Calder favorite MacKinnon maintains top spot in Colorado Avalanche Top 20 update

By Chau Vo
Nathan MacKinnon - Colorado Avalanche

Photo: Colorado’s first overall pick in 2013, Nathan MacKinnon has scored 20 points with a plus-10 rating in 19 games since the start of 2014 (courtesy of Rich Graessle/Icon SMI)

The Colorado Avalanche entered the Olympic break with a 37-16-5 record, which places them third in the Central Division behind the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

Rookie Nathan MacKinnon has been a big part of the Avalanche and found his stride midway through the season when he was asked to play as the second line center in place of Paul Stastny, who was sidelined with an injury. He is quickly gaining a league wide reputation as one of the league’s most exciting young players.

In the AHL, the Lake Erie Monsters have not had the same success the Avalanche are having as their roster is riddled with injured players and had some of their better players called up to the Avalanche for short periods of time. Defenseman Karl Stollery got his first cup of coffee in the NHL this season in a short two game stint for the big club.

Chris Bigras and Will Butcher represented their respective countries in the 2014 World Junior Championships. Neither Team Canada nor Team USA were able to medal in the tough tournament that saw Finland surprising the world by winning gold.

1. (1) Nathan MacKinnon, C, 9.0B
Drafted 1st round, 1st overall, 2013

MacKinnon is at the top of Calder Trophy rankings and for good reason. He currently leads all rookies in  goals, assists, and points. While he was off to a slow start stat wise at the beginning of the season, MacKinnon is in the midst of an eight-game scoring streak, and he has 15 points in his last 11 games. In 58 games, he has a total of 22 goals and 22 assists for 44 points, good enough for third overall in team scoring.

2. (6) Chris Bigras, D, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2013

After signing an entry-level contract in training camp with the Avalanche, Bigras returned to the OHL to continue playing for the Owen Sound Attack. Bigras was selected this year to represent Team Canada at the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden. While the WJC selection showed that Bigras is one of the best junior defenseman, his 2013-14 season can only be described as a down year for the young prospect. Through 45 games, Bigras has four goals and 14 assists for 18 points. His minus-eight is among the lowest plus/minus ratings an Attack team with diminishing chances of making the OHL playoffs.

3. (3) Stefan Elliott, D, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 49th overall, 2009

Elliott is second in scoring for Monsters defensemen behind Matt Hunwick. Before going down with an injury midway through the season, Elliott was third in overall team scoring but has had trouble scoring since his return. In 39 games in the AHL, Elliott has seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points.

4. (5) Calvin Pickard, G, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 49th overall, 2010

Pickard continues to duel Aittokallio for the coveted number three spot behind NHL goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. So far this season, Pickard has gotten more starts for the Monsters but has seen his numbers fall from last year due to an injury stricken Monsters squad. In 29 appearances, Pickard has a 3.00 goals against average and save percentage of .898. Pickard will look to improve those numbers as the injured Monsters player regain their health.

5. (9) Sami Aittokallio, G, 7.5C
Drafted 4th round, 107th overall, 2010

Much like the 2012-13 season, when Avalanche backup goaltender Giguere was unable to play this year, it was Aittokallio who got the call up to suit up for the Avalanche. Also like last season, Aittokallio was able to start a game in his time in the NHL. However, it was a game Aittokallio would much rather forget as the Avalanche fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Aittokallio only lasted two periods before being pulled. In 25 appearances for the Monsters, Aittokallio has a goals against average of 2.77 and a save percentage of .906.

6. (4) Michael Sgarbossa, C, 7.0C
Acquried via trade from San Jose, February 2012

Sgarbossa was one of many Monsters players who fell victim to the injury bug this season. He has only appeared 23 games for the Monsters, scoring two goals and 10 assists for a total of 12 points. His highlight of the season was a three assist night in a 3-5 loss to the Charlotte Checkers on February 1st.

7. (7) Duncan Siemens, D, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 11th overall, 2011

Siemens first full season for the Monsters is hardly going as planned as the 20-year-old defenseman has only appeared in 20 games. Siemens was thrust into roles he was not ready for and has only found the back of the net once the entire season. Earlier in the year, Siemens was briefly reunited with former Saskatoon Blades teammate Stefan Elliott in hopes of regaining the magic they had together in junior hockey.

8. (11) Joey Hishon, C, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 17th overall, 2010

After his short nine-game return to hockey last year, many were excited to see what Hishon is capable of in a full season. He was unable to participate in the Avalanche training camp because of a groin injury but in 33 games for the Monsters he has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points. While the numbers are low for the former first round pick, it is important to note that Hishon did not play a game for almost two years after a concussion sustained in his last year of juniors.

