Avalanche Top 20 prospects

By Roman Tanner

This most recent prospect ranking sees a drastic changing of the guard as the Colorado Avalanche 2005 draft class invades the list and reinvigorates the organization’s waning prospect pool. Seven of the nine 2005 draftees make the new Top 20 list, more than for any other team.

Top 20 at a Glance

1.Wojtek Wolski, LW
2.Ryan Stoa, C
3.Marek Svatos, RW
4.Paul Stastny, C
5.Peter Budaj, G
6.Chris Durand, C
7.Brad Richardson, C
8.Tom Fritsche, LW
9.Johnny Boychuk, D
10.T.J. Hensick, C
11.Cody McCormick, C
12.Denis Parshin, RW
13.Linus Videll, LW
14.Brett Hemingway, LW
15.Tyler Weiman, G
16.Mikko Kalteva, D
17.Raymond Macias, D
18.Tomas Slovak, D
19.Justin Mercier, C
20.Viktor Oreskovich, RW

Key: Rank (previous rank) name, position – age, [prospect grade]

1. (1) Wojtek Wolski, LW – 19 [8.0B]

Wolski’s 2004-05 OHL season was one of high expectations, and medium results. He posted solid but not outstanding statistics (29 goals, 44 assists, 73 points in 67 games) for a player of his caliber. This placed him in the top 20 scorers in the OHL, but did not quite place him at the dominating offensive levels that the Avalanche had hoped for. However, while his offensive numbers were only satisfactory, it was his all-round game and hockey sense that developed most notably according to both his junior coach and Avalanche staff, which secured his return to the top of the list as Colorado’s No. 1 prospect.

Wolski is the complete package: size, strength, top skating, and an excellent shot. Only his mental focus has been questioned in the past, and if this can be overcome, he has all the tools to become an imposing NHL first line winger.

Wojtek was one of 44 players invited to the Canadian World Junior development camp and hopes to be one of the leading figures on the team that will be finalized in a second camp in mid December. Wolski also has another year of eligibility for the junior ranks, and will more than likely return to the Brampton Battalion unless he provides an extremely strong performance at the Avalanche training camp.

2. (NR) Ryan Stoa, C – 18 [8.0B]

Stoa was a consensus first rounder in 2005, who managed to slide to the Avalanche in the second round, 34th overall. A member of Team USA for the 2005 U-18 World Championship, he registered 14 goals, 24 assists, and 36 penalty minutes in 38 games with the US National U-18 team (USDP) in 2004-05, third on the team.

Stoa has the body of a power forward (at 6’3, 200 pounds), but the speed, and stick handling skills of a finesse player. His upside represents great value for Colorado at the center position, and he will look to continue his development at the University of Minnesota for the upcoming collegiate season.

3. (2) Marek Svatos, RW – 23 [8.0C]

The only thing keeping Svatos from the second spot on the Avs prospect list is
his nagging shoulder condition. He played four regular season games for the
Avalanche last year, (two at the beginning of the season and then two at the
end after he had returned from his injury, in which he scored two goals). He
also began to show huge promise entering the NHL playoffs, accumulating six
points in 11 playoff games. His season in Hershey (AHL) placed him fourth on
the team in scoring, with 46 points in 72 games. However his recurring shoulder
injuries remain a nagging concern stunting this young winger’s growth as an
offensive force.

The future is bright for this Slovakian, as he is primed to gain a spot on one of the top two lines in 2005-06 Avalanche training camp. He looks to be entering camp with a clean bill of health and will be asked to contribute immediately with the losses of several top line forwards.

4. (NR) Paul Stastny, C – 19 [7.5B]

Another 2005 second round draft pick, Stastny’s skating is strikingly similar to that of his legendary father, former Nordiques star, Peter — powerful with good speed. He possesses outstanding hockey instincts and shows great pedigree as a flourishing, playmaking center.

Paul Stastny’s first year at the University of Denver was a wildly successful one, living up to his billing as a highly-touted NCAA rookie. He was a leading member of the Pioneers team that won the national championship and won numerous awards including, WCHA and USCHO Rookie of the Year honors, and Denver’s Barry Sharp Memorial Trophy. Stastny was also selected to the NCAA All-Tournament and WCHA All-Rookie Teams. Stastny finished second on the team in scoring with 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 42 appearances. He led all WCHA rookies in conference scoring during the regular season with 31 points. His 45 overall points tied him for first in the nation among rookies.

