Avalanche Top 20 prospects, Fall 2007

By Derek Cheng

T.J. Hensick maintains his position as Colorado’s top prospect.  Sliding into the No. 2 spot is 2007 first-round pick Kevin Shattenkirk, the first of six newcomers, including four others from the group of nine that Colorado selected in the 2007 draft.  The list is comprised of 11 forwards, eight defensemen, and one goaltender. 

Top 20 at a glance

1. (1) T.J. Hensick, C
2. (NR) Kevin Shattenkirk, D
3. (3) Chris Stewart, RW
4. (2) Ryan Stoa, C
5. (6) Nigel Williams, D
6. (4) Kyle Cumiskey, D
7. (5) Denis Parshin, RW
8. (NR) Colby Cohen, D
9. (11) David Jones, RW
10. (8) Raymond Macias, D
11. (9) Codey Burki, C
12. (NR) Trevor Cann, G
13. (NR) T.J. Galiardi, C
14. (7) Tom Fritsche, LW
15. (10) Johnny Boychuk, D
16. (13) Michael Carman, C
17. (NR) Wes O’Neill, D
18. (NR) Brad Malone, RW
19. (17) Victor Oreskovich, RW
20. (14) Kevin Montgomery, D

1. (1) T.J. Hensick, C, 21

Acquired: 3rd round, 88th overall, 2005

After a tremendous senior year at University of Michigan, Hensick holds his position as Colorado’s No. 1 prospect.  Highly decorated in his college career, he benefited greatly from staying with the Wolverines for his entire eligibility.  In 2006-07, he recorded a career-best 69 points in 41 games, leading all NCAA players in points, points-per-game average, and assists (46).  He also checked in with a +24 rating, good for third on the team, and for the second time in his collegiate career, was a Hobey Baker award finalist.  Other accolades included being named to several different All-Star teams and CCHA Player of the Year consideration.  The only thing lacking from his college resume was a trip to the Frozen Four.  Hensick is blessed with tremendous offensive talent, including a set of soft hands, an impressive array of shots, and outstanding vision.  He possesses deceptive speed and is a very good skater overall.  His main disadvantage is lack of size.  At just 5’10, 185, he tends to lose one-on-one battles frequently and is much less effective in high traffic areas.  Hensick has started his pro career with Lake Erie of the AHL.

2. (NR) Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 18

Acquired: 1st round, 14th overall, 2007

The 2007 draft was not laden with elite defensive talent, but one rearguard who stood out in just about every contest he played was Shattenkirk.  Though he was not expected to be a high draft pick, Colorado still felt extremely fortunate that the 18-year-old Connecticut native fell to them in the first round.  Shattenkirk spent the 2006-07 season with the USA NTDP U-18 team.  In 53 games, he registered 40 points and 62 penalty minutes.   The highlight of his season came when he captained Team USA to a silver medal at the U-18 WCs, posting five points in seven games in the process.  He also took part in the 4 Nations and the 5 Nations tournaments, posting four points in seven games combined.  Shattenkirk is a skilled two-way defenseman and a natural born leader.  Strong on his feet and extremely agile, he also possesses tremendous hockey intelligence as well as terrific passing skills.  Though he does not possess great size, he is still highly competitive and plays the game with a bit of an edge.  Shattenkirk will suit up for the Boston University Terriers for now, but his college career is not expected to be lengthy.

3. (3) Chris Stewart, RW, 19

Acquired: 1st round, 18th overall, 2006

After displaying a great deal of promise at training camp in 2006, Stewart was returned to the Kingston Frontenacs and wound up having a mediocre season in the OHL.  There was a slight dip in his point totals, appropriately reflecting a year in which he showed little overall development.  He finished the season with 82 points and 108 penalty minutes in 61 games, scoring 14 of his 36 goals on the power play.  Despite the tragic sudden death of his mother, he went on to add four goals and six points in a five-game playoff series loss to Oshawa.  After the Frontenacs season ended, Stewart joined Albany on a try-out basis.  He played well, recording three points in five games and even dressed for a playoff game.  Stewart is a strong winger built in the mold of a power forward.  He possesses good speed and skill, but what sets him apart from most is his dogged determination.  What he needs to work on most is his play without the puck.  The Avalanche have high hopes for the 6’1, 225-pound forward, and another season with Albany should help to develop his game. 

