Colorado Avalanche goaltenders stand out among European and NCAA prospects

By John Canario
Photo: Michigan forward Luke Moffatt will be putting his skills on display during the Frozen Four on April 7th. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The Colorado Avalanche have three prospects who played the past season in Europe, each from a different league. The most notable of the group is netminder Sami Aittokallio. The Avalanche have seven prospects who played – or are still playing – NCAA hockey this season, led by another goaltender, Kent Patterson.

Europe

Sami Aittokallio, G, 18
Acquired: 4th round, 107th overall, 2010


Blessed with spectacular reflexes, Sami Aittokallio played in 16 games in the SM-liiga this season, posting a 2.73 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. He also saw limited action with teams in the Mestis, junior SM-liiga and even suited up for a period in the Under-20 WJC in Buffalo. Still just a teenager, the Avalanche are in no hurry to rush the Finnish netminder’s development, and Aittokallio could spend another couple seasons in Europe before making the trip across the Atlantic.


Johan Alcen, LW/RW, 23
Acquired: 7th round, 195th overall, 2007

After spending the previous four years playing in the Elitserien, Johan Alcen suited up for a young Leksand squad in the inferior Allsvenskan this season. The 6’2 Swede tallied four goals and seven assists in 31 games. Four years removed from his draft, Alcen remains somewhat raw. While he possesses a heavy shot and is a polished stick-handler, he lacks a natural skating stride and is a long shot to make the NHL.

Jens Hellgren, D, 22
Acquired: 6th round, 155th overall, 2007

The fluid-skating Jens Hellgren played for Borås in the Allsvenskan in 2010-11, accumulating a goal and six assists in 41 contests. Despite his 6’3 stature, Hellgren’s physical game leaves more to be desired and he is prone to defensive breakdowns, though his offensive game has shown glimpses of strength. He is at least a consistent season in the Allsvenskan away from getting a sniff in the Elitserien. At this point, the NHL is but a distant goal for the big Swedish blueliner.

NCAA

Paul Carey, LW, 22
Acquired: 5th round, 135th overall, 2007

In 38 games, Paul Carey posted career-bests in goals (13) and assists (13) in his junior year for the Boston College Eagles. Despite posting respectable numbers for the season, the 22-year-old struggled down the stretch notching just three points in his final 13 contests. In his upcoming senior year, Carey will need to score at or near a point per game clip to move on to the Avalanche’s AHL-affiliated Lake Erie Monsters, as he lacks the physicality and defensive game to serve as a checking-line player at the professional level.


Nate Condon, C, 20
Acquired: 7th round, 200th overall, 2008

The freshman at the University of Minnesota had a mediocre season tallying eight goals and nine assists in 35 games. The pivot spent the season split between the team’s second and third lines. The Avalanche would like to see Condon have more games like the one he had on October 30th, 2010 against Colorado College, when the 20-year-old tallied two goals and three assists. With the Golden Gophers top two scorers moving on, Condon will have every opportunity to showcase his offensive ability in 2011-12.

Brad Malone, C, 21
Acquired: 4th round, 105th overall, 2007

In his fourth season as a member of the University North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Brad Malone has posted career-highs across the board with 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points in 42 games. The hard-nosed cousin of Ryan Malone also leads the WCHA in penalty minutes this season with 108. However, a controversial hit that fractured the neck of Denver Pioneers’ senior Jesse Martin last October cast somewhat of a shadow over Malone’s 2010-11 campaign. The gritty senior’s Fighting Sioux face the Michigan Wolverines in the Frozen Four semi-finals, after which Malone could conceivably join the Lake Erie Monsters for their playoff push.

Kieran Millan, G, 21
Acquired: 5th round, 124th overall, 2009

After a less than spectacular sophomore season, Kieran Millan returned to the same form as a junior that saw him drafted as an overage freshman in 2009. The former Frozen Four winner backstopped the Boston University Terriers to a 2.68 goals against and .919 save percentage in 2010-11. Somewhat undersized, Millan plays a sound positional game, but he is likely to play another season developing his consistency with the Terriers.

Luke Moffatt, RW, 18
Acquired: 7th round, 197th overall, 2010

Luke Moffatt started his freshman season with the University of Michigan Wolverines on a tear, recording eight points in his first ten games. Then he hit a rookie wall, contributing just five points over the next 24 games. However, the Paradise Valley, Arizona-native has spent much of the season playing on the team’s third and fourth lines. Like Condon, Moffatt will likely be given the opportunity to put his arsenal of offensive skills to use next season as a sophomore. The former seventh-rounder appears to be a low-risk, potentially high reward for the Avalanche and with a berth in the Frozen Four semi-finals, he has the potential to add an NCAA championship to his resume this season as well.

Kent Patterson, G, 21
Acquired: 4th round, 113th overall, 2007

Back in October of this past season, Kent Patterson swiped the Golden Gophers’ starting job away from Atlanta Thrashers‘ prospect Alex Kangas and never looked back. The junior posted a 2.54 goals against and .919 save percentage en route to a 14-9-6 record in 2010-11. With good size, athleticism, rebound control and now a year as a starter under his belt, Patterson is arguably the most pro-ready goaltending prospect in Colorado’s system. He will likely play another year at the University of Minnesota.

Gus Young, D, 19
Acquired: 7th round, 184th overall, 2009

Defenseman Gus Young‘s freshman season was riddled with injuries from the get-go, and by the time he had fully recovered, his Yale University Bulldogs were on such a roll that he found himself relegated to the bench for the majority of the year. In just five games in 2010-11, Young has registered a single assist. The 6’2 rearguard is expected to factor into the Bulldogs’ plans next season as a sophomore, at which point it will become clearer just where the former Massachusetts’ high school star is in his development.