deal that saw Jordan Leopold heading the other way.

Wilson only played in 68 games this season due to a knee injury, but was able to play in eight games for the Monsters. He spent the majority of the season with the Quad City Flames where he displayed his offensive ability from the back end. In 60 games with Quad City he recorded 20 points, four goals and 16 assists. In the eight games with the Monsters, he recorded two assists.

As a rookie this year, Wilson has made a good transition. He provided good offensive numbers and a hard-nosed style. He’ll have a few seasons to round his game at the pro level.

Darcy Campbell, D, 25
6’1, 180lbs

Campbell was acquired in the same deal that saw Philippe Dupuis sent to the Avalanche. After the trade, Campbell only participated in eight games with Lake Erie before going down with a serious shoulder injury that would keep him out the remainder of the year.

In his first full AHL season this year, Campbell recorded career highs in all categories. In 74 games, the offensive-minded Campbell produced seven goals and eight assists for 15 points.

At this point, Campbell looks to be an AHL depth defender at best.

Goalies

Ian Keserich, G, 23
6’2, 200lbs

Low on the depth charts for goaltending prospects is Keserich. The 23-year-old goaltender spent the entire season with Johnstown, splitting goaltending duties with Kris Mayotte.

In the 33 games, Kerserich posted 3.14 goals against average and .902 save percentage. He was ranked 20th in goals against, and 20th in save percentage in the league.

Keserich has the desired size for a goaltender, but due to his age, place on the depth chart, and inability to take a prominent starting role in the ECHL, he’s unlikely to go much farther.