4. (2) Ryan Stoa, C, 20

Acquired: 2nd round, 34th overall, 2005

Stoa has played in the shadow of some terrific talent at the University of Minnesota.  With names like Erik Johnson, Kyle Okposo, and Blake Wheeler, it’s hard to get noticed, especially when your game is built on solid two-way play rather than high-octane offense.  Stoa finished seventh on the Gophers in scoring with 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points in 41 games.  Six of his 12 goals were scored on the power play.  He was also a member of USA’s bronze medal team at the 2007 WJCs, notching two points in seven games.  Stoa has never been an offensive dynamo, but he does possess offensive ability, a set of soft hands and a quick release.  Where he excels most is along the boards, in the cycle down low, and in the defensive zone.  He also uses his size adequately and can be counted on to go to the front of the net and cause trouble for the goaltender.  Stoa has not yet signed with Colorado and will spend another year in Minnesota.  When he does arrive, he projects to be a solid all-round two-way power forward, potentially in the mold of a Jason Arnott.

5. (6) Nigel Williams, D, 19

Acquired: 2nd round, 51st overall, 2006

Williams was thought to be a solid recruit for the University of Wisconsin.  Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out and after playing just one game, the towering blueliner left the Badgers and joined the Saginaw Spirit, who had drafted him 263rd overall in the 2005 OHL draft.  As it turns out, the major junior route was the best thing for the Illinois native and he went on to have a solid rookie campaign, finishing with 17 goals, 19 assists for 36 points in 46 games.  He scored 12 goals from the point on the power play with his blistering slap shot.  He also racked up 92 penalty minutes and finished with a +8 rating.  In six playoff matches, he scored three points and posted 10 penalty minutes.  At 6’4, 226 lbs, Williams possesses a tremendous frame that is built for the NHL.  He skates well for his size and is an excellent package of offensive talent and physical play.  Just 19 years of age, Williams is still considered a project and is several years away from the NHL.  He should continue to develop steadily in the OHL and has the tools to become a dominating offensive blueline presence.

6. (4) Kyle Cumiskey, D, 20

Acquired: 7th round, 222nd overall, 2005

A late pick in the 2005 draft, Cumiskey made a seamless transition to the AHL, finishing the season with 33 points in 63 games, leading Albany defensemen in scoring.  He was not expected to challenge for an NHL roster spot, but a rash of injuries to key defensemen rushed the 5’10, 185-pound defenseman into action mid-way through the 2006-07 season, much earlier than anticipated.  Cumiskey handled the nine-game stint extremely well and showed a lot, most notably that he could play a smart effective game despite his obvious size disadvantage.  He even scored his first NHL goal and added an assist as well.  Cumiskey plays with incredible poise and maturity.  He is very composed and does all the little things in the defensive zone.  He is extremely intelligent, using sound positioning and quickness to make up for his physical deficiencies.  He also possesses some offensive upside that could make him suitable at the point on a power-play unit.  Though he has impressed, lack of size is still a drawback, especially considering the number of similar offensive-minded defensemen who have a leg up on him. 

7. (5) Denis Parshin, RW, 21

Acquired: 3rd round, 72nd overall, 2004

Considered to be one of the most skilled players in his draft year, Parshin has developed slowly in the Russian Super League.  He finally broke out in 2006-07 and had his most productive season, scoring 18 goals and 32 points in 53 games with CSKA Moscow.  The highlight of the campaign came when he was invited to join Russia‘s national team at the LG Sweden Games, filling in as an injury replacement.  Though he did not receive much ice time, his presence on the team at just 21 was a clear indication of his development.  He also added four points in 12 playoff games helping CSKA reached the semifinals.  Parshin is a diminutive, but creative and highly-skilled winger.  An excellent skater, he has improved his overall speed and acceleration.  He possesses elite puck-handling and dangling skills as well as a quick release shot, one of his best assets.  His obvious weakness is lack of size which makes him ineffective in the physical game, though he has shown willingness to play the style.  Parshin has the potential to be a top six forward in the NHL.  He remains unsigned and will continue his development with CSKA Moscow for now.

