The AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters missed the playoffs for a third straight season, finishing 13th in the Western Conference with a 34-37-1-8 record. Their 234 goals for (15th in the AHL) indicate that they did not have a particularly difficult time scoring, but they had trouble keeping the puck out of their own net, allowing 257 goals (24th).
Players like Chris Stewart, Ryan Wilson and Brandon Yip would have greatly helped Lake Erie make a playoff push had they been there all season, but their play warranted promotions to Colorado. The Avalanche hope to receive similar contributions from several of their current AHLers as early as next season.
Ryan Stoa, LW
The 23-year-old excelled in his first season of AHL hockey, tying for second on the Monsters with 23 goals in just 54 games. He also added 17 assists and 42 penalty minutes. Stoa, who played both center and left wing this season, was a dominant presence on the Monsters power play, potting 10 goals with the man advantage. Stoa finished the year strong with 20 points in his final 17 contests, which bodes well for him next season. Stoa was called up to the NHL for 12 regular-season games and one playoff game, but failed to have the same level of impact he had with the Monsters.
Stoa stands out for his blend of size, physicality, and scoring touch and he needs to showcase that unique skill set the next time he is given a stint with the Avalanche.
Kevin Porter, C
The 6’0, 195 lbs pivot came to Colorado along with Peter Mueller in a deadline day deal that sent Wojtek Wolski to the Phoenix Coyotes. Porter, 24, split the 2009-10 season between the AHL and NHL. He posted a career-high 41 points in 56 games in the AHL. He had less success at the NHL level, managing just two goals and a single assist in 20 games. He also played in four postseason games for the Avalanche, but registered no points.
He is somewhat undersized for an NHL center, and needs to improve his play at both ends of the ice in order to earn consistent NHL duty. He projects as a third liner at the NHL level, who can step in to a scoring role on an injury-ravaged team. He is a restricted free agent this offseason.
Justin Mercier, LW
The 22-year-old had a solid first season playing professional hockey for the Monsters. He had 13 goals and 10 assists to go along with 54 penalty minutes in 64 games. Mercier earns his keep as a checking-line shutdown player who has the speed and skill to score the occasional goal in transition. His responsible defensive play warranted a nine-game stint with Colorado, during which he posted a goal, an assist and a plus-2 rating.
He could crack the Avalanche roster next season in a shutdown/penalty-kill role.
Wes O’Neill, D
At 6’4, 215 lbs, O’Neill is the biggest prospect the Avalanche have in their system. Unlike the majority of Colorado’s defensive prospects, O’Neill is a defense-first blueliner. His plus-10 rating this year ranked third on a Monsters squad that struggled playing hockey at even strength. Though not flashy, he is capable of making simple breakout passes. He played in two games with the Avalanche this season, posting a plus-one rating.
O’Neill, 24, could be a member of the Avalanche next year if they decide not to re-sign defensive specialist Adam Foote. O’Neill is a restricted free agent this offseason.
Trevor Cann, G
Cann, 21, had a disappointing rookie year playing professional hockey. Undersized at 5’11, the former OHL standout split the season between the AHL and the less competitive CHL (Central Hockey League) with the Tulsa Oilers. He posted an .884 save percentage and 3.55 GAA with the Monsters, and a more respectable .915 save percentage and 2.81 GAA with the Oilers. On Feb. 15, Cann strained ligaments, which forced him to miss the rest of the season.
In Cann’s favor, the Avalanche have a number of other goaltending prospects playing at the OHL, QMJHL and collegiate levels, none of which are playing particularly well. Cann will likely start the 2010-11 season with Lake Erie.
Tom Fritsche, LW
Since Fritsche’s draft year in 2005, his offensive output each season has regressed, through college and into the AHL. Fritsche, 23, posted no goals and 10 assists in 47 games with the Monsters this season, and was often a healthy scratch at the beginning of the season.
The 2010-11 season is a contract year for Fritsche, so there might be added incentive for him to put together a strong one.
The 23-year-old posted a career high in goals this season with seven. He also had 10 assists and 16 minutes in penalties. Though a serviceable AHL defenseman, Macias does not excel in any particular facet and with a plethora of talented, younger defensemen waiting in the wings, the Avalanche may opt not to re-sign the restricted free agent this offseason.
Montgomery, 22, posted one goal and six assists in his first full season of AHL hockey. In 65 games, the 6’1, 185 lbs defenseman also posted 37 penalty minutes and a minus-18 rating, which was second worst on the team.
Montgomery, a product of the USNTDP, will need to significantly elevate his play at both ends of the rink if he is ever going to crack an NHL roster.
Harrison Reed, RW
The Avalanche acquired Reed and Stephane Yelle from the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline in exchange for Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll and a sixth-round pick. Reed is a skilled offensive player who has yet to put it together at the AHL level. Reed started the season with the Albany River Rats. He was sent down to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades in late October, but quickly earned an AHL promotion after putting up 13 points in nine games. Between the River Rats and the Monsters, Reed posted one goal and six assists in the AHL this season.
Reed is expected to play for the Monsters again in 2010-11, and will need to put together a breakout season if he hopes to be re-signed by the Avalanche next summer.
Peltier, who turned 25 this past March, compiled one goal and 12 assists in 44 games with Lake Erie this year. He battled through a lower-body injury that forced him to miss games down the stretch of the Monsters season. He also suited up for three games with Colorado, posting no points.
If the Avalanche decide to bring Peltier, who is a restricted free agent this summer, back next season, it will likely be in an AHL role with the occasional NHL call-up during injury situations.
Codey Burki, C
The 22-year-old was held off the score sheet for the Monsters for eight games to start the AHL season, and was subsequently reassigned to the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers. With the Checkers, he posted two goals and six assists in 15 games before suffering a season-ending concussion. Burki is a restricted free agent this offseason but with inconsistent play and injury problems, he remains an unlikely candidate to be re-signed by the Avalanche. But he still has a lot of skill and could be picked up by another organization for a second chance.