Avalanche Top 20 prospects, Spring 2009

By John-Eric Iannicello

Top 20 at a glance

1. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 20
2. Chris Stewart, RW, 21
3. Nigel Williams, D, 20
4. Ryan Stoa, C, 21
5. Kyle Cumiskey, D, 22
6. Colby Cohen, D, 19
7. T.J. Galiardi, C, 20
8. Cameron Gaunce, D, 18
9. Kelsey Tessier, C, 19
10. Trevor Cann, G, 19
11. Justin Mercier, C, 21
12. Peter Delmas, G, 19
13. Brad Malone, RW, 19
14. Michael Carman, C, 20
15. Paul Carey, LW, 20
16. Jens Hellgren, D, 19
17. Tom Fritsche, LW, 22
18. Philippe Dupuis, C, 23
19. Raymond Macias, D, 22
20. Billy Sauer, G, 21

Colorado has maintained its competitiveness over the years while also being able to keep its system flowing with future NHL talent. Colorado has very good quality at the top of its prospect ranks, but lacks top-end goaltenders and scoring forwards.

There has not been major change in Colorado’s top 20.  Trevor Cann has increased his stock. Added to the list are Jens Hellgren, Tom Fritsche and Philippe Dupuis who was a late-2008 acquisition from Columbus. 

1. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 20
– Boston University – 8.0 B
Acquired: 1st Round, 14th overall in 2007

A strong two-way defender, Shattenkirk has enjoyed a very successful year so far. He participated in the World Juniors, leading the American team in points by a defender with nine, which tied him for the tournament lead.  And in the championship game of the Beanpot Tournament, he notched two assists to help Boston win its 29th Beanpot Tournament title. 

Shattenkirk has already surpassed last season’s high of four goals, with six this season in only 28 games.  He’s also one point shy of tying his point totals from a season ago, while boasting an impressive +16.  He’s focused more on the defensive end of the game this year, simplifying his game in his own zone and becoming more comfortable in the transition. 

Shattenkirk is a smart, strong, two-way defender.  And though he does not have desirable height for a defender at 5’11, he’s strong on his skates and makes his game work by providing a strong transitional play. 

Expectations are that Shattenkirk will return back Boston University next season and could possibly make the jump to the pro ranks the season after.

2. Chris Stewart, RW, 21
Colorado Avalanche – 7.5 B
Acquired: 1st Round, 18th overall in 2006

Brother of Florida Panthers forward Anthony Stewart, Chris Stewart has had a very successful transition from the AHL to the NHL this year.

Early in the season while playing for Lake Erie, Stewart recorded a respectable 11 points in 19 games that earned him his first NHL call-up on December 5 against Dallas. 

He recorded his first NHL point a few games later against Los Angeles where he had a goal and assist in a 6-1 win.  Since then, Stewart has been able to produce some decent first-year point totals for Colorado with 14 points in 35 games while averaging 10-15 minutes of ice time. 

Stewart has a very powerful frame that suits his power-forward game.  If he can continue to build on his early NHL success the 21-year-old forward could see himself develop into a legitimate second line winger in the near future.

3. Nigel Williams, D, 20
– Lake Erie Monsters – 7.0 B
Acquired: 2nd round, 51st overall in 2006

Playing his first pro season for the Monsters, Williams is a monster himself.  Standing 6’4 and approximately 230lbs, Williams is an impressive physical specimen who plays a decent defensive game while also displaying a bit of offensive flair for a player his size. 

Williams has recorded 14 points this season, five goals and nine assists which puts him second in team scoring among team defenders.

The 20-year-old has a promising career ahead of him if he can continue to work on refining his overall game.  He may see some NHL time next season as a call-up depending on how much of Colorado’s roster is turned over, but should spend the majority of the season in the AHL as he’s not quite NHL ready yet.

4. Ryan Stoa, C, 21
– University of Minnesota – 7.5 C
Acquired: 2nd Round, 34th overall in 2005

Stoa has had a great rebound year this season after having a season-ending injury during his 2007-08 campaign. 