8. (NR) Colby Cohen, D, 18

Acquired: 2nd round, 45th overall, 2007

Cohen is another product of the USNTDP.  After skating with the U-17 squad in 2005-06, he joined the Lincoln Stars in the USHL and had a strong season leading up to the 2007 draft.  His 13 goals, 47 assists and 60 points in 53 games were a big reason the 6’2, 200-pound Pennsylvania native was Colorado’s second selection, 45th overall at the draft.  He also racked up 110 penalty minutes and finished with a +5 rating.  Cohen struggled in the playoffs though, going -6 in four games, unable to help the Stars avoid being swept by the eventual champion Sioux Falls Stampede in the first round of the playoffs.  Cohen is a very gifted offensive-minded defenseman, at his best on the power play.  A terrific puck distributor, he is extremely creative and also possesses a good hard accurate shot.  He is the type of player who wants the puck and makes smart decisions, though his defensive game needs to improve as he lacks urgency in his own zone.  Cohen will attend Boston University and continue his development alongside potential future teammate Shattenkirk.

9. (11) David Jones, RW, 23

Acquired: 9th round, 288th overall, 2003

A late pick in 2003, Jones has come a long way and has established himself as a solid prospect for the Avalanche.  Following a three-year 172-point career with Coquitlam in the BCHL, Jones attended Dartmouth College and dramatically improved his stock after his freshman year.  He followed up a 20-point improvement from 2004-05 to 2005-06 with a strong team leading 18-goal, 44-point performance in 2006-07, career highs in all categories.  He acted as an assistant captain for the club and was a Hobey Baker finalist as well as a First Team All-Star.  At 6’2, 220, Jones has the size and strength to be a prototypical power forward.  He is effective at using his large frame, and scores a lot of goals by being strong around the net.  A fierce competitor and very good skater, Jones also packs a bullet of a shot and quick release.  He is a very intelligent hockey player and extremely responsible in his own end, making him suitable to play in any situation.  Jones left Dartmouth and turned pro with Colorado and will start his career in the AHL with Lake Erie.

10. (8) Raymond Macias, D, 21

Acquired: 4th round, 124th overall, 2005

Macias closed out his junior career quite nicely.  After three average seasons where he saw his point production fluctuate, Macias finally broke out and had a career year with the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL.  He led all defensemen in the league with 70 points, a 32-point improvement on his 2005-06 totals and besting his previous career high by 23 points.  He was deadly on the power play, scoring 17 of 30 goals with the man-advantage.  He also led the team with an immaculate +29 rating.  Macias is an incredibly smooth skater with good offensive talent and a nose for the net.  A mainstay on the power play, he displays excellent vision and moves the puck effortlessly.  He is listed as a defenseman, but is sometimes used as a forward.  Though he possesses a decent frame, he has virtually no physical game.  He needs to vastly improve his defensive game if he hopes to crack the NHL as a rearguard.  Macias signed an entry-level contract in April 2007 and will start the season with Lake Erie in the AHL.

11. (9) Codey Burki, C, 19

Acquired: 2nd round, 59th overall, 2006

In 2006-07 with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Burki set career highs in all categories.  His steady year-by-year point improvement culminated in a 36-goal, 49-assist, 85-point performance in his final year of junior eligibility.  He even set highs in penalty minutes with 89, and plus/minus going +6.  His play carried on into the playoffs where he scored a point per game in 11 contests.  Burki is a talented offensive player boasting good foot speed and soft hands.  He is intelligent with the puck and has good vision.  He plays a strong two-way game and is effective at both ends of the ice.  At 6’0, 195, Burki possesses a decent frame, but often plays much too timid to be effective.  He avoids physical play and has not been able to demonstrate his offensive skills because of his inability to adapt to the rougher pro game.  Having played out his junior eligibility, Burki is moving on and will start with Lake Erie in the AHL.  Though he does have offensive potential, he projects more as defensive two-way center at the pro level and certainly needs to build strength and confidence if he expects to play in the NHL.

12. (NR) Trevor Cann, G, 18

Acquired: 2nd round, 49th overall, 2007

Selected in the second round, Cann is Colorado’s highest goaltender selection since Philippe Sauve went 38th overall in 1998.  He spent the 2006-07 season with the Peterborough Petes, playing in 62 games and leading the league in shots faced with 2,394.  The Petes were among the OHL‘s weaker teams and it reflected on Cann’s record, 23-32-5, and GAA, 3.68, but he managed to post a decent save percentage of .909 and was a standout on most nights.  Cann was invited to the WJC evaluation camp, but was an early cut.  He did represent Canada at the U-18 WJCs, posting a 4-2 record with a 2.95 GAA, and .918 save percentage as Canada lost to Sweden in the bronze medal game.  Cann’s game is focused on staying square to the shooter and relying on his reflexes.   He has a tendency to go down too early, leaving the top portion of the net exposed.  He also sometimes loses position when traffic is heavy.  With the emergence of Peter Budaj, the Avalanche can afford to wait and let the 18-year-old develop.  He’ll spend more time in the OHL before moving on to the AHL.

