Avalanche Top 20 prospects

By Tanya Lyon

The new Top 20 for the Colorado Avalanche features five of the team’s 2006 draft picks. Like every team in the NHL, the Avalanche will place a heavy importance on their draft and developing the prospects in their system in the new salary cap era.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Wojtek Wolski, LW
2. Ryan Stoa, C
3. Paul Stastny, C
4. Chris Stewart, RW
5. Brad Richardson, C
6. Peter Budaj, G
7. Chris Durand, C
8. Tom Fritsche, LW
9. Johnny Boychuk, D
10. T.J. Hensick, C
11. Denis Parshin, RW
12. Linus Videll, LW
13. Nigel Williams, D
14. Codey Burki, C
15. Brett Hemingway, LW
16. Tyler Weiman, G
17. Michael Carman, C
18. Ray Macias, D
19. Kevin Montgomery, D
20. Kyle Cumiskey, D

1.Wojtek Wolski, LW (20)
1st Round, 2004 Entry Draft

Last season was hugely successful for Wolski. He got a taste of the NHL, playing in nine games at the beginning of the season and earning two goals and six points before being sent back to the Brampton Battalion of the OHL. At the junior level, Wolski dominated, finishing third in the scoring race with 47 goals and 128 points in 56 games. It was a huge improvement over his 2004-05 totals of 29 goals and 73 points. Wolski was named OHL player of the year and after his team was knocked out of the playoffs, the 20-year-old rejoined the Avs in their playoff race. He made an immediate impact, scoring a goal and notching two assists. The left wing’s ability to make an impact on the score sheet will no doubt earn him the chance to become an NHL regular in training camp.

2. Ryan Stoa, C (19)
2nd Round, 2005 Entry Draft

The Avs will need centers soon as Joe Sakic and Pierre Turgeon are in the twilight of their careers and the Avs are lucky enough to have two good ones coming through their system. Stoa, who has the size to be a power forward in the NHL, added some muscle to his 6’3 frame and is now listed at 213 pounds. The center was the lone freshman to appear in all 41 games for the University of Minnesota. Stoa often played left wing for the Gophers and while he struggled early on in his freshman season, he came into his own after being paired on the Gophers top line with star juniors Ryan Potulny (PHI) and Danny Irmen (MIN). His chemistry with his linemates allowed him to end the season seventh on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 25 points in 41 games.

3. Paul Stastny, C (20)
2nd Round, 2005 Entry Draft

In his freshman year with the University of Denver, Stastny helped lead the school to a second consecutive national title and earned the WCHA Rookie of the Year award. He scored 17 goals and 45 points in 42 games. Before his sophomore season was set to begin, he was named the Preseason Player to watch by College Hockey News and he did not disappoint. He scored a career high 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists) in 39 games and claimed the WCHA scoring title with 44 points in 28 league games.

4. Chris Stewart, RW (19)
1st Round, 2006 Entry Draft

The younger brother of Florida Panthers prospect Anthony Stewart emerges at the No. 4 spot after proving himself last season and being drafted in the first round in 2006. After spending a year away from hockey to play football, Stewart came back as a walk on to score 18 goals and 30 points in his first season back to hockey in Kingston. In 2005-06, the right wing improved by scoring 87 points in 62 games was named an OHL All-Star. At 6’1 and 227 pounds, Stewart has already leaned out from his football playing weight which was closer to 260, and has committed to showing up to camp at 220. His surprising improvement last season has many in the Avs organization hopeful.

5. Brad Richardson, C (21)
5th Round, 2003 Entry Draft

Due to injuries in the Avalanche line-up, center Brad Richardson got an extended call-up with the Avalanche last year. Richardson made the most out of it, appearing in 41 games in his first professional season including appearances in 37 of the final 39 regular season games. The center appears to have made the adjustment to the NHL as the season ended as he scored his first NHL goal and all 13 points during his second call-up. While Richardson didn’t appear as regularly as he’d have liked on the score sheet, the Avs brass was pleased with his speed and work ethic. Richardson has a knack for scoring and in his final year at the junior level was third in the OHL in scoring with 97 points so expect his point production to increase as he makes the adjustment to the NHL.

