Avalanche Top 20 prospects

By HF Staff

1. (2) Wojtek Wolski, LW – 19, Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Acquired: Drafted 21st overall, 2004

Wojtek Wolski failed to break out offensively in his third season with Brampton, putting up solid but unspectacular numbers (29 goals, 44 assists, 73 points in 67 games played). He got off to a hot start, scoring 37 points in his first 30 games, but cooled off after failing to receive an invitation to Canada’s World Junior team camp in December. Wolski’s mental toughness and desire may come into question, only registering 36 points in the final 37 games of the season.

His 6’3, 200-pound frame helped his draft status, but he has never played the game with a mean streak. The Avalanche hope Wolski can develop more of a physical game and he may have to at the professional level. More of a playmaker, Wolski uses his long reach effectively to protect the puck in traffic. He possesses a heavy shot and knows how to get it on net.

Wolski needs to improve his skating and should work on quickening his release to progress at the next level. He plays the wing but might be a better fit at center. He has the offensive skill to be a first-line scorer someday, but a more conservative projection places him as a reliable second-liner.

2. (1) Marek Svatos, RW – 22, Hershey Bears (AHL)
Acquired: Drafted 227th overall, 2001

Marek Svatos has been able to stay healthy this season, but the end result has been a year of mediocre play. After riding a wave of attention generated by his 2004 NHL playoff performance with the Avalanche, Svatos was expected to be a huge contributor for the AHL Hershey Bears this season. Unfortunately, he has only managed 34 points in 61 games for the Bears and the question is whether or not he can be an impact player at the NHL level.

Very undersized at 5’9, 187 pounds, Svatos has always relied on his breakaway speed to create scoring chances and put opposing defensemen on their heels. He’s a strong stickhandler and has a quick and accurate shot that he uses on the fly to keep goaltenders off balance. Many felt that Svatos’ size would hinder his effectiveness at the professional level but it hasn’t affected him as much as feared. He’s an intense player and uses his speed to avoid bigger defensemen looking to knock him off the puck.

Svatos has suffered several shoulder injuries which have caused him to miss considerable playing time each of his four previous seasons. It appears this will be his first complete season in North America and it should give him something to build on for next year. If he is able to stay healthy while maintaining his intense brand of play, Svatos has the skill to be a second-line scorer in the NHL.

3. (7) Peter Budaj, G – 22, Hershey Bears (AHL)
Acquired: Drafted 63rd overall, 2001

Peter Budaj has appeared in a career high number of games for the Hershey Bears this season and his statistics have continued to improve. Budaj has thrived as the Bears starting goaltender, posting a 28-20-1 record with a GAA of 2.64 and five shutouts. The Slovakian netminder seems to be gaining confidence with each game and he’s one of the main reasons that Hershey is in contention for a playoff spot.

Budaj received a huge vote of confidence when he was named to the Slovakia World Cup squad last year, even though he didn’t see any playing time. He’s a technically sound netminder and has one of the quickest glove hands in the AHL. His positioning could use some work, but he’s worked hard to improve this aspect of his game. Budaj is a very competitive player and reacts well in pressure situations.

Budaj has shown improvement every season and he has the potential to be a starter in the NHL. He’s shown that he can handle the starting job on the farm the Avalanche have plenty of time to let him develop his skills until he’s ready for NHL action.

4. (3) Johnny Boychuk, D – 21, Hershey Bears (AHL)
Acquired: Drafted 61st overall, 2002

Johnny Boychuk has had an impressive rookie campaign with the Hershey Bears this season, scoring 15 points in 68 games and leading the team in plus/minus (+11). The transition for junior to pro has been a seamless one for Boychuk and he’s received quality minutes to showcase his effective all-around game.

At 6’2, 215 lbs, Boychuk has the size and temperament to be an NHL defenseman. He’s a fan favorite because of his tough physical game and willingness to fight when called upon. A reliable defensive defenseman, Boychuk also has decent offensive skills. He possesses a booming slapshot and good instincts from his own end looking for the outlet pass. He projects to be a solid fourth defenseman and if he continues his progression he could see NHL duty in the next couple years.

