Avalanche junior prospects 2009-10 review

By John Canario

The Colorado Avalanche had eight prospects playing in junior leagues this season. The organization had two prospects playing in the WHL, two in the OHL, three in the QMJHL and one in the USHL.

WHL

Stefan Elliott, D – Saskatoon Blades
Acquired 2nd round, 49th overall, 2009

Elliott was one of the top rearguards in the WHL this season, accumulating 65 points in 72 games. His 26 goals led all defensemen, and his plus-41 rating tied him for seventh among skaters in the WHL. He helped the Blades make quick work of the Red Deer Rebels in the first round of the WHL playoffs, but the Blades were eliminated in the second round at the hands of the Brandon Wheat Kings. Elliott compiled three goals and five assists in 10 postseason games.

With his efforts, Elliott appears to have put himself on the fast track to the NHL. The 19-year-old could stand to play more physically in order to fully round out his game, but should compete for a spot on the Avalanche roster next season.  

Tyson Barrie, D – Kelowna Rockets
Acquired 3rd round, 64th overall, 2009

Barrie joined Elliott on the WHL defensive scoring leaderboard, tying for first with 72 points in 63 games. His 53 assists also led all defensemen. Though his Kelowna Rockets were eliminated by the Tri-City Americans in the second round of the playoffs, Barrie showed leadership during a first-round seven-game series upset of the third-place Everett Silvertips.

At 5’10, the 18-year-old is somewhat undersized for the NHL game but his natural abilities as a puck-moving rearguard could counterbalance his diminutive stature. His uncanny ability to spark scoring opportunities could accelerate his journey to the pros.

OHL

Cameron Gaunce, D – Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Acquired 2nd round, 50th overall, 2008

Gaunce is another testament to the Avalanche’s strong scouting of defensemen in the past few years. Gaunce’s third season as a member of the Majors and first as team captain was cut short by a shoulder injury, but he still managed to rack up 37 points and 112 penalty minutes in 55 games. He led them during the OHL playoffs to a first-round sweep of the Peterborough Petes and a Game 7 win over the Ottawa 67’s. Gaunce’s Majors met the Barrie Colts in the semi-finals and lost. He had 13 assists in 16 postseason games.

The 20-year-old has a well-rounded game, but could work on his skating ability. He will likely be another of the numerous young Avalanche blueline prospects competing for an NHL roster spot next season.

Brandon Maxwell, G – Kitchener Rangers
Acquired 6th round, 154th overall, 2009

Maxwell had a good 22-14-4 record this season, playing behind a strong Kitchener Rangers team that finished third in the OHL in goals scored, behind only the powerhouse Windsor Spitfires and Barrie Colts. His less impressive .901 save percentage and 3.73 goals against average are probably more telling of his distance from the pros. The product of the USA’s National Team Development Program backstopped the Rangers to first and second-round victories over the Saginaw Spirit and London Knights respectively during this year’s playoffs. They eventually lost to the Spitfires. Maxwell’s numbers were very similar to the regular season.

Maxwell should be back with Kitchener next season.

QMJHL

Peter Delmas, G – Halifax Mooseheads
Acquired 2nd round, 61st overall, 2008

Delmas, 20, posted a 20-16 record this season split between the Quebec Remparts and the Halifax Mooseheads. He also posted a .897 save percentage and 3.24 GAA. His Mooseheads finished last in the QMJHL this season.

Delmas, arguably the most promising of the Avalanche goaltending prospects, is still a few consistent years away from an NHL debut. He will need to be signed by June 1.

Joel Chouinard, D – Victoriaville Tigres
Acquired 6th round, 167th overall, 2008

Chouinard was arguably the Avalanche’s most-improved prospect of the season. The 2008 late-round steal posted career highs with 23 goals and 45 assists in 65 contests with the Tigres this season. His 68 points ranked second among QMJHL defensemen, and his offense has carried into the postseason. He was a large part of the reason the Tigres faced the Saint John Sea Dogs in the semi-finals of the 2010 playoffs. Chouinard had 13 points in 16 games and was +2.

Chouinard, 20, is another offensively-gifted rearguard who is likely to stick with Colorado’s AHL affiliate next year.

Kelsey Tessier, C – Moncton Wildcats
Acquired 4th round, 110th overall, 2008

Tessier split the season between the Quebec Remparts and the Moncton Wildcats. He fell just below the point-per-game clip, posting 19 goals and 34 assists for 53 points in 54 games. It marked the second straight season that his point totals saw a decline, but he did miss games due to injury. Returning just in time for the playoffs, Tessier stepped up his game considerably, with 11 goals and 15 assists in 18 games.

The undersized center could spend another season in junior as an overager, but will likely head to the ECHL or AHL next season. He will likely be signed by the Avalanche, but it’s not a slam dunk.

USHL

Nate Condon, C – Fargo Force
Acquired 7th round, 200th overall, 2008

Condon, 19, improved to totals of 23 goals and 28 assists in his second year in the USHL. His 51 points ranked third on the Fargo Force, and Condon was selected to the 2010 USHL All-Star Game for his efforts. The Force made it to the USHL finals, beating out powerhouse Omaha Lancers. He has five points in 10 playoff games.

Condon will put his break-neck speed and penchant for scoring on display with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers next season.