10. (15) Will Butcher, D, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 123rd overall, 2013
Stepping into one of the top roles in his junior season of college hockey, Butcher has picked up the offense to the tune of 27 points in 33 games. The increase in points can be attributed to his increase in special teams playing time. Not only is he the top defensive scorer for the Denver University Pioneers, but he is also fourth overall in team scoring.
9. (9) Mason Geertsen, D, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 93rd overall, 2013
Geertsen is one of the Avalanche’s long-term defensive projects. At 6’4 and 220 pounds, Geertsen’s best attributes are his size and physicality. Although he was never asked to contribute points, Geertsen showed in junior hockey there was some offense in him. At the professional level, Geertsen has reined in that part of his game to focus on his defense. The Rampage had an influx of defenseman this season so Geertsen was the odd man out and was demoted to the Komets in the ECHL. The demotion was meant to increase his playing time and confidence and not be indicative of his play at the AHL level.
8. (8) Duncan Siemens, D, 7.0D
Drafted 1st round, 11th overall, 2011
Siemens is another prospect whose time with the Avalanche is quickly running out. A former high draft pick, his game has not improved the way the organization hoped when they drafted him nearly five years ago. His skating and physicality are still top notch but his decision making with the puck has prevented him from getting to the next level.
7. (18) JC Beaudin, C, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 71st overall, 2015
After the trade of Conner Bleackley, Beaudin became the Avalanche’s top forward prospect still playing junior hockey. In his second full season for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, he is second in team scoring with 73 points in 53 games. He is the top line center and plays a pass-first shoot-second game but severely underrates his shot. Playing with fellow Avalanche prospects AJ Greer and Julien Nantel, the trio have a good shot at getting to the Memorial Cup tournament in Red Deer this year.
6. (6) Andrei Mironov, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 101st overall, 2015
One of few Avalanche prospects playing overseas, Mironov plays for Moscow Dynamo, one of the oldest professional sports clubs in Russia. He has nearly 200 games played in the top professional league in Europe and is just 21 years old. Mironov plays a bruising style of hockey that has gotten him in trouble with the KHL’s disciplinary committee in recent years.
There is speculation he will make the transition overseas next season where he will have a very good shot at making the Avalanche’s roster if he chooses to sign with the organization.
5. (5) Nicolas Meloche, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 40th overall, 2015
Meloche got his wish and a ticket out of Baie-Comeau in a trade that sent him to the Gatineau Olympiques. His talents were being wasted on a dreadful Drakkar team and with the Olympiques he will have a chance to showcase his talents in the QMJHL playoffs. He plays a mean and nasty style of hockey with a dash of offense. His well-rounded game makes him one of the best upcoming defensive prospects. He will have another year of junior hockey but his status within the organization has many excited to see what he can contribute at the professional level.
4. (7) JT Compher, C, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Buffalo, June 2015
The University of Michigan Wolverines’ captain is having his best season of hockey yet. With 49 points in 32 games, he doubled his scoring output from last year. It’d be wrong to say he is entirely a product of freshman superstar Kyle Connor (WPG) as Compher is capable of creating offense as well. His puck-hound tenaciousness makes him deadly on the forecheck and in the offensive zone. Although he has one year of college hockey eligibility left, there is little reason for Compher to not turn professional. With the lack of depth at the bottom-six position on the Avalanche roster, Compher would have a very good chance at cracking the lineup for opening night in October of 2016.
3. (3) Calvin Pickard, G, 7.0B
Drafted 2nd round, 49th overall, 2010
Pickard has come a long way from his days as the top goaltender for the Seattle Thunderbirds but the same work ethic and steady play has followed him from Lake Erie to San Antonio, and now Denver. Last season, he gave Reto Berra some competition for the back up job at the NHL level but was returned to the AHL at the conclusion of training camp this year. It didn’t take long for him to make his return to Denver as an injury to Berra forced Patrick Roy to call up the Moncton-born Pickard.
As soon as Berra returned from his injury, he was placed on waivers and the move has signaled the time for Pickard to stay in the NHL full time. In 17 appearances, Pickard has a record of 6-5-1 with a save percentage of .921 and GAA of 2.61. While starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov has battled consistency in his own game, Pickard has the confidence of Roy to help keep the team in the playoff hunt.
2. (2) Chris Bigras, D, 7.5B
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2013
It didn’t take long for Joe Sakic to see Bigras was too good for the AHL. It only took 37 AHL games before Bigras was called up to the Avalanche where he has remained since. He beat out Nikita Zadorov for a spot on the third-pairing and scored his first NHL goal against the Minnesota Wild on March 1st, 2016.
Next season, Bigras will compete for a top-four role.
1. (1) Mikko Rantanen, C/RW, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 10th overall, 2015
The Avalanche’s top prospect continues to put up historic numbers for a teenager in the second best professional league in North America. His 48 points in just 39 games (the top scorer has played 57 games) puts him ninth in overall scoring in the AHL and first among rookies. He is more than ready to return to the NHL with a much bigger role to play considering the lack of wing depth on the Avalanche.
Rantanen took time off from the AHL halfway through this season to captain Finland to a gold medal finish at the WJC. Although his performance was quiet, he was an integral part of Finland’s offense when their top guns went cold in the later part of the tournament.