Avalanche training camp preview

By Tanya Lyon

It may feel like déjà vu for Colorado fans when the Avalanche open training camp on Sept. 14. For the second straight season, the Avs experienced the loss of big-name talent from their roster. The team said goodbye to top defenseman Rob Blake and second leading scorer Alex Tanguay this past offseason.

The team is older and with the losses, they will look to replenish their roster by adding some speed and some scoring during training camp.

Battle for the roster

Of the 48 players invited to camp, 16 of them are Avs prospects. As the low number of players invited to training camp may indicate, the Avs don’t have many roster spots available.

Prospect Wojtek Wolski is expected to take one of two forward positions available. Wolski started last season with the Avalanche, scoring two goals and four assists in nine games. The Polish born player was then sent back to the OHL where he dominated, earning the OHL Player of the Year Award and the Most Sportsmanlike Player Award. Wolski was recalled to the Avs after his junior season ended and was immediately effective in the playoffs, scoring a goal and two assists in his first NHL playoff game. Wolski’s production would taper off but there is no doubt that the taste of the NHL has whetted the forward’s appetite. The Avs need scoring with the loss of their second highest point scorer and Wolski, the Avs top prospect, has already been mentioned in many preseason Calder trophy polls. Wolski will almost certainly remain with the team for the entire season.

Another forward expected to compete for a roster spot is center Brad Richardson. Richardson seemed to adjust to the NHL in his second call-up last season, skating in 37 of the Avs final 39 games. The Avs liked the speed Richardson brought to their line up and he will likely be able to contribute more scoring (as he was a talented scorer at the OHL level) however, Richardson may be relegated to energy line status.

Expected to compete with Richardson for one of the final forward positions is Paul Stastny. The Avs managed to lure Stastny away from Denver University with a three-year deal, giving up his two remaining years of college eligibility. Stastny scored a career-high 53 points in 39 games at the NCAA level and won the WCHA scoring title. Like Wolski, Stastny may be able to provide some scoring for the Avs.

The Avs defense took a big hit with the loss of Rob Blake. While the acquisition of Jordan Leopold will help offset that loss, the Avs will have to wait until mid-October when Leopold returns from hernia surgery to see what he will bring to the line-up.

Leopold’s injury will give a couple of Avs prospects a chance to strut their stuff in front of the Colorado brass, but the fact that goaltender Jose Theodore is still a big question mark means that it will be unlikely that the team will take too many risks with their defense.

Preseason schedule

Sept. 18, Burgundy/White Game (University of Denver), 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 19, vs. Dallas (Pepsi Center), 7:00 p.m.
Sept. 21, at Detroit (Joe Louis Arena), 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 23, at Los Angeles (Las Vegas, NV), 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 25, vs. Detroit (Pepsi Center), 7:00 p.m.
Sept. 27, at Dallas (American Airlines Center), 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 30, vs. Los Angeles (Pepsi Center), 7:00 p.m.

New AHL and CHL affiliates

The Avalanche signed a one-year agreement with the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League. The Avs will share the affiliate with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Avalanche also ended their affiliation with their ECHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. This season the Avs will use the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League as an affiliate. The Sundogs are an expansion team in their first season this year and perhaps not so coincidentally, one of the Sundogs principal owners is Eric Lacroix, son of Avs President Pierre Lacroix. The younger Lacroix is a former Avs assistant coach in charge of video.

Changes to scouting staff

The Avs also made two additions to their scouting staff. The Avs announced the hiring of former player Ted Hampson as their chief scout who will be in charge of coordinating and overseeing the club’s amateur scouting operations. Hampson is the former Director of Scouting and Player Evaluation for the St. Louis Blues, a team that until last season had one of the longest streaks in making it into the playoffs.

The Avalanche also added 14-year NHL veteran Sylvain Lefebvre to its scouting staff. Lefebvre will also work with the organization’s prospects and help oversee their development.

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