Avalanche Top 20 prospects, Spring 2010

By John Canario

Kevin Shattenkirk leads a talented group of Avalanche prospects, highlighted by a cluster of offensive-minded defensemen. There has been a lot of change in the list due to graduation to the NHL and trade.

Top 20 at a glance

1. (2) Kevin Shattenkirk, D 8.0C
2. (8) Stefan Elliott, D 8.0C
3. (4) Ryan Stoa, C 7.5C
4. (6) Colby Cohen, D 7.0C
5. (10) Tyson Barrie, D 7.5D
6. (NR) Kevin Porter, C 6.5B
7. (9) Cameron Gaunce, D 7.0C
8. (NR) Brandon Yip, RW 6.5B
9. (15) Peter Delmas, G 7.0C
10. (NR) Joel Chouinard, D 7.0C
11. (13) Justin Mercier, C 6.5C
12. (NR) Ryan Wilson, D 6.5C
13. (14) Kelsey Tessier, C 7.0D
14. (NR) Mark Olver, C 7.0D
15. (NR) Kent Patterson, G 7.0D
16. (NR) Nate Condon, C 7.0D
17. (NR) Denis Parshin, LW 7.0F
18. (NR) Kieran Millan, G 6.0D
19. (NR) Wes O’Neill, D, 6.0D
20. (19) Jens Hellgren, D, 6.5D

1. (2) Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 21

Acquired 1st round, 14th overall, 2007

Shattenkirk is currently among the top defensemen playing NCAA hockey, and leads a plethora of talented, offensive-minded blueliners in Colorado’s system.

He does lack the size and mean streak of the ideal NHLer, but a strong hockey sense and excellent skating ability allow him to stay in position on the defensive end. Shattenkirk is a natural as a leader, captaining the Boston University Terriers in this, his junior year. With 25 points through 34 games this season, he’s on pace for his most productive season of college hockey yet. It will likely be up to him whether he wants to play another year at BU or join the Avs at the start of next season.

A smooth passer, Shattenkirk projects as an offensive defenseman who can orchestrate the power play at the NHL level.

2. (7) Stefan Elliott, D, 19

Acquired 2nd round, 49th overall, 2009

Elliot has emerged as a dominant force in the WHL this season, accumulating 24 goals (first among defensemen), 62 points (tied for third), and a remarkable +39 rating (fifth).

Elliot is a calm puck-handler and poised passer, and his style of play has been compared to that of Scott Niedermayer. He’s adept at running the power play and rarely passes up the opportunity to release a blistering shot, as is evidenced by his six power-play markers this season.   

While Elliot has decent size (6’1”, 191 lbs), he, like Shattenkirk, also lacks the truculent style of play often associated with the “complete” NHL defensemen. Though he can stand to gain a few pounds, he’ll likely be in the same boat as a handful of Colorado’s defensive prospects — competing for a roster spot at Avalanche training camp in 2010.

3. (3) Ryan Stoa, C, 22
Acquired 2nd round, 34th overall, 2005

At 6’3”, 200 lbs, Stoa is a power forward with a unique scoring touch. Though Colorado called him up for a brief stint, Stoa has spent the majority of his first professional season with their AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, where he’s recorded 18 goals and 11 assists for 29 points through 44 games. He’s also accumulated 31 minutes in penalties. 

It bodes well for Stoa that he’s versatile enough to line up at left wing in addition to playing the pivot, as the Avalanche already have a trio of young talent down the middle in Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, and Ryan O’Reilly. The Avalanche could very well try to bring Stoa into the mix next season, in a scoring role.

4. (5) Colby Cohen, D, 20

Acquired 2nd round, 45th overall, 2007

Colby Cohen is an offensively-gifted defenseman with a tendency to play aggressively. He is Shattenkirk’s defensive partner at Boston University.

Cohen’s on pace to record his best offensive season, with 14 goals and 16 assists through 32 games thus far. A nagging hip strain forced him to miss several games during February, and could be the only variable in keeping him from attaining these highs. He’s also racked up 76 minutes in penalties.

While Cohen’s offensive game is sound, he continues to work on positional play in his own end. He’ll fight for a roster spot at Avalanche training camp next season, should he chose not to return to BU.

5. (9) Tyson Barrie, D, 18

Acquired 3rd round, 64th overall, 2009

Like Elliot, Barrie has taken the WHL by storm this season, collecting 19 goals and 51 assists to go along with a +14 rating through 60 games.

At 5’10”, 191 lbs, Barrie’s size is his only glaring weakness. His performance this year is especially admirable when you consider that he was paired with current NHL defensemen Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers in previous seasons. He’s been one of just a few bright spots on a mediocre Kelowna Rockets team. Though there is little more Barrie can accomplish playing junior hockey, he might have no choice but to play another year in the WHL, as he’ll likely be bested by the Avalanche’s more NHL-ready defensive prospects.

