team, no one could have predicted the impact a healthy Svatos would have
The Colorado Avalanche needed to get under the salary cap
before the start of the 2005-06 season, which meant saying goodbye to top
players Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote.
The loss of such players created some openings in the line-up for a few
rookies to step up and injuries throughout the season gave some other players a
chance to showcase their talents at the NHL level. The team played just four
rookies this season, among the fewest in the league.
Svatos, RW, Age: 23
It was unexpected that Svatos would play so well after being
plagued with shoulder injuries for the last few years, but the talented
Slovakian really benefited from the NHL’s new rules which favor smaller,
faster, more skilled players. In 61 games, the forward scored 32 goals and 50
points. Not only did Svatos score
goals, but he displayed a knack for scoring when the Avs needed it most
notching a league-high nine game-winning goals before his season-ending injury
in early March. Svatos also tied an NHL
rookie record for game-winning goals and his knack for the clutch goal elicited
praise from the Great One himself who said Svatos “is going to be a tremendous
player in this league.”
The Avs definitely benefited from Svatos while he was
healthy and went 17-7-1 when he scored a goal.
Like most great players, Svatos also made the players around
him better. Both of his linemates,
Steve Konowalchuk and Pierre Turgeon, were on pace for their best seasons out
of the past few years while playing with Svatos. When Svatos was injured and missed the final 20 games of the
regular season, Turgeon was less effective and was limited to the stands during
the playoffs. (Konowalchuk suffered a
season ending injury in November.)
Despite the injury, Svatos managed to set club records for
rookies in goals scored, power-play goals and matched the club’s rookie record
for points. Svatos is expected to make
a full recovery from his latest shoulder injury and thankfully for the Avs,
this injury is on the right shoulder and not the left shoulder, which has been
plagued with injuries in the past.
Svatos is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and will
undoubtedly be one of many priorities for the Avs incoming GM.
Richardson, C, Age: 20
Due to a few season-ending injuries in the Avalanche
line-up, Richardson got extended time with the NHL team. While he did not have
a season like Svatos, the center did act an as important role player for the
injury-plagued Avs. Richardson made the
most out of his call-up appearing in 41 games in his first professional season
including appearances in 37 of the final 39 regular season games. While there is no doubt that the 2003 fifth
round draft pick is still adjusting to the NHL level of play, it’s apparent
that he has gotten more comfortable as he scored his first NHL goal and all 13
points during his second call-up. The
Avs, who were in need of some added speed to their line-up, have been pleased
with Richardson’s work ethic and speed.
Wolski, LW, Age: 20
Wolski began the season with the Avs as the third youngest
player to ever skate with the team. He
showed talent in the nine regular season games he played in, tallying two goals
and six points before being sent back to junior. At the junior level, Wolski dominated. He finished third in the OHL scoring race with 47 goals and 128
points in 56 games while playing for the Brampton Battalion. It was Wolski’s second straight season where
he led the Battalion in scoring. Wolski
was named the OHL Player of the Year and was also honored with the Most
Sportsmanlike Player award. After his
team was knocked out of the playoffs, Wolski rejoined the Avs for their
postseason run. He made an immediate
impact scoring a goal and two assists in his first NHL playoff game.
According to Wolski, ”I think going back [to junior] just
allowed me to play the puck a lot more and just allowed me to have a lot more
ice time and just develop a little bit so I think it definitely helped.”
Budaj, G, Age: 23
While many questioned David Aebischer’s ability as a
starting netminder and his ability to lead the Avs to the promised land, no one
could have predicted that former General Manager Pierre Lacroix would deal him
for injured goaltender Jose Theodore.
The move gave rookie netminder Peter Budaj the chance to earn some extra
starts. After the trade, Budaj started
14 straight games and posted a record of 7-4-2 with two shutouts, a 2.99 GAA
and a .900 save percentage. Budaj ended
the season tied for sixth among all NHL rookies with 14 wins and tied a
franchise rookie record for games played with 34.
Budaj was also the No. 1 goaltender for the Slovakian team,
which surprised many people in the Olympics.
The team eventually lost to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal round
as Budaj would skate away with a record of 2-1-0. With the deal for Theodore, it looks as though Budaj will be
relegated to backup duty for the time being unless Theodore cannot return to
some semblance of his Hart Trophy form.
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