5. (3) Peter Budaj, G – 22 [7.5C]

Budaj’s profile has certainly increased this off-season, as the Avalanche prepare to give him a shot at the NHL. Perhaps most indicative of Budaj’s increased value is the Avalanche trade, sending prior backup Phil Sauve to Calgary, displaying Colorado’s commitment to their young Slovakian netminder. Budaj, taken with the 63rd overall pick in 2001, is coming off a solid year with the Hershey Bears. His individual statistics were not very representative of the improvement in his play, based primarily on a weak Hershey team this past season.

Budaj is the training camp favorite to emerge as Colorado’s backup goaltender and aside from Marek Svatos is Colorado’s most NHL-ready prospect.

6. (NR) Chris Durand, C – 18 [7.0B]

If it were not for an inconsistent 2004-05 season, Durand may have very likely been a mid first rounder in the 2005 draft. Luckily for the Avalanche organization, he dropped all the way to 52nd overall, and to be certain, the Colorado staff has found a gem in this smooth skating center from the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. Durand has excellent acceleration and keen vision of the ice. Durand was selected to play in the 2005 CHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver. He notched 18 goals and 34 assists with 76 penalty minutes in 66 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) in 2004-05.

7. (8) Brad Richardson, C – 20 [7.0C]

Richardson managed an incredible year with Owen Sound finishing third overall in OHL scoring with 97 points (outscoring the second overall pick Bobby Ryan also on Owen Sound Attack), and finished second to only Corey Perry in OHL MVP voting. (Perry received 109 points in the voting, while Richardson received 41 points. Jeff Carter of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Patrick O’Sullivan of the Mississauga IceDogs tied for third with 32 points). Few players did more to enhance their prospect rating last season than Brad Richardson. With Colorado’s improved depth on the bottom two forward lines, Richardson will be hard pressed to make the Avalanche opening day roster, but is not far away and should be a candidate for call-up if injuries plague the main club.

8. (NR) Tom Fritsche, LW – 18 [7.5C]

Fritsche, 5’11 185, from Parma, Ohio is noted as a quick skater with breakaway speed and excellent scoring touch in close. Very tenacious with a playmaker’s flair, Fritsche received CCHA All-Rookie honors in 2004-05, skating for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Fritsche is the younger brother of current Columbus Blue Jackets forward Dan Fritsche. He led the Buckeyes in points (45), assists (34) and plus/minus (+21). His 45 points (11 goals, 34 assists) tied him for first in the nation among rookies (with Paul Stastny).

9. (4) Johnny Boychuk, D – 21 [6.5B]

Defenseman Johnny Boychuk, (61st overall 2002), had an excellent rookie season in Hershey, putting up 15 points in 68 games, leading the Bears with a +15 rating. Boychuk is a well-rounded defenseman, who has great size at 6’2, 215 pounds and an apparent willingness to throw his weight around the ice. Boychuk’s point shot is powerful, giving him potential later in his career as a stay-at-home power play presence as he hones his offensive game. He would do well with another development year in the AHL, and since his initial transition from junior was so successful, the Avs can one day expect big play from this projected top 4 defensemen.

10. (NR) T.J. Hensick, C – 19 [7.0D]

The biggest criticism of Hensick’s game is his lack of a physical presence. Other then that, he is a gifted offensive player, with fantastic puck handling skills, breakaway speed, and creative playmaking abilities in the offensive zone. He followed up his outstanding rookie year in Michigan where he was a first team conference all-star and rookie of the year in the CCHA, with an even better sophomore year, named a top ten finalist for the Hobey Baker award. Hensick was also a member of Team USA’s 2005 U-20 WJC squad.

11. (6) Cody McCormick, C – 22 [6.0B]

McCormick played in 44 games with the Avalanche in 2003-04. He finished with five points and 73 penalty minutes. While his offensive abilities are limited he’s a versatile center or winger who plays at 100 percent effort level every shift. His agitating style gives him great promise as a third or fourth line checker in Colorado for years to come.

