Avalanche 2009-10 NCAA prospects update

By John Canario

The Colorado Avalanche have eight players honing their skills at the NCAA level this season — four forwards, four defensemen, and two goaltenders.

Paul Carey, LW – Boston College
6’1, 190lbs
Drafted 5th Round, 135th overall in 2007

Carey has emerged as a scoring line player for the Eagles in his sophomore year, compiling five goals and eight assists through 19 games thus far, a significant boost from the nine points he totaled last season.

Carey is an offensive-minded forward with decent size who can play either center or the wing. In the past, Carey’s been critized for less than inspiring defensive play, and though he’s definitely working to improve his play without the puck, his defense remains the glaring flaw in his game. The 21-year-old seems to be on the right track, and could benefit from another year or two at Boston College.

Mark Olver, C – Northern Michigan University
5’11, 170lbs
Drafted 5th Round, 140th overall in 2008

Weighing in at just 155 lbs on draft day in 2008 as an overager, Olver was somewhat of a long-term project for the Avalanche. Less than two years later, that project is coming to fruition, as Olver has put on 15 lbs and is on pace for his most successful season in NCAA hockey yet. Through 21 games, he currently leads Northern Michigan with 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points.

As the heart and soul of a mediocre team, Olver is leading by example, a quality that could serve him well on his underdog climb to the pros. It could be a while before we see Olver in a Colorado uniform. In order to succeed as a pro, Olver may need to move to the wing.

Michael Carman, C – University of Minnesota
6’0, 192lbs
Drafted 3rd Round, 81st overall in 2006

Though unspectacular, the senior is a solid two-way center for the Gophers. With just nine points through 22 games, it seems unlikely that Carman will ever be relied upon as anything more than a shutdown center at the professional level. Statistically, he is on similar pace to his previous three seasons at Minnesota.

Brad Malone, C – University of North Dakota
6’2, 210lbs
Drafted 4th Round, 105th overall in 2007

Through 22 games, the 20-year-old is having a more productive campaign for the Fighting Sioux, due to moving from the fourth to the second line and the confidence that comes with it. With five goals and eight assists for 13 points, he is already just four points shy of his NCAA single-season high.

The junior has good size and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around, with 54 penalty minutes. Malone, who has decent hands and a hard shot, could stand to improve his skating, stickhandling and defensive play. He projects as a checker in the pros.

Kevin Shattenkirk, D – Boston University
6’0, 198 lbs
Drafted 1st Round, 14th overall in 2007

Shattenkirk is the Avalanche’s top NCAA prospect, and arguably their best overall prospect. The speedy blueliner ranks first on the Terriers in scoring with 17 points in 18 contests, also good for third among all defensemen in Hockey East. He plays on a defensive pairing with fellow Colorado draft pick Colby Cohen.

Shattenkirk has a wealth of hockey intelligence and is a natural leader, captaining the 2009-10 Terriers in his junior year. He lacks the ideal size and physicality NHL coaches prefer from their defensemen, but his offensive abilities more than make up for it. He’s a fluid skater and an adept passer, and is the power-play quarterback of the future for the Avs. That future will likely be sooner than later, as Shattenkirk’s shown this year that he’s NHL-ready.

With veterans Brett Clark, Ruslan Salei, and Adam Foote becoming unrestricted free agents at season’s end, the Avalanche could go in a younger direction next season on defense with Shattenkirk, Cohen, and perhaps even Cameron Gaunce of the OHL.

Colby Cohen, D – Boston University
6’3, 215lbs
Drafted 2nd Round, 45th overall in 2007

The Terriers top defensive pairing is Shattenkirk and Cohen, which could translate well for them chemistry-wise at the NHL level.

Shattenkrik and Cohen were taken in the first and second rounds respectively of the 2007 draft. Cohen might not be quite as flashy as Shattenkirk, but he too is adept offensively and, unlike Shattenkirk, has the ideal size of an NHL defenseman and the tendency to be more aggressive. Coming off a career year in 2008-09 at BU where he posted 32 points, Cohen is again putting up respectable numbers with 12 points and 34 penalty minutes through 17 games thus far. He could very well steal a roster spot at Avalanche training camp next season.

Kieran Millan, G – Boston University
6’0, 185lbs
Drafted 5th Round, 124th overall in 2009

BU might as well be another farm team for the Avalanche, considering three of Colorado’s prospects play for the Terriers. Millan, who is somewhat of a late bloomer having been passed over in the 2007 and 2008 drafts, was an absolute stalwart tending goal for the Terriers last season. He was 2008-09’s Hockey East and NCAA Rookie of the Year, posting a 29-2-3 record to go along with a .923 save percentage. This year, he’s struggled to find the same success he achieved last season, with just a 5-9-0 record and .869 save percentage so far.

While he’s smaller than the average NHL goaltender and has had trouble with rebound control in the past, he has good reflexes and handles the puck well. With a plethora of young goaltenders in the Avalanche system, Millan will have to be more consistent to earn his keep with the team.  

Kent Patterson, G – University of Minnesota
6’1, 192lbs
Drafted 4th Round, 113th overall in 2007

Patterson has performed admirably when given the opportunity to play. But the chances don’t come often for the sophomore, as Atlanta Thrashers prospect Alex Kangas has been the Gophers’ starting netminder for the past three years. In limited action this season, Patterson’s posted a 2-3-1 record and a .925 save percentage.

Patterson would undoubtedly benefit from increased starts, but he’s not likely to receive more playing time unless either he or Kangas turn pro early, or the Gophers run into injury problems. One thing in his favor is that other Avalanche goaltenders are performing worse than him.