5. (6) Sean Collins, LW – 22, University of New Hampshire (NCAA)
Acquired: Drafted 289th, 2002

Sean Collins has excelled in his fourth and final year with the New Hampshire Wildcats this season, putting up career numbers (18 goals, 36 assists, 54 points in 40 games). The talented winger made the most of his senior campaign, leading the Wildcats in points and assists and finishing fourth in NCAA scoring.

Collins is an undersized forward at 5’9, 177 pounds but he has incredible offensive skills and a strong work ethic. His great vision helps him find teammates in scoring position, making him an effective playmaker. He’s an excellent skater and possesses blinding speed in open ice. Despite his small stature, Collins is very good in traffic and doesn’t shy away from the dirty work along the boards. He will likely remain in the AHL next season. Collins is looking like a steal as a ninth round selection but time will tell.

6. (4) Cody McCormick, RW – 21, Hershey Bears (AHL)
Acquired: Drafted 144th overall, 2001

Cody McCormick has only appeared in 39 games for Hershey this season and he’s had a difficult time finding the scoresheet, posting 11 points for the Bears. The gritty winger suffered a broken wrist in November that kept him out of the lineup for 28 games and it limited his effectiveness when he returned to action.

McCormick is a persistent forechecker who hits well and brings a high energy level to the rink every night. He loves the physical game and uses his 6’2, 205-pound frame to distribute punishment. McCormick doesn’t have strong offensive skills but he goes to the net hard and creates havoc in the slot. He doesn’t back down from anyone and doesn’t hesitate to drop the gloves. He has third-line potential in the NHL and knows his that he has to bring intensity to each and every shift to be an effective player.

7. (11) Denis Parshin, LW – 19, CSKA Moscow (RSL)
Acquired: 72nd overall, 2004 Draft

Denis Parshin is playing his second season for CSKA Moscow in the Russian Super League and his progression has suffered because of the NHL lockout. The small winger has posted seven points in 40 games but his ice time has diminished playing behind NHL regulars Alexander Frolov, Oleg Saprykin, and Nikolai Zherdev.

Denis Parshin is tiny at 5’8, 158 pounds but he’s an extremely skilled winger. Scouts praise his stickhandling and incredible speed but his size caused him to slip to the third round at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Parshin has unparalleled quickness, a great shot, and excellent offensive instincts. He played for Russia at the 2005 World Junior Championships, scoring two points in six games. Parshin has the skills to be an NHL second-line winger but the odds are against him.

8. (19) Brad Richardson, C – 20, Owen Sound (OHL)
Acquired: Drafted 163rd overall, 2003

Brad Richardson provided one of the most surprising efforts of the year playing for Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League. Injured for all but 15 games last season, Richardson managed to stay healthy and put up impressive numbers during the 2004-05 campaign. He scored 41 goals and 56 assists for 97 points in 68 games, finishing third in OHL scoring.

Richardson (5’11, 189 pounds) has added 20 pounds to his frame over the past year and it helped him become a dominant offensive force. He has great skills and he’s a strong skater. It’s difficult to project his NHL potential after his success as an overage player in the OHL but expectations are sure to rise for Richardson (Colorado’s 5th round pick in 2003). His stock has increased significantly and he’ll make the jump to professional hockey next season.

9. (14) Brett Hemingway, LW – 21, University of New Hampshire (NCAA)
Acquired: Drafted 225th overall, 2003

Brett Hemingway makes a big jump in the rankings on the heels of his offensive explosion with the University of New Hampshire. Hemingway more than doubled the point total he put up in his rookie season, posting 43 points in 40 games. The talented winger led the Wildcats in power play goals (11) and game-winning goals (7). He teamed with fellow Avalanche prospect Sean Collins to form the most impressive 1-2 left wing combo in NCAA hockey.

Hemingway’s excellent playmaking skills are complimented by a dangerous shot that he gets off quickly. At 6’1, 185 pounds he’s a little bit slight and may need to bulk up to handle the physical demands of the professional game. He has great vision, pursues the puck well, and reacts quickly to capitalize on scoring chances. Hemingway will build on his excellent sophomore campaign and should continue to develop his all-around game.