12. (7) Denis Parshin, RW – 19 [7.5D]

Parshin is an effortless skater who has the ability to up his speed to another gear when an offensive opportunity beckons. He is the ultimate boom-bust prospect, with massive upside but some large hurdles to overcome before he can be considered ready for the NHL. His size is compromising, at only 5’8, and just less than 160 pounds. His second season in the Russian Elite League was a slight disappointment as he struggled to gain ice time under NHL regulars such as Alexander Frolov, Nikolai Zherdev and Oleg Saprykin. Still his offensive, one-on-one ability is eye-popping with a flurry of moves that will bring fans out of their seats. While Avalanche staff were hoping to have him in Colorado for the 2005 training camp for a closer look, complications with the lack of a new Russian transfer agreement deemed this unlikely.

13. (7) Linus Videll, LW – 20 [6.5C]

Videll was the third link of Sweden’s 2005 WJC top line which also included David Fredriksson and Carl Söderberg. He is not the best skater, but he has good stick handling touch with great strength and size. He also has the ability to find the open spots in front of the net and has a powerful shot. His year with Sodertalje SK of the Swedish Elite League was cut short after five games, with very little production and he finished the year in the Swedish second division.

14. (9) Brett Hemingway, LW – 22 [6.5C]

University of New Hampshire left wing Brett Hemingway was another prospect whose stock jumped up last season. Hemingway had 22 goals and 20 assists for 42 points in 40 games. He has a hard, accurate shot that he can get off in a hurry and he improved his skating dramatically from the previous season. Hemingway’s transition from the BCHL to NCAA has been flawless and provided he adds more weight to his frame, he’ll be expected to improve on his already lofty goal scoring totals for this year.

15. (NR) Tyler Weiman, G – 21 [7.0D]

Weiman was awarded both the CHL (Central Hockey League) Rookie of the Year and Goaltender of the Year in 2005, and set new marks for goals against average (1.80) and save percentage (.938) in a single season, while also tying three other goaltenders with a record eight shutouts during the year. While he’ll have difficulty challenging for a spot on the Avalanche this year, he has certainly provided himself with the opportunity to prove himself at the AHL level.

16. (13) Mikko Kalteva, D – 21 [7.0D]

Kalteva was a fourth round selection in the 2002 entry draft. He played only two regular season games and two playoff contests for Jokerit Helsinki in the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga) this past season. He did not register a point during the two regular season games or the playoffs. While his statistics did very little to boost his potential, he still merits consideration as one of Colorado’s better defensive prospects, which may be indicative of the organization’s weakness at the position. Kalteva has a heavy shot, with good offensive instincts but lacks an overall defensive awareness to compete consistently at the highest levels.

17. (NR) Raymond Macias, D – 18 [7.5D]

Macias, a 2005 draftee, is a naturally gifted skater, who possesses great acceleration and overall skill on his feet. He has good hands and is effective moving the puck up ice in most situations. Even though the Kamloops Blazers didn’t turn in a picture-perfect season in 2004-05, Macias lead Kamloops in overall scoring with 47 points in 69 games, seeing action both guarding the blue line and on the right wing displaying his offensive versatility. He also participated in the 2005 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. He has the raw abilities to become an effective NHL offensive defenseman and will participate in Avalanche training camp this year, although he will certainly need more time to develop his defensive game.

18. (10) Tomas Slovak, D – 22 [6.5C]

Slovak has been a picture of inconsistency in recent years. He was a second round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2001, and was without question, the best offensive defenseman in the WHL in 2002-03. Then he regressed, with a poor year splitting between Hershey and the ECHL in 2003-04. This past season he played with HC Kosice in Slovakia (33 games, 14 points) but still failed to gain great strides in his development. Clearly the offensive potential is there, but his skating ability remains suspect for competition at the pro ranks.

19. (NR) Justin Mercier, C – 18 [6.5C]

Mercier played the 2004-05 season with the U-18 team. He also joined the U.S. National team at the Five Nations Tournament in Sweden where he helped take home the gold. The scouting report on Mercier is that he is defensively aware with good back-checking presence, and moves well, with and without the puck. Mercier is headed to the University of Miami-Ohio for the 2005-06 season.

20. (17) Viktor Oreskovich, RW – 19 [6.0C]

Oreskovich rounds out the top 20 list, and made the cut despite registering a disappointing season with Notre Dame in the CCHA, (3 points in 37 games). He is a prototypical power forward who can score goals as well as set them up, an unselfish player who blends size (6’3, 220), speed, great hands and outstanding hockey sense. Oreskovich’s game should improve in his second year at Notre Dame as his confidence is renewed.

Missing the Cut

Jason Lynch, David Jones, Kyle Cumiskey

Jeff Dahlia and DJ Powers contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.