Stoa has made himself into a strong candidate for the Hobey Baker award by putting up 36 points in 29 games this year.  The captain of the Gophers has proven to be a dominant offensive threat at the NCAA level this season.

The 6’3, 215lb Stoa has the ability to be a second-line forward at the NHL level.  Stoa has the tools to be an NHL regular, but what type of player he’ll be has yet to be determined. 

He should see an NHL contract coming to him at season’s end, and some AHL seasoning thereafter.

5. Kyle Cumiskey, D, 22Colorado Avalanche – 7.0 C
Acquired: 7th Round, 222nd overall in 2005

Cumiskey has bounced around in the last few seasons, playing 38 games for the Avalanche last season and seeing spot duty this season.  Unfortunately, he has also had to deal with injury problems along the way.

Before going down to injury this season, Cumiskey was putting together an impressive offensive output from the back line.  In 28 games for Lake Erie, Cumiskey scored 17 points.  He was also named to and participated in the AHL All-Star Game on the Canadian side. 

In early 2008, Cumiskey suffered from a groin injury that sidelined him for 17 games, and this season he’s been sidelined indefinitely with a shoulder injury that he suffered in the early New Year. 

Cumiskey is a small two-way defender, and will have to find a niche at the NHL level if he hopes to have a lengthy career.  The injury trouble he’s had so far in his young career is a concern, but the fact he’s been able to make the jump to the NHL after being a seventh-round pick is a success story in itself. 

6. Colby Cohen, D, 19
– Boston University – 7.0 C
Acquired: 2nd round, 45th overall in 2007

Another Terrier prospect in the Avalanche system, Cohen has displayed very impressive offensive numbers in his sophomore season at Boston University.  Cohen’s 23 points in 30 games lead all Terrier defenders.  He has been paired with Shattenkirk for the majority of the season on the second unit. 

Cohen has impressive offensive skills that compliment a strong frame.  He’ll return next season to continue rounding his overall game, specifically in the defensive zone and in his foot-speed.

7. T.J. Galiardi, C, 20 – Lake Erie Monsters – 7.5 D
Acquired: 2nd round, 55th overall in 2007

Galiardi hasn’t had the offensive season expected in his first pro season.  Granted Lake Erie isn’t a dominant offensive team this season, Galiardi has bounced around lines trying to find the right chemistry.  At the end of the day, he is fourth in team scoring at age 20 with 18 points in 56 games, so there is some credit due to him. 

Galiardi is a gifted playmaker who will need to bulk up in the next few years if he hopes to etch out some from of a NHL career.  First he’ll need to score more at the AHL level.

8. Cameron Gaunce, D, 18
– Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors – 7.0 C
Acquired: 2nd round, 50th overall in 2008

The offensive two-way defenseman from the Majors is picking up where his season left off last year.  After potting a respectable 40 points in 63 games in the 2007-08, Gaunce has recorded 52 points in 56 games.  He leads the Majors in plus/minus with a +18, leads all defenders in scoring, and leads the team in assists with 37.  Gaunce also had the chance to participate in this year’s OHL All-Star Classic as a member of the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

Gaunce plays a sound, feisty two-way game, and has strong puck-moving abilities.  He’s currently sixth overall in defensive scoring in the OHL.  He has a good NHL frame at 6’1, 200 lbs, but he’ll need to improve his skating over the next few years to elevate his game to the next level.

9. Kelsey Tessier, C, 20 – Quebec Remparts – 7.0 D
Acquired: 4th round, 110th overall in 2008

Tessier is a small offensive center from the Remparts.  His stats have taken a bit of a dip this season due to other players on the Remparts stepping up and getting shuffled through many different line combinations, but even so he’s put up good offensive totals scoring 52 points in 50 games.  He’s among the team leaders in assists with 32.