9. (10) Spencer Martin, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 63rd overall, 2013

Last year, the Mississauga Steelheads relied heavily on Martin to get them into the OHL playoffs. He started in net for them in 46 regular season and two playoff games. This year, Martin has so far appeared in 53 games for the Steelheads halfway through February. Martin has a goals against average of 3.71 and .894 save percentage.

10. (8) Kieran Millan, G, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 124th overall, 2009

Millan has been on the roster of three teams so far this season: the Monsters, the Denver Cutthroats, and now he is currently on loan to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. The Edmonton native was unable to beat out Kent Patterson for the Cutthroats starting job so in an effort to get Millan more playing time, the Avalanche loaned him to the Nailers for the remainder of the season. In his lone start for the Nailers, Millan earned a 4-1 victory against the Toledo Walleye, stopping 21 of 22 shots.

11. (12) Kent Patterson, G, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2007

Patterson has had a strong season backstopping the Cutthroats. He has a 20-8-6 record with a goals against average of 2.67 and save percentage of 0.920. For nearly two months, Patterson has started most games for Denver and his big success was one of the determining factors in loaning Millan to the Nailers.

12. (19) Brad Malone, C, 6.5B
Drafted 4th round, 105th overall, 2007

As the most NHL ready prospect playing for the Monsters, it was no surprise to anyone that Malone would be the first call up when Alex Tanguay went down with an injury early in the year. In his 15 games for the Avalanche, Malone played on the fourth line with Patrick Bordeleau and Marc-Andre Cliche and assisted on two goals. In 26 games for the Monsters, he has six goals and six assists for 12 points.

13. (NR) Troy Bourke, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2012

In what will be his last year of junior hockey, Bourke has exploded for 72 points in 59 games for the Prince George Cougars. He has also taken on the job of billeting with and mentoring 16-year-old Jansen Harkins, who is expected to become the next Cougars franchise player.

14. (18) Will Butcher, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 123rd overall, 2013

As a true freshman for the University of Denver Pioneers, Butcher has 10 points in 26 games including five goals. The young puck moving defenseman was also selected to represent Team USA in the WJC and had five points in five games as the Americans finished out of medal contention.

15. (13) Gus Young, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 184th overall, 2009

In his senior season for the defending National Champion Yale Bulldogs, Young has been the go-to player for coach Keith Allain. Young has played in all situations including the man advantage and penalty kill. He has also taken the leadership role of a young Bulldogs blue line. In 23 games, Young has 14 points and six goals, both career bests.

16. (16) Nate Condon, C, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 200th overall, 2008

Condon is in his last season for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team. As captain of the Gophers, Condon led his team into their first season in the newly formed Big 10 Hockey Conference. Through 12 conference games, they have a 10-2-2 record, which puts them at the top of the Big 10. Through 30 overall games, the Gophers have a 21-4-5 record with a goal differential of 47. Condon’s 18 points in those 30 games puts him at eighth in team scoring.

17. (15) Mason Geertsen, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 93rd overall, 2013

Geertsen is in his first full season for the Vancouver Giants and the big defenseman has already surpassed his career best with 17 points in 55 games. While his improvement in the offensive end is a welcome surprise he has improved the play in his own end as well. Compared to last year when he was a minus-28 for the Oil Kings and Giants, Geertsen has a plus-three rating so far this year.

18. (NR) Andrew Agozzino, LW, 6.5D
Signed as a free agent, March 2013

For the second straight year, Agozzino is leading the Monsters in scoring. The 22-year-old winger from Kleinburg, Ontario is one of the few players who has not fallen victim to the injury bug for the Monsters. In 49 games, Agozzino has 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points.

19. (17) Karl Stollery, D, 6.5D
Signed as a free agent, May 2013

Last year, Stollery played his first full season in the AHL and led the Monsters in blue line scoring. He is behind Hunwick and Elliott this year, but when the Avalanche needed to call up a defenseman, they went with Stollery. In his two games for the Avalanche, Stollery played on the third pairing and posted no points. In 41 games for the Monsters, Stollery has five goals and 11 assists for 16 points.

20. (14) Colin Smith, C, 6.5D
Drafted 7th round, 192nd overall, 2012

Smith was a prolific junior scorer for the Kamloops Blazers but in his first full professional season, he has only found the back of the net five times. This is not due to a limited role as he was thrust into the top six multiple times as one of the few players able to remain healthy for the Monsters this season. Smith will have to work on getting bigger to adjust to the more physical AHL game.