6. (NR) Kevin Porter, C, 24
Acquired via trade from Phoenix, March 2010

Porter enjoyed a hot start to his second full season in pro hockey but as San Antonio’s play diminished so did Porter’s. The former Hobey Baker Award winner was a bubble player in the Coyotes system. He has appeared in four games for the Coyotes this year with limited minutes and was unable to find the score sheet, and was reassigned to San Antonio where he had the team’s worst plus/minus.

Porter will get a fresh start in the Colorado system. In four games with Lake Erie, he has one goal and is even. He turns 24 tomorrow.

7. (8) Cameron Gaunce, D, 19

Acquired 2nd round, 50th overall, 2008

Gaunce is the vocal leader and captain of the Mississaga St. Michael’s Majors. In his first year as captain, he’s already led the Majors to their most successful season in the team’s short existence.

Gaunce has quarterbacked the Majors power play for the past three seasons. He has a hard slap shot and is a decent skater, though he won’t surprise opponents with his top gear. With his defensive game, what you see is what you get – Gaunce works hard and effectively uses his 6’1”, 203 lbs frame to push opposing forwards away from the goal area. He is tough along the boards and is rarely caught out of position. He’s accumulated 37 points through 52 games this season, but was recently sidelined with a shoulder separation that should keep him out until the postseason.

While he doesn’t do any one thing particularly noteworthy, it’s his well-rounded game that makes him a prospect. He’ll likely be sent to Lake Erie next season.  

8. (NR) Brandon Yip, RW, 24

Acquired 8th round, 239th overall, 2004

A classic late bloomer, Yip appears to have earned consistent NHL duty. A broken hand suffered in a preseason game in October kept him out of the Avalanche lineup until mid-December. Since then, Yip has experienced continued offensive success playing with fellow rookies Duchene and T.J. Galiardi.

Yip could be a valuable player to have in the locker room for an inexperienced Avalanche squad during this year’s playoffs, as he’s no stanger to character-defining games. After experiencing varying levels of success over his first three years of hockey at Boston University, Yip’s production exploded in 2008-09 during his senior year, as he compiled 43 points and 119 penalty minutes in 45 games, en route to leading the Terriers to a NCAA national championship.

While ranked behind players like Stoa due to a more limited upside, Yip is contributing.

9. (14) Peter Delmas, G, 20
Acquired 2nd round, 61st overall, 2008

Delmas is the highest ranked goaltender in Colorado’s system. He is a fourth-year QMJHLer who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads.

Delmas is 6’2”, 181 lbs and is a fundamentally sound goalie. Though he often squares up to opposing shooters providing them limited scoring lanes, he is not especially quick. While Delmas isn’t blowing away the competition in the QMJHL, he is still having a respectable season. He has compiled 20 wins to go along with a 3.19 GAA and .896 save percentage. He’s a ways away from the NHL ranks, but he could see time with Lake Erie as early as next season.

10. (NR) Joel Chouinard, D, 19

Acquired 6th round, 167th overall, 2008

Add Joel Chouinard to an already lengthy list of offensively-talented defensive prospects in the Avalanche’s system. Chouinard has nearly doubled his output from his draft year, putting up 21 goals and 45 assists through 63 games in 2009-10. He’s adept offensively as a shooter and a passer, but has admitted that he would like to work on his defensive game.

With a logjam of talent along the blueline, Chouinard may have to spend a couple years in Lake Erie before the Avalanche can make room for him, or perhaps trade him for pieces that they can use.

11. (13) Justin Mercier, C, 22
Acquired 6th round, 168th overall, 2005

Last year, Mercier watched four fellow Avalanche draft picks win the 2009 NCAA Championship while he sat on the opposing bench with Miami. He was a key component of the team that made their first Frozen Four appearance in school history.

An almost frantic competitor on the ice, Mercier is most noted for his strong two-way play and willingness to be physical despite being smaller (5’11, 190 lbs). Never taking a shift off, he works extremely hard around the net, on the forecheck and in the defensive zone, skills that have served him well as he adjusted to the professional game this year.

With Lake Erie, he has posted 18 points in 49 games and saw nine games with the Avalanche, posting two points.

12. (NR) Ryan Wilson, D, 23

Acquired, along with Lawrence Nycholat and a second-round selection, in a trade with Calgary for Jordan Leopold, 2009 

Ryan Wilson is one of the latest examples of an undrafted player being signed on as a useful contributor. After playing out his OHL eligibility, Wilson garnered interest from some NHL teams, and after acquiring him from the Flames at the trade deadline last season, the Avalanche have not hesitated to play the 23-year-old.

Through 51 games this season, Wilson has totaled three goals and 14 assists, and appears to have solidified his role on the Avalanche roster. In the salary cap era, Wilson’s entry-level contract is a cheap option for the Avalanche. He is currently signed through next season.

