Avalanche 2008-09 NCAA prospects update

By John-Eric Iannicello

The Colorado Avalanche currently have 11 players currently playing in the NCAA.  There are seven forwards, two defenders, and two goaltenders. 

Ryan Stoa, C – University of Minnesota
6’3, 217lbs
Acquired: 2nd Round, 34th overall in 2005

After an injury-riddled season last year, Stoa has rebounded with force as a senior.

The 6’3 power forward has dominated the NCAA this year. Playing alongside 2009 top prospect Jordan Schroeder, Stoa has collected 30 points in 20 games, eclipsing his career high of 25 points that he set in his first year with Minnesota.  The Gophers captain leads his team in points, goals, and penalty minutes.  Stoa is also ranked 12th overall in national scoring and should be a strong candidate for the Hobey Baker Award at season’s end.
Stoa has all the tools to be a successful NHL player: size, speed, skill, grit and determination.  His four years in the NCAA have really helped him elevate his overall game, but he still has much to prove.  He should receive an entry-level NHL contract at year’s end, and see some AHL time next season.

Justin Mercier, C – Miami University

5’11, 180lbs
Acquired: 4th Round, 111th overall in 2004

With an impressive breakout campaign last season, Mercier has continued where he left off.

Though Mercier’s goal totals seemed to have taken a dip from his impressive 25 a year ago, he’s already matched his assist totals with 15.  He continues to be a top point producer for Miami. Five of his eight goals have come on the power play, and he’s notched one game winner.  He’s also a +5 this season.

The hard-working, feisty, two-way player is continuing to play a strong overall game in his final year at Miami.  And though he may never develop into a top-six forward, the tools are there to become a legit NHL player after some AHL seasoning.

Michael Carman, C – University of Minnesota
6’0, 180lbs
Acquired: 3rd Round, 81st overall in 2006

Being limited to only 23 games last season, Carman is looking to make up some lost time in the 2008-09 season.

Carman has put up solid numbers in his third year at Minnesota.  He’s in the top 5 of team scoring with 14 points in 20 games along with a +5, and is on pace for career highs in both goals and assists.  The gritty two-way forward has seen steady progression in his NCAA career.

Carman’s biggest test may come next season.  With the potential of losing both Ryan Stoa and Schroeder to the NHL, Carman was expected to carry a majority of the offensive load in his final season with Minnesota.  Carman still has some years of development ahead of him and is a long-term prospect, but continues to see steady development in his overall game.

Mark Olver, C – Northern Michigan University
5’10, 155lbs
Acquired: 5th Round, 140th overall in 2008

A small, offensive, overage draft pick from the 2008 NHL draft, Olver that has put up great numbers since entering the NCAA a season ago.

The son of former Northern Michigan assistant coach John Olver leads Northern Michigan in almost all statistical categories in his second season.  Olver has recorded nine goals, 20 points, 54 penalty minutes, five power-play goals, and five game-winning goals. 

He’s likely to stay for all of his college years due to the fact he’s a long shot to make the NHL.

Paul Carey, LW – Boston College

6’1, 190lbs
Acquired: 5th Round, 135th overall in 2007

Carey is in his first season with Boston College after an impressive stint with the USHL Omaha Lancers last year where he recorded over a point per game. He hasn’t been nearly as dominant this season as, like most players, it’s been a transition period for him.  He’s put up respectable numbers in 17 games so far this season.  Carey has netted four goals, four assists for eight points.  He’s also seen some special teams play with three of his four goals scored on the power play.

Carey has some solid size at 6’1. Known for being a goal scorer, Carey will be looked upon to provide solid offense for Boston in the future.

He’ll need to work on his overall game, while also keeping up solid offensive production in order to become a good pro later on.

Brandon Yip, RW – Boston University
6’1, 181lbs
Acquired: 8th Round, 239th overall in 2004

Yip has had a very up and down NCAA career, though he seems to trying to finish his NCAA career how he started it.

He’s one of the oldest players at BU at 23, and through 25 games Yip has scored 11 goals, and 7 assists for 18 points.  His 11 goals this season ties him not only for the team lead, but his NCAA career high that he set last season through 37 games. Yip also leads the team in penalty minutes with 48 and has a +7 rating.

He has NHL height at 6’1, and has worked on rounding his overall game through his years at the NCAA level.  Yip will need a very big second half in his final year at BU in order to set himself up for the next phase of his career.

Brad Malone, RW – University of North Dakota

6’2, 207lbs
Acquired: 4th Round, 105th overall in 2007

Malone is a big, aggressive power forward at a very strong development program at the University of North Dakota.

