Avalanche junior prospects season review

By Ryan Miller

Codey Burki, C

6’, 190 lbs. DOB: Nov. 17, 1987 – Winnipeg, Manitoba  
Acquired: 2nd Round, 59th Overall 2006

Codey Burki had perhaps his best opportunity to display his talents in 2006-07 as a veteran player and team leader. Burki had a phenomenal season in his fourth campaign with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, continuing to develop his offensive talents, and leading the team in goals (36) and points (85) in 70 games. He ranked fifth in scoring in the WHL and teammates Mark Derlago and Robert Klinkhammer also ranked in the top 20.

Burki’s season got off to a hot start, scoring 13 goals and 12 assists in the first 17 games of the season. His production settled to about a point per game throughout the middle of the season, but he finished strong, averaging a goal and an assist per game in the final seven games of the season, and finishing the season on a five-game point streak.

Burki was named to the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge as a representative of the WHL in November, but only scored one assist against the Russians. Burki was unable to make Canada’s national junior team.

With the exit of many of the Wheat Kings reliable veterans this season, including the “fab five,” Burki stepped up and shouldered a great deal of the team leadership responsibilities, and led the team by producing on the ice.

Chris Stewart, RW

6’1, 230 lbs. DOB: Oct. 30, 1987 – Scarborough, Ontario  
Acquired: 1st Round, 18th Overall 2006

After coming close to making the Avalanche regular season roster, Chris Stewart, the captain of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, continued to play well consistently in 2006-07, scoring 36 goals and 46 assists in 61 games. While his point total dropped just slightly in 2006-07, Stewart scored a goal in the All-Star Classic, playing for the Eastern Conference.

Stewart, in his third season with Kingston, had to be a strong leader as the team suffered through a rollercoaster season that saw losing stretches of seven games, and one win in an 11-game stretch, but also a five-game winning streak in October. Stewart excelled for most of the season with linemate Bobby Hughes (CAR), who finished with 96 points and proved to be an excellent center for Stewart. The regular left wing on that line, Cory Emmerton (DET), produced 66 points in 40 games, missing almost three months in the middle of the season with an ankle injury.

Emerging from the shadow of his brother Anthony Stewart (FLA), Chris not only established himself offensively, but also physically, claiming 108 penalty minutes over the course of the season. Stewart continually demonstrated throughout the season that he is a solid player in all phases of the game, a solid leader, and a consistent performer.

Chris Durand, C

6’1, 185 lbs. DOB: Jan. 21, 1987 – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan  
Acquired: 2nd Round, 52nd Overall 2005

Chris Durand continued a discouraging pattern in 2006-07, as his point totals declined for the third year in a row. 2004-05 was Durand’s best season with 53 points in 66 games, and last year he tallied 34 points in 71 games. This season, Durand managed only nine goals and 18 assists in 71 games, split between the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Prince George Cougars.

Durand showed signs of resilience, however, in the second half of the season, scoring 19 points in 37 games after managing only eight points in 34 games before his shift from Seattle to Prince George.

Inconsistency has plagued Durand throughout his career, and his troubles seem to have continued this season. He contributed very little on special teams, with three power-play goals, and one tally shorthanded, but also finished with the highest plus/minus on the Cougars with a +14.

Overall, this was not a successful season for Durand, who will need to have a strong playoff performance and work hard in the offseason to regain his form of two seasons ago.

Nigel Williams, D

6’5, 220 lbs. DOB: Apr. 18, 1988 – Montgomery, Illinois  
Acquired: 2nd Round, 51st Overall 2006

After leaving the Wisconsin Badgers after one game over concerns about playing time, Nigel Williams proved to be a physical defenseman who could contribute consistently on offense with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. In just 46 games with the Spirit, Williams contributed 17 goals and 19 assists for 36 points, including a hat trick on Dec. 16.

Williams showed his physical side, and also displayed judgment beyond his years, only taking 92 penalty minutes, averaging just under two penalty minutes per game. Williams also proved to be a steady power-play contributor, scoring 12 goals with a man advantage in 2006-07.