13. (13) Kelsey Tessier, C, 20

Acquired 4th round, 110th overall, 2008

Tessier is a 5’9” center who the Avalanche had high offensive expectations of after he posted an 81-point campaign in his draft year in 2007-08. After disappointing with just 60 points last season, he is again on pace for a decline with just 53 points accumulated during 2009-10, although he did miss some time due to injury.

With his small stature, Tessier’s chance at making the NHL rides heavily on his ability to produce offensively, so he’ll need to dominate next season in his final year of QMJHL eligibility.

14. (NR) Mark Olver, C, 22

Acquired 5th round, 140th overall, 2008

Olver is another undersized center in the Avalanche’s system. Unlike Tessier, Olver is setting career high statistics this season. He is currently tied for seventh among all NCAA players with 46 points through 35 games. He’s a good skater and plays with an edge, as is evidenced by the 122 penalty minutes he has accumulated over the past two seasons.

At just 170 lbs, Olver might have to put on a little bit more weight before he is ready for the pros. He’ll likely end up playing for Lake Erie next season.

15. (NR) Kent Patterson, G, 20

Acquired 4th round, 113th overall, 2007

At 6’1”, 192 lbs, Patterson has an average frame for an NHL goaltending prospect. Playing at the University of Minnesota, Patterson’s shown poise during limited starts behind Atlanta Thrashers prospect Alex Kangas, posting a .907 save percentage, 2.95 GAA and 2-4-1 record.

Patterson needs more time in net, and may get it next year as Kangas is likely to take advantage of opportunities and turn pro early. 

16. (NR) Nate Condon, C, 19

Acquired 7th round, 200th overall, 2008

Condon is a strong skater and has a variety of offensive maneuvers in his repertoire, but will need to spend the next few years getting stronger and ironing out the kinks in his defensive game.

Though he is producing for the Fargo Force of the USHL (49 points through 50 games), Condon has years of development ahead. He will join the Minnesota Golden Gophers next season, and will likely play out his college eligibility.

17. (NR) Denis Parshin, LW, 24
Acquired 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2004

Parshin has all the offensive weapons of a dangerous sniper: magician-like hands, fantastic speed, and a quick release. But he is already 24 and has yet to play a professional game on American soil.

Parshin could very well spend his entire career playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He’s posted 43 points through 56 games with CSKA Moscow this season and won the KHL speed contest in the skills competition at the KHL All-Star Game in January. It will be entirely up to him to decide whether or not he has a future playing NHL hockey.

18. (NR) Kieran Millan, G, 20

Acquired 5th round, 124th overall, 2009

After a spectacular rookie season in 2008-09, Millan has come back down to earth this year with BU. He currently has a 14-14 record to go along with a 3.28 GAA and an .883 save percentage.

Though fundamentally sound, he’s struggled with rebound control in the past. Millan, who’s in just his sophomore year, will likely play out his eligibility at BU, attempting to find the same success he experienced in his freshman year.

19. (NR) Wes O’Neill, D, 24

Acquired as a Free Agent, 2007

O’Neill is a 24-year-old defenseman currently playing with the Monsters. O’Neill plays a well-rounded game. He’s very solid defensively with a +12, he has grit and is willing to use his body to knock opposing forwards off the puck. He’s not going to quarterback an NHL power play, but he’s shown this season with Lake Erie that he’s capable of simple offensive plays (1 goal, 15 assists through 42 games).

With a handful of younger, flashier Avalanche defensive prospects making the jump from junior and college hockey to the pro ranks over the next year or so, O’Neill will be in tough to crack Colorado’s lineup. In his favor, he has ideal NHL size at 6’4”, 215 lbs.

20. Jens Hellgren, D, 21
Acquired 6th round, 155th overall, 2007

Hellgren is a competitive, stay-at-home defenseman playing for Borås HC in the Swedish second tier league, the Allsvenskan. He plays the position with some physical nastiness, but is limited in his offensive upside (three points in 50 games this season). At 6’3”, he has good size but could stand to pack 10 to 20 lbs on to his 192 lbs frame, in order to prepare for the rigors of the more physical style of North American hockey.

At the NHL level, Hellgren projects as a fifth or sixth defenseman playing a shutdown role, but could be several years away from a trip across the pond.

Missing the cut

Jonas Holos, D, 22

Acquired 6th round, 170th overall, 2008

Holos is a Norwegian defenseman playing for Farjestads BK Karlstad of the Swedish Elite League. He has accumulated one goal and 11 assists this season, his second in the league. Holos is a good skater, but his 5’11” stature could play against him along his journey to the NHL.

Holos experienced what it was like to play against North America’s best players this past February when he suited up for Norway’s Olympic team in Vancouver. He posted one assist and four minutes in penalties in four games.