10. (8) Tomas Slovak, D – 21, Kosice HC (SVK)
Acquired: Trade with Nashville

Tomas Slovak has had a difficult adjustment to North American hockey and returned to the Kosice HC team in Slovakia after only one game with the Hershey Bears. He’s managed 14 points in 33 games for Kosice this season but he’s not progressing much playing overseas against lesser competition.

Slovak has a booming shot and uses it effectively from the point on the power play. At 6’1, 205 pounds, he’s big enough to hold his own on the defensive end but his game lacks a physical edge. Slovak has always been plagued by unsatisfactory work ethic and his desire has been questioned throughout his career. The 21-year-old rearguard’s return to Europe is not an encouraging sign for the future.

11. (5) Linus Videll, LW – 19, Sodertalje (Sweden Jr)
Acquired: Drafted 204th overall, 2003

Linus Videll has spent time this season playing for Sodertalje’s U20 junior team this season, posting 10 points in 13 games. Videll also played for Sweden on the international stage, putting up four points in six games at the 2005 World Junior Championships.

Videll is a big powerful winger and uses his 6’3, 215-pound frame well. His long reach and good puck possession skills help him in front of the net and he has a good shot in close. Videll’s skating needs some work but he has a good scoring touch and a nose for the net. He should see playing time with Sodertalje SK of the Swedish Elite League next season and could develop into a reliable second-line scoring winger.

12. (12) David Jones, RW – 20, Dartmouth College (NCAA)
Acquired: Drafted 288th overall, 2003

David Jones entered Dartmouth College after dominating the BCHL last season and put up solid numbers in his rookie campaign (9 goals, 5 assists, 14 points in 34 games). The big winger showed that he could compete at the college level and showed versatility, appearing in a variety of game situations for the Big Green.

Jones possesses solid offensive skills and good size (6’2, 200 pounds). He’s not a great skater but he has a great shot and doesn’t shy away from physical contact. Jones is an effective penalty killer and works well in the slot on the power play. Jones has adjusted well to the college game this season and it bodes well for his future at Dartmouth. He has potential as a third-line winger but needs time to develop into a consistent scoring threat.

13. (9) Mikko Kalteva, D – 20, Jokerit Jr (Finland Jr League)
Acquired: Drafted 107th overall, 2002

Mikko Kalteva battled injuries last season and found himself on Jokerit’s junior team for the majority of the year. This season it seems he’s failed to progress, posting 10 points in 18 games for Jokerit in the Finland Junior League. He was called up to SM-Liiga Jokerit for two games but failed to score.

Kalteva is a very skilled offensive defenseman with good size (6’3, 190 pounds) and he loves to shoot the puck. His skating needs work but it hasn’t hindered his ability to find the scoresheet. Despite his imposing size he doesn’t play a tough physical game, something the Avalanche would like to see more of. Only 20 years of age, Kalteva has put up solid numbers in junior leagues but he’s been unable to crack the elite clubs. He’ll have to make the jump to North American play in the next couple years if he wants to increase the rate of his development.

14. (NR) Brandon Yip, RW – 19, Coquitlam (BCHL)
Acquired: Drafted 239th overall, 2004

Brandon Yip’s play for Coquitlam of the BCHL this season has been strong, but he hasn’t turned in the dominating point totals many expected at the beginning of the season. He registered 62 points in 43 games, good enough to lead the team in assists (42) and points, but it is a drop from the 69 points he put up last season.

Yip is very intelligent in the offensive zone and excels at reading the play, often picking off errant passes and turning them into scoring opportunities. He’s a good skater with excellent speed and a good hard shot. He is 6’1 but very slight at 171 pounds and lacks body strength. Yip has committed to Boston University beginning in the 2005-06 season and needs to bulk up if he hopes to make an impact and battle through checks at the college level.