For a player in his first season in the OHL, Williams had a strong season, demonstrating a solid all-around game, and using his size effectively. Williams established himself on a team that had good depth on defense when the season began.
At age 18, Williams proved this season that he is well suited to playing in the OHL, and was made excellent contributions on offense, defense, and special teams. His physical play and positioning will continue to improve now that he has a regular home and satisfactory ice time in Saginaw.

Raymond Macias, D

6’2,180 lbs. DOB: Sep. 18, 1986 – Long Beach, California  
Acquired: 4th Round, 124th Overall 2005

Ray Macias had his best offensive year yet in the WHL in 2006-07, averaging a point a game, and scoring 30 goals in 70 games, a significant jump from 12 goals and 38 points in 68 games a season ago. Macias also started to develop the defensive skills that he had been lacking in past years. In his previous four seasons with the Blazers, Macias’s plus/minus had not exceeded +3, but this season he maintained a solid +29.

Macias has been haunted throughout his career in Kamloops by inconsistency and an inability to settle into one position, going from defense to right wing, and back to defense. However, he seems to be developing in both areas. With such smooth skating ability and an aptitude for scoring goals and generating offense, Macias has become an excellent offensive threat from the back line, and he has the versatility and skill to play on the right wing when asked. He also produced offensively and defensively throughout the season, suggesting that he is starting to play more consistently and is less prone to erratic ups and downs.
A breakout season offensively is exactly what Macias needed to put the rest of the WHL and the Colorado Avalanche on notice that he is starting to mature into an excellent player. Macias could stand to play with a bit more of a physical edge, but overall, 2006-07 was a good season for him.

Victor Oreskovich, RW

6’2, 216 lbs. DOB: Aug. 15, 1986 – Whitby, Ontario  
Acquired: 2nd Round, 55th Overall 2004

Victor Oreskovich battled injuries and struggled with his motivation early in the year. After taking a week off in November, he put up 28 goals and 60 points in 62 games, good for third on the team in goal scoring and second on the team in points. Oreskovich saw significant time on the top line and top power-play unit, and produced well when skating on a line with Peter Tsimikalis and Nick Spaling (2007).

Oreskovich continued to use his size, skating ability and shot to his advantage. Being the biggest forward on the team, Oreskovich hassled opposing teams, especially on the power play, by setting up camp at the front of the net or relentlessly doing the dirty work in the corners. He showed throughout the season that he is good one on one, but has trouble finishing from time to time.

Oreskovich has shown signs of being a bit weak mentally, and getting down on himself when things do not go well, but his confidence improved as the season progressed. Oreskovich must avoid the injury bug, as he injured his knee in a collision against London in early March. He is expected back for the second round of the OHL playoffs.

If he can stay healthy and continue to improve his mental toughness, Oreskovich has the size and hockey smarts for a pro future.  Too old for juniors next year, he’ll need to turn pro in 2007-08.

Kevin Montgomery, D

6’1, 185 lbs. DOB: April 4, 1988 – Rochester, New York  
Acquired: 4th Round, 110th Overall 2006

Kevin Montgomery’s 2006-07 season started in flux and was abbreviated by injury. After starting the season with the Ohio State Buckeyes and putting up five points in 17 games, Montgomery went to London to play for the Knights for the remainder of the season. Injury prevented him from showing his true potential in 2006-07 when he went down with a leg injury for the month of March. The London Knights defenseman had one goal and 16 assists in 31 games, but also finished with a +15 on the season.

As an offensive defenseman, the lack of production is a setback for Montgomery, as he relies on his stickhandling and skating to be effective on the offensive end. His leg injury, suffered on March 8, destroyed any momentum that he may have been gathering heading into the end of the season. Montgomery’s skating ability and keen hockey smarts continue to be his greatest assets. While he is an offensive defenseman, he is showing at an early age that he can be solid at both ends of the ice.
In his limited time, Montgomery played a few shifts at forward, demonstrating that he has the offensive talent to be a serious threat on the blue line. He is looking to return to the Knights lineup after a week of rest before the second round of the playoffs. Next season will be a better barometer of Montgomery’s progress.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.