Tessier has a great array of offensive skills as he’s shown in the QMJHL the past three seasons.  The major flaw in Tessier’s game is his size at 5’9, but he makes up for it with great work ethic and perseverance.

10. Trevor Cann, G, 19
– London Knights – 7 C
Acquired: 2nd round, 49th overall in 2007

Cann only played 10 games with Peterborough before being traded to London on November 10.  Through his 10 games with the Petes, Cann managed 3.08 goals against average, and .926 save percentage.

After being dealt to London, Cann’s numbers saw steady improvement.  Through 37 games for London he has a 2.67 goals against average, and a .911 save percentage.  He currently sits fourth overall in the OHL in GAA and sixth in save percentage.

Cann has Memorial Cup experience under his belt, has participated in the U-17, U-18 tournaments and will be making another strong push this season for the Memorial Cup with the Knights.  He’s considered one of the top goalies in the OHL
Cann needs to be signed by June 1.

11. Justin Mercier, C, 21 – Miami University – 6.5 B
Acquired: 4th Round, 111th overall in 2004

The 21-year-old Mercier enjoyed a breakout campaign last season for Miami, scoring 25 goals and 40 points in 45 games.  This season, he hasn’t quite been able to live up to last year’s standards.  His goal scoring has regressed only scoring eight on the season, though it’s not for a lack of trying, as Mercier leads the team in shots by a lot with 117.  Even with the lack of goals, his overall point totals are still very respectable with 23 points in 29 games.

Mercier is in his final year of eligibility and should get a contract offer from Colorado.  He may not be a top-end prospect, but he has the ability to develop into a solid role player down the line.

12. Peter Delmas, G, 19 – Lewiston MAINEiacs – 7 D
Acquired: 2nd round, 61st overall in 2008

In the 2008 draft, the Avalanche moved prospect Brad Richardson for the 61st overall draft pick.  With that pick, they selected Lewiston goalie Peter Delmas

Delmas hasn’t had a great season by any stretch.  Lewiston is among the worst teams in the QMJHL, and his stats reflect that position.  Through 35 games, Delmas has posted a 4.18 goals against average, and .863 save percentage, which is league-worst for goalies who’ve played over 20 games.  Two goaltenders on his team have posted better save percentages.  Last year, Delmas had a .903 save percentage and 2.84 GAA.

Delmas is a bit of an enigma.  He has good size at 6’3, and good reflexes but has major consistency issues in his game.  He could end up being a home run, or just fade into the distance. Either way he’s a long-term prospect. 

13. Bradley Malone, RW, 19 – University of North Dakota – 6.5 C
Acquired: 4th round, 105th overall in 2007

Malone has seen steady improvement in his offensive game from a year ago.  The 19-year-old sophomore has registered 12 points in 30 games this season, a massive improvement over the three points he registered last season.  Malone’s hard-nosed play gives him the team lead in penalty minutes with 67. 

Malone is a fast, sizeable winger who likes to play with an edge.  He has talent in his game, but if he makes it to the NHL it will probably be in an energy depth role. 

14. Michael Carman, C, 20 – University of Minnesota – 6.5 C
Acquired: 3rd round, 81st overall in 2006

Carman only played in 28 games for the Gophers in his sophomore season but this year he’s looking to make up for lost time.  In 23 games this year, he’s tallied 16 points which is good for fifth in team scoring. 

Carman has a good set of skills, and is starting to display a more offensive touch around the net.  In his senior year, he’ll have a real chance to take off with his development, as there is a strong chance that both Ryan Stoa and Jordan Schroeder (2009) head for the pros. 

Though he still has some years of seasoning ahead of him, Carman has the ability to develop into a solid depth player for the Avalanche.  He’s a coach’s player, and is able to play in many different situations.

15. Paul Carey, LW, 20
– Boston College – 6.5 C
Acquired: 5th round, 135th overall in 2007

As a freshman for Boston College, the offensively gifted Carey has only notched four goals in 21 games, and posted eight points.  He ranks at the bottom of forward scoring for Boston College.

