With so many young players currently in the NHL, it should be no surprise the top 20 has a markedly different appearance than a year ago. Kevin Shattenkirk remains the top prospect and new additions to the list such as Troy Rutkowski and Stephen Silas rounding out the bottom. The Colorado Avalanche have more defensive depth than in recent past as well.
Top 20 at a glance:
01. (1) Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 8.0C
02. (2) Stefan Elliott, D, 8.0C
03. (NR) Joey Hishon, C, 7.5C
04. (NR) Calvin Pickard, G, 7.5C
05. (3) Ryan Stoa, LW, 7.5C
06. (4) Colby Cohen, D, 7.0C
07. (5) Tyson Barrie, D, 7.0C
08. (7) Cameron Gaunce, D, 7.0C
09. (8) Brandon Yip, LW, 6.5B
10. (NR) Sami Aittokallio, G, 7.0C
11. (9) Joel Chouinard, D, 7.0C
12. (NR) Michael Bournival, C, 6.5B
13. (11) Justin Mercier, C, 6.0B
14. (12) Ryan Wilson, D, 6.5C
15. (6) Kevin Porter, C, 6.5C
16. (NR) Stephen Silas, D, 7.5D
17. (14) Mark Olver, C, 7.0D
18. (NR) Jonas Holos, D, 7.0D
19. (NR) Troy Rutkowski, D, 7.0D
20. (15) Kent Patterson, G, 7.0D
1. (1) Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 21
Drafted 1st round, 14th overall, 2007
After three successful years with Boston University, 21-year-old Kevin Shattenkirk is making the transition to the pros for the 2010-11 season. After signing an entry-level deal on April 3rd, Shattenkirk officially closed the door on the NCAA after a season where he set careers highs with seven goals and 22 assists in 38 games.
He joins a growing Avalanche youth movement for the 2010-11 season. While Shattenkirk has a good chance of making the team out of camp, Shattenkirk may see his pro career start in the AHL as there is no need to rush his development. Shattenkirk displays good puck moving ability and could be a key addition to the Avalanche top-four in the near future.
2. (2) Stefan Elliott, D, 19
Drafted 2nd round, 49th overall, 2009
Elliott has had a fantastic year for the Saskatoon Blades as his offensive game is starting to really take off. Through 72 games this season, the dynamic-offensive defenseman hit career highs in all categories. He scored 26 goals (first among league defensemen), and finished with 65 points which was good for fourth in defensive scoring league wide.
While he’s a few years Shattenkirk’s junior, they both bring a comparable style of game that will be welcomed additions to the Avalanche attack. With Elliot’s dominance at the WHL level, he’ll be among a group of young defenders who will be vying for an NHL spot at camp, although his junior eligibility may ultimately hinder his chances of securing a spot on the roster.
3. (NR) Joey Hishon, C, 18
Drafted 1st round, 17th overall, 2010
A surprise pick in the 2010 draft by Colorado, those who have followed Hishon’s hockey career know he’s among the more talented players in the 2010 draft. Unfortunately for Hishon, injuries really derailed his draft year and he didn’t get nearly as much exposure as he deserves. However, that doesn’t bother Avalanche GM Greg Sherman, who selected Hishon 17th overall this past June.
If Hishon develops into the type of player that the Avalanche believe him to be, they will be getting another crafty offensive top-six player who will have the ability to change the course of a game in one shift.
Should he remain healthy for the 2010-11 season, expect Hishon’s prospect stock to be on the rise. With the Avalanche’s depth at the center position, they can afford to let Hishon develop at his own pace.
4. (NR) Calvin Pickard, G, 18
Drafted 2nd round, 49th overall, 2010
Selected on day two of the draft was Calvin Pickard, brother of Nashville prospect Chet Pickard. Pickard comes to a system that is in desperate need of developing its own starting goalie. While the goalie market currently is flooded with journeymen goaltenders, the Avalanche would do well to bring along a young goalie that can grow with their current foundation of youth.
For now, Pickard becomes the goalie of the future for the Avalanche. While landing Jack Campbell would have been ideal, Pickard is a good goalie prospect in his own right. He’s relied on heavily by his junior team Seattle Thunderbirds, and that in turn should help him in his development. He’s a quick and athletic goaltender who plays a fundamentally sound style.
Expectations will be high for Pickard, and this season could be a huge step forward in his develo
pment with the opportunity to represent his country at the up-coming World Juniors.
