Neither the Colorado Avalanche nor their AHL-affiliated Lake Erie Monsters managed to crack the playoffs this season, but a handful of their prospects were still playing hockey when their team's respective regular seasons ended. The Avalanche system saw players contending in the postseason both overseas and at the NCAA and Canadian major junior levels.
Paul Carey can boast that he is the lone champion of this year's group of Avalanche players and prospects. The senior cemented his place in NCAA hockey history by scoring the game winning goal in the Frozen Four National Championship in Tampa Bay in early April. Carey tipped in a point shot past the Ferris State goaltender about halfway through the first period that ended up being the winner, giving the Eagles their fifth National Championship since joining Hockey East in 1984. Carey finished the tournament with three goals, an assist, a plus-two rating and 23 shots on goal in four games after which the Avalanche promptly signed him to an entry-level contract. He is likely to spend next season with Lake Erie.
Another player the Avalanche recently inked to an entry-level deal is Kent Patterson. The University of Minnesota netminder followed up a strong senior season with a respectable performance at the Frozen Four tournament, backstopping the Golden Gophers all the way to the semifinals. The former USHLer played well, surrendering five total goals during first and second round victories over Boston University and powerhouse North Dakota. Boston College proved to be too much for Minnesota however, beating Patterson six times on 25 shots to knock the Golden Gophers out of the tournament. University of Minnesota teammate and fellow Avalanche prospect Nate Condon also had a respectable tournament, contributing a goal, a pair of assists, a plus-two rating and 15 minutes in penalties.
Boston University's goaltender Kieran Millan had one appearance in a first round loss to the Golden Gophers. He followed up a stingy senior season for the Terriers with a 35 save performance in the opening round of the Frozen Four. The Edmonton-native's gutsy efforts this season earned him an entry-level contract from the Avalanche, the terms of which are identical to the deal signed by Patterson.
Luke Moffatt is the last of Colorado's prospects that suited up for the Frozen Four tournament, and he had the least noteworthy performance of the bunch. The Michigan Wolverines sophomore tallied an assist and a minus-one rating in an opening round loss to Cornell. Still just 19, Moffatt played mostly on the third line this year and could take some strides forward in his development next season in an increased role.
Duncan Siemens' Saskatoon Blades didn't last very long in the WHL playoffs, as they were ousted in the first round in four games by the Medicine Hat Tigers. In four games, the 2011 first round pick managed a goal and an assist in four games, as well as 10 minutes in penalties. He then joined Colorado's AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, for three games at the end of their season. Inconsistency and an injury kept Siemens from improving on a successful 2011-12 campaign so expect him to play one more year of junior hockey in 2012-13.
Troy Rutkowski's Portland Winterhawks fared considerably better, advancing all the way to the WHL finals before losing in heartbreaking fashion in a seven game series to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Along the way, Rutkowski tallied a goal, nine assists and a plus-10 rating in 22 games. The Avalanche recently opted not to sign the gritty defender, and he'll be eligible to re-enter this year's draft.
The Sudbury Wolves' Michael Sgarbossa was unable to extend his dream regular season into the playoffs. The OHL's leading scorer in 2011-12 mustered up just three points in a four game sweep at the hands of the Brampton Battalion. With little left to prove at the junior level, Sgarbossa could be battling for a roster spot in either Colorado or Lake Erie next season.
Stephen Silas' fourth season with the Belleville Bulls came to a close in an uneventful fashion, losing in the opening round to the Ottawa 67s in six games. Silas recorded just a single goal and no assists in the postseason, bringing his career OHL playoff total to one point in 27 games. Like Rutkowski, the Avalanche decided not to sign Silas to an entry-level deal.
Brash defenseman Gabriel Beaupre's Val d'Or Foreurs were swept in four games in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs by the Rimouski Oceanic. The assistant captain was held off the score sheet but registered six minutes in penalties and was minus-three.
Dillon Donnelly's Memorial Cup hosting Shawinigan Cataractes made it to the second round, losing in seven games to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in seven games. After sitting out the first round with an injury, Donnelly played in all seven games against Chicoutimi recording an assist and a plus-two rating to go along with 16 minutes in the sin bin. In six games at the Memorial Cup tournament the hulking rearguard led all players with 21 penalty minutes. Donnelly's intimidating presence on defense helped the Cataractes to be crowned champions, as they beat the London Knights in a thrilling 2-1 overtime final.
The Avalanche had one overseas player make it to the postseason. Joachim Nermark's under-20 Linkoping squad lasted six games, during which the smooth-skating 19-year-old Swede notched a goal and four assists. Look for Nermark to put junior hockey in Sweden behind him for good next year, as he'll likely spend the entire season in the Elitserien.
The Avs signed goaltenders Kent Patterson, Kieran Millan, and Sami Aittokallio to entry-level deals. Patterson and Millan are both 22-year-old goaltenders coming off stellar senior seasons with the University of Minnesota and Boston University respectively. Aittokallio on the other hand is a 19-year-old Finnish goaltender who has spent the last two seasons playing various levels Finnish pro hockey. All three are expected to compete with 20-year-old Calvin Pickard for the starting roles in the AHL and ECHL. Forward Paul Carey also signed a two-year entry-level deal after helping Boston College win the Frozen Four. A two-way forward, Carey is expected to start 2012-13 in the AHL.