Even though he hasn’t made a very profound impact yet, he still has the talent to become a more productive NCAA scorer over the next few seasons.  He’ll need to become more rounded and add strength to his frame.

16. Jens Hellgren, D, 19 – Borås HC – 6.0 B
Acquired: 6th round, 155th overall in 2007

Hellgren has made some pretty decent strides since being drafted.  He’s playing in the second division men’s league in Sweden where he’s the youngest defenseman on the team, and has tallied eight points in 32 games. 

He’s seen as a project player who has good size at 6’3, but requires plenty of bulk on his 190lbs frame.  He possesses a nice combination of skill and skating, but needs to work on his overall game more.  He has good vision, but can be intimidated by a strong forecheck, forcing him into making bad decisions with the puck.

Hellgren is still years away from potential NHL duty, and will need to make an adjustment to the North American style of game whenever he comes over, but he has to really work on his defensive zone play and decision-making if he wants a sniff at the NHL.  The smaller ice surface will require him to make quicker decisions with the puck, and that may be a big hurdle for him.

17. Tom Fritsche, LW, 22
– Lake Erie Monsters – 6.0 C
Acquired: 2nd Round, 47th overall in 2005

Fritsche has been a small bright spot in a bad year for Lake Erie.  He’s been one of the few Monster forwards that have hit double digits in goals, with 10 in 48 games.  He’s third on the team in scoring and has engaged himself physically.  He missed six games this season for leaving the bench to fight Norfolk forward Steve Downie (TB). 

Next season is a big step for Fritsche as he’ll be looked upon to provide solid offense for the Monsters.  Fritsche projects as a top-nine forward, and may see a few games of NHL action next year if he continues his production.

18. Philippe Dupuis, C, 23 – Lake Erie Monsters – 6.0 C
Acquired: Trade from Columbus, January 2008

Dupuis was acquired by Colorado in the 2007-08 season when the Avalanche sent Mark Rycroft to Columbus.  He was originally drafted by Columbus in the fourth round, 104th overall in 2003. 

Since joining Colorado, Dupuis has seen action in eight games for the Avalanche, but is pointless so far.  He did however find himself with four penalty minutes and a -1. 

Dupuis has been an offensive bright spot for the Monsters, where he’s spent most of his season.  In 43 games, Dupuis has 25 points and a +10, which puts him second in team scoring and first in plus/minus. 

If Dupuis has a future in the NHL, it will probably be as a defensive reserve forward. He has good face-off ability, and strong defensive awareness.  He may get a more extended NHL look after the deadline but his future is more likely a career AHL’er with reserve duties.

19. Raymond Macias, D, 22 – Lake Erie Monsters – 6.5 D
Acquired: 4th Round, 124th overall in 2005

Macias has suffered a bit of injury trouble since making the transition to the pro level.  Last year, he suffered a wrist injury during training camp which kept him out for a month, and this season he’s battled groin issues. 

He spent some time last season in the ECHL with the Johnstown Chiefs but most of the year was spent with Lake Erie. 

This season, Macias has only participated in 25 games for the Monsters scoring one goal and eight assists.  An offensive defender, Macias still needs to drastically round his game in order to make his way to the NHL. 

20. Billy Sauer, G, 21 – University of Michigan – 6.5 D
Acquired: 7th round, 201 overall in 2006

Sauer has had a forgettable season for Michigan.  He lost his starting job to sophomore Bryan Hogan after an extremely successful season a year ago. 

Sauer is in his final year for Michigan and has appeared in 11 games recording four wins and six losses.  He’s posted a .915 save percentage and 2.27 goals against average.

Sauer’s rights will expire this August if Colorado doesn’t offer him a contract.  With the lack of organizational depth at the goaltending position, he’s likely to get one, though it’s uncertain whether he’ll play in the AHL or ECHL.  Consistency questions will follow him for some time.