5. (3) Ryan Stoa, LW, 23
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2005
Stoa had a very productive year as a rookie on Lake Erie, such a productive year that he’ll be in the mix for a roster spot come training camp. Through his first 54 pro games Stoa recorded a solid 23 goals and 17 assists for 40 points.
The 23-year-old Stoa is at the age where he’ll start to knock on the NHL’s door. He’s already had a brief stint with the Avalanche last season playing in 12 games. In those 12 games, Stoa tallied two goals and recorded one assist.
At 6’3 and over 200 pounds, he would be a welcomed addition to the Avalanche top-nine, with the potential to develop into a legit top-six power forward. Having Chris Stewart emerging as a strong power forward himself, the luxury of another similar forward in Stoa will allow the Avalanche to ice a unique duo.
6. (4) Colby Cohen, D, 21
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2007
Colby Cohen leaves the NCAA with a solid resume to build his pro career around. In his 36 games at Boston University this past season, Cohen hit career highs in goals with 14, and put up a solid 30 points and for his efforts he was named to Hockey East’s First All-Star Team.
Along with Terrier defensive partner Shattenkirk and Elliot, Cohen will also be competing for a roster spot with the Avalanche this fall, but is less polished and thus a longer shot to make the team. The 21-year-old defender has great offensive artillery, but will require additional focus on his defensive game to secure an NHL role in the future.
With his offensive instincts – primarily a booming slap shot, Cohen could prove to be quite the threat on the power-play for the Avalanche in the near future.
7. (5) Tyson Barrie D, 19
Drafted 3rd round, 64th overall, 2009
Another defender from the Avalanche system who has put up astounding offensive numbers is Tyson Barrie. Barrie increased his production this past season by an impressive 20 points, finishing the year with 72 points – tied for league lead in defensive production. His 53 assists were the tops among defenseman in the WHL, and he was also awarded the Bill Hunter Trophy for top defenseman in the WHL.
With the amount of defenders challenging for a position on the Avalanche blue line this season, Barrie, for all he’s accomplished, may see himself back in junior for one more season. His small stature and the fact he has junior eligibility (similar to Elliott) is likely to work against him also.
8. (7) Cameron Gaunce, D, 20
Drafted 2nd round, 50th overall, 2008
With AHL eligibility this season, its likely Gaunce has seen his last days as an OHL player after three successful seasons with Mississauga, but the Memorial Cup bound Majors would love for the Avalanche to send him back.
After a season where Gaunce saw a dip in his offensive production from 64 points to 37, partially due to a shoulder injury, he will be looking to establish himself as a pro for the 2010-11 season. He’s looking to join what will be a young defensive core for the Lake Erie Monsters. Even though Gaunce’s season had its ups and down, the Major’s captain still managed to make the OHL’s Second All-Star Team. Offensively, he rebounded well in the playoffs notching 13 assists in 16 games.
9. (8) Brandon Yip, RW, 25
Drafted 8th round, 239th overall, 2004
A welcomed surprise this season was the play of Brandon Yip. Those who have followed Yip’s career with Boston College know full well that when Yip is at his best he can be a great player, and Avalanche fans caught a glimpse of the type of player he can be in 32 games this year.
In his rookie season Yip recorded a respectable 11 goals and eight assists in 32 games. He also had to battle two injuries that took a toll on his season. He missed almost three months with a hand injury at the start of the year, and also missed 14 games towards the end of the season with a shoulder injury. However, he was able to rebound in the post-season and prove his worth registering two goals and four points in six playoff games.
Yip may never be a true top-line player, but what he can bring is energy and secondary scoring which every successful team requires. At 25-years-old he’s a bit more developed then the other youth on the team, but his maturity may also aid him in avoiding a sophomore slump in 2010-11.
10. (NR) Sami Aittokallio, G, 18
Drafted 4th round, 107th overall, 2010
Sami Aittokallio may not be as highly touted as fellow Avalanche prospect Calvin Pickard, but his development may prove to be just as crucial for future success. Aittokallio was the highest ranked European goaltender by Central Scouting for the 2010 draft which makes his selection in the fourth round a very worthy gamble on behalf of GM Greg Sherman.
He spent the majority of his year playing with the Ilves’ Under-20 team. In 23 games the 18-year-old posted a goals against of 3.20, and a .899 save percentage. His best stint of the season came during the playoffs, where the talented goaltender registered a goals against of 2.26, while his impressive .925 save percentage earned his team a bronze medal win.