13. (NR) T.J. Galiardi, C, 19

Acquired: 2nd round, 55th overall, 2007

Galiardi had a memorable freshman year at Dartmouth College.  The 2007 second-round pick capped off a sensational season by leading all Big Green rookies with 14 goals and 31 points.  He finished second on the team in scoring behind fellow Avalanche prospect David Jones, was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team and received Dartmouth’s top rookie honors.  Unfortunately it seems college life in New Hampshire didn’t agree with the Calgary native and after completion of his first year, he left Dartmouth.  A craft playmaker, Galiardi is extremely smart, patient and creative with the puck.  He has terrific vision and simply knows how to find teammates in scoring position.  Along with a good set of hands, Galiardi has an excellent understanding of the game and uses that to his advantage.  He is also a great skater with a strong fluid stride.  Though he is a strong competitor, he does need to work on being more aggressive in puck pursuits.  After leaving Dartmouth, Galiardi joined his hometown Calgary Hitmen in the WHL and will pursue his NHL career via the major-junior route. 

14. (7) Tom Fritsche, LW, 21

Acquired: 2nd round, 47th overall, 2005

The younger brother of Dan Fritsche of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tom has spent the past three seasons developing at The Ohio State University.  He has not been able to live up to the expectations he set in his freshman year, however, when he scored over a point per game and had a +21 rating.  Since then, he has not posted a positive plus/minus and his point production has dropped.  His struggles can be attributed to a battle with ulcerative colitis, which plagued him throughout the 2006-07 season, limiting him to just 19 games, posting 14 points.  Fritsche is gifted playmaker boasting tremendous passing abilities and great hockey sense.  He is a terrific skater with an excellent top gear and he moves well through traffic areas.  He excels around the net and along the boards.  He also possesses a quick release and accurate wrist shot.  He also plays a strong two-way game and has shown willingness to get involved physically despite average size.  Fritsche has not yet signed with Colorado and will return to Ohio State for his senior year.

15. (10) Johnny Boychuk, D, 23

Acquired: 2nd round, 61st overall, 2002

Drafted in 2002, the Avalanche will soon find out whether or not Boychuk is cut out to be an NHL defenseman.  A three-year AHL veteran, he has been steady rearguard for Colorado’s farm team, but has not yet seen NHL action.  In 2006-07 with the Albany River Rats, Boychuk managed 10 goals, an AHL career high, and 28 points, along with 125 penalty minutes.  In the playoffs, he posted a +2 rating along with two points in Albany’s five-game first-round loss to the Hershey Bears.  With 234 professional games under his belt, Boychuk is a well-rounded defenseman who loves to play physical.  He boasts a heavy accurate point shot and has some skill with the puck, though he is still prone to bad giveaways from time to time.  Refinement to his defensive game, learning to play with more discipline, and developing more consistency with his outlet passes are the main things he will need to work on if he is to become a top six defender in the NHL.  Re-signed to a one-year contract, Boychuk is on his last legs with the Avalanche and needs to prove that he’s ready to take the next step. 

16. (13) Michael Carman, C, 19

Acquired: 3rd round, 81st overall, 2006

Another product of the USNTDP program, Carman was a freshman at the University of Minnesota in 2006-07.  He recorded 20 points and 55 penalty minutes in 41 games.  Carman was a key member of USA’s WJC team, playing as a defensive third line checking center and penalty killer.  He excelled in this role and even contributed a goal, helping USA capture the bronze medal.  Carman is a versatile two-way forward who understands the need to be responsible in the defensive zone.  He is an excellent grinder and his offensive game has improved steadily.  He possesses impressive speed, good balance, agility, and deft stickhandling ability.  He is also a good playmaker with great vision and above-average intelligence.  Though he is average sized, Carman still gets involved in the physical game, finishing his checks with authority and forechecking relentlessly.  He will need to add some muscle before turning pro and will likely be given ample time to develop his game in Minnesota.  Carman has all the tools and the smarts to become an excellent two-way forward and penalty-killing specialist.

