The Colorado Avalanche organization has experienced several changes involving their college prospects this year. The following is a summary of the comings and goings in addition to some statistical updates for the 2003-04 season.
Chris Bahen, a 2000 draft pick (189th overall), graduated from Clarkson and signed a contract with the Landshut Cannibals in Germany (DEL). The defenseman’s rights will belong to the Avalanche until the completion of the 2003-04 season.
Defenseman Brian Fahey, who was a 2000 draft pick (199th overall), graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2003. Fahey asked to be released from the organization and signed a contract with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies (ECHL). He has been named to the ECHL All-Star game for 2004.
Saint Cloud State defenseman Jeff Finger, a 1999 draft pick (240th overall), left school one year early to sign a multi-year contract with the Avalanche. Finger started the 2003-04 season with the Reading Royals (ECHL), after failing to make both the Colorado and Hershey (AHL) rosters. The Michigan native has since been recalled by Hershey and has played in 27 games for the Bears producing five points along with solid and undisciplined play.
Former Michigan State defenseman and Hobey Baker finalist and John-Michael Liles, a 2000 draft pick (159th overall), finished his sparkling career by leading his team in points and finishing only behind Colorado College’s Tom Preissing (San Jose) in defensemen scoring during the 2002-03 NCAA (Division I) season. Liles made the Avalanche opening night roster and is providing the Colorado blue line with more than 14 steady minutes a game. He has produced 14 points in 42 games with the Avalanche.
Will Magnuson, a 1999 draft pick (142nd overall) was not signed to a contract and is no longer apart of the organization.
Sean Kotary, a 2000 draft pick (266th overall), has jumped around the college ranks spending time at Bowling Green in the 2000-01 season and last year playing 34 games with the University of Findlay. Kotary began the 2003-04 season with Findlay, but has since transferred to Oswego State University (Division III).
The Avalanche drafted three college players in the June 2003 draft, Brett Hemingway, David Jones, and Mark McCutcheon. Colorado also traded for the highly touted defenseman, Keith Ballard, out of the University of Minnesota from the Buffalo Sabres. The Avalanche obtained Ballard, a 2002 draft pick (11th overall), in exchange for forward Steven Reinprecht.
David Jones, a 2003 draft pick (288th overall), will attend Dartmouth beginning in the fall of 2004. Jones began the season for Coquitlam (BCHL) and is captain of the team. Jones is leading his club in scoring and is second overall in the British Columbia Hockey League with 78 points in 42 games (including 28 goals). Jones is a very agile skater with good puck handling skills. He isn’t known for his physical play, but he can be used in multiple situations including the power play and penalty kill. Jones is a project, but his size (6’2", 200 lbs) makes him an intriguing pick to the Avalanche. Jones will be 20 when he joins Dartmouth in the fall of 2004; a better indication of his talent will be discovered once he enters the college ranks.
Brett Hemingway, also a 2003 draft pick (225th overall), was a teammate of David Jones at Coquitlam during the 2002-03 season. Hemingway began his college career at New Hampshire, where he joins fellow Avalanche prospect Sean Collins. Hemingway hopes to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Colin to the NHL, who recently graduated from New Hampshire and signed a pro contract with the St Louis Blues. The 20-year-old Brett Hemingway has produced 13 points in 17 games (including six goals) for the Wildcats.
The Avalanche used the 146th selection overall in the 2003 NHL Entry draft to select forward Mark McCutcheon. The Ithaca, NY native is attending Cornell University, following in the footsteps of his father. The right winger has played in all 15 games this year for the Big Red and has recorded two assists.
With the acquisition of Keith Ballard during the past off-season, the rearguard quickly became the jewel of the Avalanche organization once Colorado shipped forward Jonas Johansson to the Washington Capitals when they acquired forward Steve Konowalchuk. Ballard has missed seven games this year, but the knee injury hasn’t hurt his play. The Minnesota native has produced 17 points in 15 games for the Golden Gophers. Minnesota has missed Ballard’s presence as they are now recovering from a slow start to the season.
- Bowling Green defenseman Taylor Christie (195th overall in 2002 draft) has played just 10 games this year posting two assists. Christie’s strength remains his strong defensive play as he nears completion of his junior year.
- New Hampshire’s Sean Collins (289th overall in the 2002 draft) has 20 points in 22 games for the Wildcats. He is third in team scoring, playing on the top line, and contributing on both the power play and penalty kill.
- Tom Gilbert (129th overall in 2002 draft) is a part of one of the most talented defensive cores in all of college hockey for Wisconsin. Gilbert has posted 14 points in 20 games for the Badgers in a team turnaround from last season that has vaulted Wisconsin into first place of the WCHA.
- Providence Friars’ defenseman Eric Lundberg (94th overall in 2002 draft), has provided a strong presence on the blue line as well as adding three assists in 16 games.
- Frantisek Skladany (143rd overall in 2001 draft) is tied for first in team scoring for the Boston University Terriers with 13 points in 17 games.
- Senior forward, Ryan Steeves (227th overall in 2002 draft), has scored 15 points in 18 games for Yale. The Bulldogs were participants in the Wells Fargo Denver Cup this past December.