Aittokallio’s contract was extended two-years with Ilves and he’ll have quality time to develop in Finland over the next two years.
11. (10) Joel Chouinard, D, 20
Drafted 6th round, 167th overall, 2008
20-year-old Joel Chouinard will have the opportunity to hone his craft at the AHL level next season as he makes the jump after four seasons in the QMJHL. The offensive-defender set career highs in both goals and points this year by doubling his previous high of 35. He scored 23 times and assisted on 45 others for 68 points in 65 games. His 23 goals were most among QMJHL defenders. He continued his offensive streak into the playoffs recording 13 points through 16 games.
For his efforts, Chouinard was named to the QMJHL All-Star Team and also was awarded t
he ‘Paul Dumont’ Trophy for Personality of the Year in the QMJHL. He’s yet another young defender joining a young nucleus in the AHL.
12. (NR) Michael Bournival, C, 18
Drafted 3rd round, 71st overall, 2010
Selected in the third round this past summer, the hard-nosed Bournival will look to build on what was a very successful second year for him in the QMJHL. The 18-year-old recorded 24 goals, 38 assists and 62 penalty minutes in 58 games with Shawinigan. Bournival was also a member of Canada’s U-18 team where he scored two goals and one assist in six games.
He projects as a top-nine talent who has the ability to play a versatile game. What he lacks in size he makes up for in hard work and dedication. His work ethic will do him well when it comes to making the jump to the next level. He can be a multipurpose forward and is likely to spend the next few seasons developing in the QMJHL.
13. (11) Justin Mercier, C, 23
Drafted 6th round, 168th overall, 2005
The Miami University product had a respectable rookie-campaign with the Lake Erie Monsters recording 13 goals and 10 assists in 64 games. While he’ll never be known for his offensive skill, Mercier will be able to provide solid depth in a two-way role if he’s ever to make the jump permanently to the NHL. However, Mercier did get a small taste of NHL action this past year when he was recalled by the Avalanche to appear in nine games. He scored his first NHL goal on February 4th and finished with two points through those nine games.
Similar to Bournival, Mercier’s game revolves around his ability to outwork others on the ice. His fierce competitive nature bodes well for future success in the pros, but is likely another season away before he’s able to crack the Avalanche roster. Similar to this past season Mercier will likely see spot duty in the NHL throughout the 2010-11 campaign.
14. (12) Ryan Wilson, D, 23
Acquired via trade with Calgary, 2009
Coming over in the Leopold deal, Wilson has turned many heads as he’s started to establish himself as a true NHL defender after being signed as a UFA defender by Calgary. A successful junior player, Wilson was a standout offensive talent from the blue line, but major knocks surrounding his defensive game and skating ability prevented teams from wanting to draft the defender. In 2010-11 Wilson has been able to silence his critics after a very successful rookie-year that saw Wilson record three goals and 18 assists in 61 games. His 21 points was third among the team in defensive scoring. As for his defensive game, Wilson was the team leader in plus/minus with a plus-13 rating.
Wilson also had to deal with reoccurring concussion problems this past season. His first came at the hands of Edmonton Oiler forward Jean-Francois Jacques in January, when Wilson was on the receiving end of a hard hit. He would succumb to a concussion again after a fight with Calgary forward Jamal Mayers in March.
Although he had a very successful rookie campaign he’ll have to keep his game polished as the influx of young defenders coming in this season at the AHL level will surely challenge for both Wilson and fellow defender Kyle Cumiskey‘s positions on the blue line.
15. (6) Kevin Porter, C, 24
Acquired via trade with Phoenix, 2010
Another older prospect within the Avalanche system is 24-year-old Kevin Porter. Porter was acquired at the trade deadline as a part of the Wojtek Wolski for Peter Mueller trade. Before the trade, Porter was playing for the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL where he was a top forward for the team recording 15 goals and 25 assists in 52 games. After joining the Avalanche Porter was re-called from the AHL to play in the final 16 games of the season with the parent club. His offensive game didn’t exactly translate scoring two goals and one assist playing third line minutes for the Avalanche.
With the ability to line-up at all forward positions Porter may be able to carve out a solid NHL career as a two-way forward. Like Justin Mercier, Porter will be among the first forwards to see NHL action when injuries arise if he’s not able to steal a bottom-six spot at camp.