15. (NR) JD Corbin, LW – 20, University of Denver (NCAA)
Acquired: Drafted 249th overall, 2004

JD Corbin played 37 games in his second season at the University of Denver and managed to double his point total from the previous year. Corbin scored 19 points for the talented Pioneers squad and established himself as a strong playmaker with 18 assists, enough for fifth on the team.

Tenacity is the name of Corbin’s game and he has a great work ethic. His excellent speed, along with his superb ability to move through traffic makes him an exciting player to watch. The biggest knock against Corbin is his size (5’10, 185 pounds) but he plays much bigger, driving to the net and creating quality scoring chances. He’ll be looking to improve his point totals next season as he steps into a leadership role for the University of Denver.

16. (NR) Darryl Yacboski, D – 20, Calgary (WHL)
Acquired: Drafted 257th overall, 2003

Darryl Yacboski entered his fourth WHL season looking to make an impact along the Calgary blueline and establish himself as a reliable defensive rearguard. The big defenseman posted 9 points in 60 games for the Hitmen and kept opposing forwards honest.

Yacboski has great size (6’3, 225) and loves the physical game. His skating needs work but his strong positional play keeps him out of trouble. Strictly a defensive defenseman, Yacboski is one tough customer and uses his big frame well in the corners and in front of the net. The transition to the professional game might be difficult for Yacboski and he’ll need to improve his speed if he wants to be an effective player at the next level.

17. (13) Ryan Steeves, C – 22, Hershey Bears (NCAA)
Acquired: Drafted 227th overall, 2002

Ryan Steeves entered his rookie season with Hershey this year after an impressive collegiate career at Yale University. In 63 games for the Bears Steeves has seen most of his minutes on the fourth line and he managed to post eight points.

Steeves has great speed and an abundance of offensive skill. He plays with a great deal of energy and is relentless in his pursuit of loose pucks. Unfortunately his diminutive stature keeps him from winning battles along the boards and he’s easily knocked off the puck. His defensive game could use some work and he’ll have to find a way to generate offense to be a greater contributor for the Bears next season.

18. (10) Victor Oreskovich, RW – 18, University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
Acquired: Drafted 55th overall, 2004

Victor Oreskovich made the jump from the USHL to NCAA play this season with Notre Dame and took a tumble in the rankings. Unfortunately the big winger has struggled to score all season, posting only three points in 37 games. Only 18 years of age, Oreskovich still needs to adjust to the speed and skill level of the college game.

Oreskovich’s 6’2, 215-pound frame helps him battle along the boards and fight his way through checks. He enjoys the physical game and doesn’t back down from anyone. Oreskovich is a strong skater, a very good passer, and has a nice hard shot. Still growing into his big frame, his game should improve as he gains confidence at Notre Dame.

19. (18) Richard Demen-Willaume, D – 19, Frolunda (SEL)
Acquired: Drafted 154th overall, 2004

Richard Demen-Willaume has spent time with Vastra Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League this season, playing in nine games without registering any points. Unfortunately his ice time has been eaten up by NHL regulars Sami Salo and Christian Backman.

Demen-Willaume has great size (6’3, 195 pounds) and he’s a very steady two-way defenseman. He’s a good skater and possesses a very accurate slap shot. Demen-Willaume is very intelligent defenseman and his excellent passing helps him move the puck well. Bounced between the Swedish elite and junior league, he’ll have to make the jump to North America if he hopes to improve into an NHL-caliber defenseman.

20. (20) Derek Peltier, D – 20, University of Minnesota (NCAA)
Acquired: Drafted 184th overall, 2004

Derek Peltier enjoyed a very impressive rookie season at the University of Minnesota, posting 19 points in 40 games for the Gophers. He also finished the season with a strong plus/minus rating, leading the team with a +19.

Peltier is a defenseman with the ability to jump in on the rush and contribute points. He is a very confident positional player who skates very well and has a strong shot from the point. Peltier is a very disciplined player who understands his roles on both ends of the ice. He works well with the puck and does a good job of moving it up ice. His progress this season was impressive. Peltier should continue his strong play next season and his future looks very promising.

Ryan Garner, Guy Flaming and Matt MacInnis contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.