6. Peter Budaj, G (23)
2nd Round, 2001 Entry Draft

Budaj came a long way last season, going from backup goaltender to short-term starter. He helped carry the Avalanche when the team was plagued with injuries and when the team traded away starter David Aebischer for injured Jose Theodore. Budaj made 14 consecutive starts, going 7-4-2 during that stretch with a 2.99 goals against average. The Slovakian finished the season with an overall record of 14-10-0 and a 2.86 goals against average, putting him sixth among all rookies with 14 wins. This season he will undoubtedly be relegated to a back-up role once again, but there is no doubt the extra starts at the NHL level has helped him hone his game and will make even more prepared should Theodore be unavailable.

7. Chris Durand, C (19)
2nd Round, 2005 Entry Draft

This was Durand’s third year playing in the WHL for the Seattle Thunderbirds. Two years ago, the center scored 53 points in 66 games for the Thunderbirds but in the 2005-06 season he saw that production drop to 34 points in 71 games while seeing his penalty minutes increase to 105. Durand has had problems with consistency throughout his career but his point production last season was still good enough for sixth place on the team. The 6’2, 196-pound center came back during the post season and led the team in points during the post season scoring five goals and three assists in seven games.

8. Tom Fritsche, LW (19)
2nd Round, 2005 Entry Draft

The younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets Dan Fritsche, Tom enjoyed an outstanding freshman season for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The 5’11, 185-pound forward was Ohio State’s leading scorer in 2004-05 as a freshman with 45 points in 42 games. Fritsche’s 45 points tied him for first in the nation among college rookies. He was also named Inside College Hockey’s National Freshman of the Year and was a finalist for the league rookie of the year honors.

9. Johnny Boychuk, D (22)
2nd Round, 2002 Entry Draft

The 2002 second round draft pick has good size for a defenseman and is listed at 6’2 and 215 pounds. The Edmonton native is projected to be a top four defenseman but for now he is still developing. In Boychuk’s first season in the AHL, he scored 15 points in 68 games with a +15 rating. Last season with the Lowell Lock Monsters, he improved in scoring with six goals and 26 assists in 74 games but also tallied a -18 rating with 73 penalty minutes.

10. T. J. Hensick, C (20)
3rd Round, 2005 Entry Draft

The offensively talented Hensick has continued to impress while playing at Michigan. He’s proven to a consistent goal scorer. In 2004-05, he scored 23 goals and 55 points in just 39 games. The following season he scored 17 goals and 52 points in 41 games and was nominated as one of the top ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. The 5’10, 182-pound Michigan native is known as a hard worker but is said to lack a physical presence on the ice. The center will have a chance to prove himself as he enters this season as Michigan’s lone offensive talent.

11. Denis Parshin, RW (20)
3rd Round, 2004 Entry Draft

The 2004 draft pick has spent his entire career with CSKA hockey club of the Russian Super League and is said to be highly skilled puckhandler. While Parshin is extremely skilled, that potential has yet to translate into reality. He scored just two goals and 10 points in 39 games last season a three-point improvement over the previous season. Parshin’s lack of development can be attributed in part to his small size which has prevented him from making it onto one of the top three lines of CSKA. At just 5’9 and under 160 pounds, Parshin is the same size he was when he was drafted. The right wing will need to add size and strength to his small frame in order to become more effective in the corners and stronger on the puck.

12. Linus Videll, LW (21)
7th Round, 2003 Entry Draft

Videll, a seventh round selection in 2003, has been playing in Sweden since that time. Last season, the left winger split the season between three different teams including Sodertalje SK and AIK IF. In 31 games with Sodertalje SK, Videll scored a goal and four points while with AIK IF, he scored six goals and 13 points in 20 games. Videll has been fairly consistent as the previous year, he scored six goals and 15 points in 27 games. At 6’3 and 212 pounds, he has good size but like Parshin, Videll has failed to make any big strides in his development. He may benefit from playing in the AHL and working on his game under the eyes of the Avalanche staff.