16. (NR) Stephen Silas, D, 18
Drafted 4th round, 95th overall, 2010
The Avalanche couldn’t pass up the opportunity to draft a smooth puck-moving defender in Stephan Silas. The 18-year-old had a tough year being a key player on a rebuilding Belleville Bulls team, but the experience may prove valuable next season as he takes over as the team’s number one defender due to Shawn Lalondes graduation to the pros.
Through 66 games this year Silas recorded four goals and 41 assists for the Bulls and was a key player in their transition game. He was also a member of Canada’s U-18 team and recorded two assists in six games.
While Silas doesn’t possess a strong shot, he does have great playmaking ability from the back-end that could prove useful for a team’s power play unit. He’s an elusive skater but will require work on his overall speed if he wants to be an effective defender for his size (6’0), as well as focusing on his defensive game like most junior defensemen.
17. (14) Mark Olver, C, 22
Drafted 5th round, 140th overall, 2008
Olver had a spectacular season in the NCAA (CCHA) last season that included being a finalist for the Hobey Baker, and a place on the CCHA First All-Star team. At the collegiate level Olver led his team in all offensive statistics through 40 games with 19 goals, and 30 assists for 49 points. He signed an entry-level deal with the Avalanche on March 31st and after joining the Avalanche roster late in the season he was assigned to the Monsters to play in the final six games of the season where he recorded two goals.
The 22-year-old forward is a small center, but is also highly skilled. With the center depth on the Avalanche Olver could spend up to two seasons playing with the Monsters before he gets a real chance to crack an NHL roster. With his great year behind him Olver will be expected to come in and provide a solid offensive punch for the Lake Erie Monsters who lost three of their leading scorers from last season in T.J. Hensick, Darren Haydar and Brian Willsie.
18. (NR) Jonas Holos, D, 23
Drafted 6th round, 170th overall, 2008
After signing an entry-level deal with the Avalanche on May 25th, Jonas Holos will be one of the more experienced defenders who will be challenging for a roster position this fall. Because of his age (23-years-old), and playing in the SEL Holo’s likely stands the best chance of making the Avalanche out of camp due to his strong two-way game. While it’s not unlikely to see him start in the AHL, Holos has had a strong year that will hopefully carry over to the 2010-11 season for the Avalanche.
In 51 games with Farjestad of the SEL Holos recorded one goal and 13 assists for 14 points – a far cry from the eight goals he scored in 2009-10. He also represented Norway at both the 2010 Olympics and World Championships this past year. In the four games Norway played at the Olympics he recorded only one assist, and at the World Championships he scored once and assisted once in six games – he was also named one of the top-three players for Norway at the tournament
Holos brings a bit of a different style of game then the other young defenders trying to challenge for a spot on the Avalanche blue line. While he’s unlikely to develop a high-end offensive game, his two-way game will make him a valuable component on a developing Avalanche defensive core that has its share of young offensive-minded defenders. He doesn’t have the ideal size of an NHL defender at 5’11, but he does have a solid frame that should allow him to battle opposing forwards in front of the net.
19. (NR) Troy Rutkowski, D, 18
Drafted 5th round, 137th round, 2010
The Avalanche added another puck-moving defender to their repertoire when they selected Troy Rutkowski in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Rutkowski lead a powerhouse offensive Winterhawks lineup in defensive scoring with 12 goals and 31 assists. His strong offensive play continued into the playoffs as he tallied four goals and three assists in 13 playoff games.
At 6’2, and over 200 pounds Rutkowski has desirable NHL size and although he’s not a punishing physical presence he knows how to use his strength effectively. Like most offensive minded defenders however, Rutkowski will need to fine tune his defensive game if he plans on being a regular NHL defenseman. With the amount of offensive-defenders in the system, Rutkowski will have ample opportunity to round his edges at the junior level.
20. (15) Kent Patterson, G, 20
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2007
Unable to capture the starting role on the Gophers over the last two seasons, Patterson has only seen a collective 15 games over this last two years at Minnesota. Last season Patterson appeared in eight games with the Gophers and had a 2-4-1 record including a 3.01 goals against average and a .901 save percentage – both numbers were down from a year ago. On the positive side, Patterson was named to the WCHA All-Academic team for his scholastics in the 2009-10 season.
To compound matters, fellow Gopher goaltender Alex Kangas is returning for his senior year in 2010-11, so it is likely Patterson sees similar game action next season. With two strong goaltending prospects added to the system this past summer, Patterson’s chances of landing a contract with the Avalanche at the conclusion of the coming season are slim unless he can win a starting position.