The Avalanche’s chances of making the playoffs this year seem to get bleaker and bleaker as each day passes. For each step forward the team makes, they take another two back. This season has not been one that the team and fans expected after last year’s success.
The lone bright spot has been the emergence of Calvin Pickard. Prior to this year, Pickard had not received an opportunity to play at the NHL level. However, his performance in the months of November and December has fans excited about the possibility of seeing more of this young and talented netminder.
Calvin Pickard, G, 22
Pickard was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NHL draft. He was the third goalie picked and has appeared in more NHL games than the two before him. The New Brunswick native appeared in his first NHL game after relieving injured starter Reto Berra in mid-October against the Ottawa Senators. Prior to the game, Pickard had just recently traveled from Cleveland to Ottawa when he received word that number one goaltender Semyon Varlamov had gone down with an injury.
Pickard was shaky in his first game and did not fare well. He allowed four goals on 27 shots and the Avalanche lost to the Senators 5-3.
Two days later, he made his first NHL start in a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. He fared better in this game, making 33 saves on 36 shots, but Canadiens’ defenseman PK Subban’s two second-period goals proved to be the difference maker.
Pickard was returned to the Lake Erie Monsters after his loss to the Canadiens but was recalled a month later after Varlamov aggravated his groin injury. This time, Pickard showed a newfound sense of confidence and backstopped the Avalanche to two back-to-back comeback wins against the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes.
The next month would be a whirlwind for Pickard and the Avalanche as his quiet demeanor and remarkable play easily won over the hearts of both fans and the coaching staff. He gave the Avalanche a chance to win each night and would have a better record than 6-6-3 this season had the Avalanche not been suffering through a serious case of offensive woes.
In all 15 appearances, Pickard has a save percentage of 0.936 and a goals against average of 2.18. More importantly, he has planted himself firmly as the second goaltender on the depth chart behind Varlamov and forced head coach Patrick Roy to publicly criticize the play and work ethic of Berra.
Pickard has since been sent down to the Monsters to get more playing time but it’s important to note that Berra has not seen game action since Pickard took over. There stands a good chance of the Avalanche seeing Pickard play again this season.
Dennis Everberg, RW, 23
Everberg surprised Avalanche fans by making the opening night roster as a fourth line forward. He was one of two European free agent acquisitions signed over the summer to help provide forward depth for the organization. He didn’t get his first NHL point until November 2nd against the Anaheim Ducks when he scored a goal early in the first period. That remains one of his best games for the Avalanche evidenced by his 14:01 of ice time. He has three assists since that game for a combined four points in 19 games.
Everberg has been sent down to the Monsters this season on occasion to make room for returning players who were coming off of injuries but is currently with the Avalanche. While up with the big club, he has shown he can play in any bottom-six role he is given. He has seen time on both the third and fourth lines and logs anywhere between five to 14 minutes per game. He is also not afraid of trying to generate scoring chances evidenced by his 19 shots in 19 games.
Borna Rendulic, RW, 22
Rendulic was the other forward free agent European acquisition from this summer. He came over from the Liiga where he spent the previous two seasons as an important part of HPK’s offense.
Unlike Everberg, Rendulic did not get his shot at the NHL until early December. He was a combined -2 in his first two games while logging 14 minutes of total ice time. He scored his first NHL goal in his fourth game for the Avalanche against the Philadelphia Flyers, logging a then season-high total of 11:05 of ice time. Unfortunately, Rendulic sustained a broken leg in mid-January that will keep him on injured reserve for perhaps two months.
Andrew Agozzino, LW, 24
Agozzino earned his NHL call up with the hard and consistent work he put in in the AHL the last two seasons. While he was only with the team for one game, a late November tilt against the Hurricanes, he earned one assist in 9:45 of ice time split between 14 shifts.
Colin Smith, C, 21
Like Agozzino, Smith has appeared in one game this season. He suited up for the Avalanche on December 1st when the Canadiens visited Denver. He played nine shifts totaling 6:06 and won 40% of his faceoffs.
Michael Sgarbossa, C, 22
Sgarbossa spent a week with the Avalanche and joined in on a short road trip to Western Canada. In three games, he assisted on one goal. He saw fewer shifts as each game passed and will have a lot to improve on to earn another call up.
2015 WJC prospect update
Will Butcher was the lone Avalanche prospect participating in this year’s tournament. He returned to Team USA’s blueline and was part of the top pairing with Colorado native and 2015 draft eligible Brandon Carlo.
Butcher was the most effective defenseman for a young Team USA blueline and played in all situations. While he only registered one assist in five games, he was lauded for his puck moving abilities and clean breakout passes to help his team’s transition game.
The United States fell short of their expectations when they lost to Russia in the quarterfinals, but Butcher made a good impression for himself. He was named Team USA’s player of the game once as well as one of the team’s top three players at the end of the tournament.
Prospect of the Month
Chris Bigras was a surprising cut off of Team Canada’s WJC squad and he returned to the Owen Sound Attack with a chip on his shoulder. In his first game back from camp, he scored five points against the Plymouth Whalers. His play earned him OHL Player of the Week honors for the week ending December 21st. Bigras was the first defenseman to win the award this season. He sits third in league scoring for defensemen with 42 points in 39 games.
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