13. Nigel Williams, D (18)
2nd Round, 2006 Entry Draft

Surprisingly, Williams did not go as early in the draft as some had speculated allowing Colorado to snatch him in the second round. Like many of Colorado’s top prospects, Williams comes from the US National Development Program and made a splash at the Four Nations Tournament last February scoring two goals and an assist in the three-game tournament. In 2005-06, he played in 48 games scoring six goals and 15 points. Williams will continue to develop in the NCAA system, as he has committed to playing with NCAA Champion University of Wisconsin. The Avs consider Williams to be an offensive defenseman despite the fact that his production dropped this past season. At 6’4 and 226 pounds, the Avs certainly like Williams’ size and the fact that the Illinois native is not afraid to be physical.

14. Codey Burki, C (18)
2nd Round, 2006 Entry Draft

The 6’1, 193-pound Burki has been criticized for not always bringing his “A” game but if the Manitoba native can show more consistency, then he may turn out to be a second-round gem for the Avs. The center has played the past three seasons for the Brandon Wheat Kings and has made impressive improvements over the past two seasons. In 2004-05, Burki scored 10 goals and 23 points in 68 games played while in 2005-06 he completely surpassed that number, scoring 27 goals and 61 points in 70 games.

15. Brett Hemingway, LW (22)
7th Round, 2003 Entry Draft

The Surrey, BC native has quickly developed into one of the Avs top prospects. The 6’1, 200-pound left wing played in all 42 games for the University of New Hampshire scoring 22 goals and 43 points. He ranked second on the team in goals scored and led the nation in game-winning goals scored. Hemingway will be a senior this fall.

16. Tyler Weiman, G (22)
5th Round, 2002 Entry Draft

Goaltender Tyler Weiman is a 2002 fifth round draft pick. He was named CHL rookie of the year and most outstanding goaltender in 2005. While playing for the Colorado Eagles, Weiman earned a 1.80 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Weiman split last season between the Lowell Lock Monsters (AHL) and the San Diego Gulls (ECHL). In Lowell, he played in 14 games going 6-6-1 with a 2.56 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. In San Diego, he earned more starts and played in 32 games earning a .910 save percentage and a 2.81 GAA.

17. Michael Carman, C (18)
3rd Round, 2006 Entry Draft

Another prospect from the US National Development Program, the 6’, 180-pound Carman has committed to the University of Minnesota in the fall. Last season, the center had points in 54 of 60 games. The scouting report on Carman says that he’s steady and reliable and while not overly physical, the center does not back down in physical games.

18. Ray Macias, D (19)
4th Round, 2005 Entry Draft

The 6’1 and 198-pound offensive defenseman hails from the growing hockey mecca of Southern California and made huge strides to improve his game last season. The Kamloops Blazers defenseman saw his production decrease this past season from 47 points scored in 2004-05 to 38 points scored in 2005-06. While Macias saw his offensive production decrease he has completely improved his defensive game going from a -16 a season ago to an even plus/minus last season.

19. Kevin Montgomery, D (18)
4th Round, 2006 Entry Draft

The Avs selected Montgomery using a pick they received from the Edmonton Oilers. Montgomery has played for the U.S. National Team Development Program for the past two years. Last season, Montgomery had six goals and 22 points in 59 games. At 6’1 and 185 pounds, Montgomery will probably need to add strength and weight in order to win battles at the NHL level. He has committed to Ohio State for the 2006-07 season.

20. Kyle Cumiskey, D
7th Round (222nd overall) 2005 NHL Entry Draft

The smooth-skating defenseman for the Kelowna Rockets had a very successful season in 2005-06. Although he missed quite a few games to a back injury and then a concussion early in the season, Cumiskey registered 30 points (6 goals, 24 assists) in the 51 games he played, while managing a plus/minus of +15. A shifty, offensive defenseman with excellent puckhandling skills, Cumiskey was used in all situations. His size has always been an issue, but Cumiskey has bulked up sufficiently this season to erase some of that concern. It is likely that Cumiskey will return for one more year at Kelowna before commencing his professional career.

Zoran Manojlovic, Leslie Treff, Roman Tanner, Courtney Wagner contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.