In his second season with the Fighting Sioux, he’s seen massive progression in his offensive statistics.  As one of the younger players on a team that is mostly 21 to 23-year-olds, Malone at 19, has notched two goals, eight assists for 10 points in 27 games.  In comparison, he only recorded three points through 34 games last season in his freshman year.  He’s one of the team leaders in penalty minutes also with 61, and is a respectable +2.

Malone has desirable size, and grit that teams love to have at the NHL level.  He’ll continue to work on his overall game in the coming years at North Dakota. He’s definitely a player to watch coming through the ranks as he may turn out to be a pleasant surprise if he can find more overall offensive consistency.

Kevin Shattenkirk, D – Boston University

5’11, 193 lbs
Acquired: 1st Round, 14th overall in 2007

Shattenkirk’s stock continues to rise since being taken 14th overall in the 2007 NHL Draft.  He’s had a great year, playing mainly alongside fellow Avalanche prospect Colby Cohen

Through 23 games this season for Boston University, Shattenkirk has recorded 15 points, an impressive +12, and is among the team leaders in shots with 54.  He’s a very important factor on a strong BU defensive core. 

Shattenkirk missed some games this season when he participated in 2009 World Juniors.  Though the overall outcome for team USA was less than favorable, Shattenkirk impressed.  His point totals spoke volumes about his offensive ability from the back end.  Through the six games, he recorded an impressive nine points which was one of the top performances from a defender. 

At approximately 200 lbs, he is strong on his skates, and not afraid of engaging physically which will help him in his translation to the pro level. He’s a very solid two-way defender with some impressive offensive ability including exceptional passing skills and vision. 

Though he could probably make the jump to the pros next season, with the number of defenders Colorado has at their disposal, it is likely that Shattenkirk stays in school at least another season.  With the likely departure of sought-after free agent defender Matt Gilroy, it will allow Shattenkirk to potentially take on a more prominent role next season.

Colby Cohen, D – Boston University
6’2, 200lbs
Acquired: 2nd Round, 45th overall in 2007

Like teammate Shattenkirk, Cohen has had a very impressive second year for the Terriers. Cohen has hovered around a point per game this season notching 20 points (3 goals, 17 assists) in 23 games. He leads BU in points and assists by a defender. 

It’s no secret that Cohen’s strengths are found in his ability to bring an offensive dimension from the back end, but he’ll need to keep working on his overall game especially in the defensive zone.

Cohen has a great frame and NHL size already.  But like most players his size, he’ll need to continue to work on his footwork, especially his transition game and first step.  He’s not nearly a complete a player at this stage as his defensive counterpart Shattenkirk, but Cohen does offer an interesting blend of size and skill that makes him a desirable commodity in the NHL.

There won’t be any rushing Cohen, as he’ll likely play out his four years at Boston University both shaping his game and gaining more confidence in his abilities from the back end.

Billy Sauer, G – University of Michigan
6’2, 180lbs
Acquired: 7th Round, 201st overall in 2006

After a stellar 2007-08 season that saw Sauer not only lead Michigan to the NCAA Frozen Four, but break school records for goals against and save percentage, Sauer’s NCAA career seems to have fallen off the map.  After playing in almost every game for Michigan last season, Sauer has lost his coveted starting position to Bryan Hogan.

Sauer has appeared in nine games for Michigan this season, recording three wins, nine losses along with a 2.32 goals against, and .911 save percentage. Confidence has been an issue in the past, and Sauer’s current season cannot be sitting well with him.  He has good NHL size for a goaltender, and is still an interesting project even with his current play.

He’s in his final year of his NCAA eligibility and has the opportunity to go pro next season, should Colorado offer him a contract.

Kent Patterson, G – University of Minnesota

6’1, 180lbs
Acquired: 4th Round, 113th overall in 2007

Though some scouting agencies were very high on Patterson ahead of the 2007 draft, he hasn’t done too much to improve his stock.  Injuries in his 2007-08 season hurt his development and this season the 19-year-old is not seeing much ice time.

Expectations were limited going into this season for Patterson.  The freshman was all but guaranteed to be the backup to Gophers second-year goalie Alex Kangas (ATL), who put up impressive stats last season for Minnesota.  Patterson has only seen relief action in three games so far this season, recording 2.72 goals against and a .925 save percentage.

Patterson has a long road ahead of him but has some strong fundamental goaltending skills to his game.  He’s a project, and is likely to stay on for all four years of his college career.  If Kangas turns pro early, it will mean a big change for Patterson.