17. (NR) Wes O’Neill, D, 21

Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent, 2007

A former fourth-round pick of the New York Islanders, O’Neill wasn’t able to come to terms with the Isles after graduating from Notre Dame.  Less than a week after he became available, the Avalanche signed him to a three-year contract.  O’Neill was one of the top defenseman in the CCHA.  Acting as an alternate captain in 2006-07, he posted 21 points and a +13 rating in 42 games, with five of his points coming in just four tournament games.  O’Neill possesses a solid 6’4, 215-pound frame, and he relies on his size to intimidate opponents who challenge him.  His strength, positioning, and long reach make him a force in the defensive zone and there are games where he looks like just a solid stay-at-home defenseman.  But O’Neill has an offensive mind as well and frequently joins the rush, using his long stride to keep up with the forwards.  In the attacking zone, he shows tremendous prowess at getting the puck on net with his powerful slap shot and one-timer.  O’Neill is capable of making accurate outlet passes, but is still prone to bad decisions.  He will start his pro career in Lake Erie.

18. (NR) Brad Malone, RW, 18

Acquired: 4th round, 105th overall, 2007

Younger cousin to Ryan Malone of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brad is a product of Cushing Prep.  He joined the Sioux Falls Stampede following trade at the USHL Entry Draft.  In 57 games, Malone managed 14 goals, 19 assists, for 33 points, along with a +6 rating and 134 penalty minutes.  He scored half his goals on the power play.  In the playoffs, he tallied three goals, four points, and 24 penalty minutes in eight games.  Malone is a big talented forward with untapped potential.  He has the skill and size to be a dominant player, but lacks consistency.  He is a strong skater with good speed and plays a smart two-way game.  His offensive skills are powered by terrific puckhandling skills, natural on-ice vision leading to good passing and playmaking abilities.  He is capable of playing a physical game and likes to his big, powerful frame to his advantage.  Malone was selected by Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL draft, but has elected to go the NCAA route.  He is in his freshman year at the University of North Dakota.

19. (17) Victor Oreskovich, RW, 21

Acquired: 2nd round, 55th overall, 2004

Oreskovich initially went down the NCAA path, playing for Notre Dame as a freshman and starting his sophomore season before opting to return closer to home in 2005-06.  Originally drafted by the Windsor Spitfires, Oreskovich landed with the Kitchener Rangers following a trade in 2005.  In his first full OHL season, he had a good year, scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace with 28 goals, 60 points in 62 games.  He scored half his goals on the power play, and finished with a +15 rating.  He also added two goals in five playoff matches.  Oreskovich is a prototypical power forward, possessing a good mix of size, speed, and skill.  He is an unselfish player, who looks to pass as much as he looks to shoot.  He is strong in traffic areas and excels in the physical game.  He has tremendous work ethic and competes hard.  Oreskovich has the tools to be a solid forward at the pro level, but he needs to fine tune his skills.  Development in the AHL is needed and he will start his career with Lake Erie.

20. (14) Kevin Montgomery, D, 19

Acquired: 4th round, 110th overall, 2006

After a tour of duty with the USNTDP U-17s and the U-18s, Montgomery attended Ohio State briefly.  As a freshman, he scored just five points in 17 games and had a -5 rating.  About halfway through the season, Montgomery opted to leave Ohio to join the London Knights, who had selected him in the fifth round of the OHL draft in 2004, 12 spots after Patrick Kane.  The Knights were looking for him to provide offensive from the blueline and be the quarterback on the power play.  He finished with 17 points, a +15 rating, and 50 penalty minutes in 31 games.  He struggled in the playoffs, dressing for just nine games.  Playing through an injury, he was held pointless and was a dismal team-low -7.  Montgomery is an offensive-minded rearguard who is also defensively sound.  He has great mobility and hockey sense as well as good puck skills, but has been known to turn the puck over when pressured.  He needs to improve his physical game if he hopes to succeed at the next level.  Montgomery will continue to develop with the Knights.

Missing the cut

Tyler Weiman, G, 23
Kent Patterson, G, 18
Michael Vernace, D, 21

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