As we head into the new year it is time to look to the future of the AHL Colorado Eagles roster. Trying to predict a roster from this far out is obviously going to be tough, a lot of this will not end up being correct. Anyone not in the virtual lock category is far from a given on the roster. Still, given the unique situation the Eagles are in moving from the ECHL to the AHL it’s worth talking about.
Scratch: (Drayson Bowman)*
* = Has played for the Eagles
(Parenthesis) = Contract expires this year[Brackets] = Unsigned Avalanche prospect
- Andrew Agozzino
- Julien Nantel
- J.C Beaudin
- Ty Lewis
- Nicolas Meloche
- David Warsofsky
All of these players are contracted through at least the 18-19 season. Based on where they are currently and where they are roughly projected to be, you can expect them all to be mainstays of the Eagles next year.
Agozzino signed a two year deal with the Avs this off-season to be a top 6 offensive AHLer and possible emergency call up in a pinch. His role should be one of an AHL experienced veteran forward playing alongside the kids and helping them next season.
Nantel has finally started to see consistent quality playing time in the AHL this year and with that his production and effectiveness has jumped significantly from his first year pro. He is unlikely to see any call ups next season unless the Avs get truly desperate but, he should be ready to solidly step into a middle six AHL role in the last year of his ELC.
After proving that the ECHL is child’s play for him, Beaudin has had an interesting time in the AHL so far this season. His play and production have been solid but, the roster squeeze in San Antonio combined with some roster choices by coach Eric Veilleux have Beaudin stuck in the bottom 6 on a good day and scratched on a bad day. When the move to the Eagles is made there will be no excuse. The only player ahead of him at center will likely be the #1 player on the call up list for the Avs, at minimum he should be seeing middle 6 minutes if not top 6.
Already signed to his contract Lewis is a lock to turn pro next season. With the assumption that A.J. Greer will be graduating to the NHL full time next season, Lewis instantly becomes our best pro LW prospect. Splitting time in the middle six with Nantel seems to be a pretty logical spot for Lewis, as he works through his first year pro Nantel can fill in as a 3rd year pro player and when Lewis is on his game he can be the one getting minutes on the left side.
QueenJK has already written about how the roster squeeze has punished Meloche more than anyone. Much like Beaudin, next year there will be no excuse and Meloche should be getting consistent minutes in the AHL. Depending on how the Avs right defense shakes out he may even end up on the top pairing in Loveland next season.
Like Agozzino is for the forwards, Warsofsky is the veteran on board for the Defense. Locked into a 2 year deal this off-season with the Avs he has found himself stuck squarely in the AHL with far too many players ahead of him to realistically see a call up. With Warsofsky in the fold we are finding ourselves in a bit of a log jam on the left side D in the AHL. In a perfect developmental world finding a way to move his contract to allow more room for prospects would be ideal. However, it is hard to imagine the Avs and Eagles for that matter wanting to run 0 defensemen over the age of 25 on this team. To be honest, this article may even be on the optimistic side in hoping that no other AHL veteran defensemen are signed in the coming off-season.
Likely Familiar Eagles Faces:
- Alex Belzile
- Michael Joly
- Shawn St. Amant
While not obligated to, from a business standpoint it makes sense for the Eagles to keep some guys around as they move into the AHL. For the fan base, particularly season ticket holders and hardcore fans, having a few familiar faces around makes it much easier to remain connected to the team and provides a feeling that the Eagles are still the team they know and love. These players should be fully capable of playing well in the AHL. The one major issue with all three of these players is that they are currently on contract with the San Antonio Rampage. While they will all be free agents at the end of the year it is far from a given that they will want to come play with the Eagles.
Belzile has spent the last few season splitting time between the AHL and ECHL. When he is in the ECHL he is one of the best players in the league, last year he was the leading scorer in the playoffs leading the Eagles to the Kelly Cup. This season Belzile finally seems to have found a permanent home in the AHL and is putting up a very respectable .56 points per game. Ideally the eagles could use him as another minor league experienced veteran alongside Andrew Agozzino to help flesh out the team on the wings.
Probably the best forward currently playing on the Eagles, Joly currently leads the whole ECHL in goals. This is just his 2nd year pro and he already has a decent amount of AHL experience under his belt with 30 AHL games including 2 this season. Realistically, Joly should probably be in the AHL right now but, the roster squeeze has simply knocked him to far down the list and he gets to spend the majority of this season with the Eagles. He is an ideal candidate to bring back as a familiar face for next season.
Shawn St. Amant
This one might be a bit of a stretch compared to the other two as St. Amant is probably a bit more of an ECHL/AHL tweener. None the less he is a 2nd year pro just like Joly and has just as much AHL experience as well. His stats and skill level are both certainly lower than Joly’s but, he still may very well function as a bottom 6 grinder for the Eagles next year. He also is the most familiar with the Eagles of these 3 having played significant regular season time for them last year and is on pace to do so again this year.
Players That May Graduate Out
- Dominic Toninato
- Andrei Mironov
Both of these two players have a decent chance not to be on the official Eagles roster come next October because they are playing in a better league than the AHL. Whether that league is the NHL or not is a different story.
Toninato has already played 8 NHL games so far in the current season so it is clear the Avs did want to get a look at him. However, the glut of centers in front of him is going to make it hard to crack the Avs in a permanent fashion. The most logical spot for Toninato heading into next year is first forward call up for the Avs. There is a chance that Toninato does find a way to earn a spot permanently in the Avs bottom 6. If he does so the most straight forward path would lead to Vladislav Kamenev replacing him as the top center for the Eagles and filling that 1st call up spot.
While the Toninato/Kamenev situation is pretty straight forward, Mironov’s is much more complex. Firstly, it is not at all clear who is going to have the 3rd pairing right defense spot on the Avs. Perfect world, Cale Makar is wholly ready to make the jump to the NHL and it goes to him. If Makar is not ready, it’s quite likely Mironov would be in the NHL in some capacity, even if only as a scratch. It’s also possible that the Avs sign Makar and he plays in Mironov’s spot on this roster while Mironov is in the NHL. From there you now have the question of Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm. In this case, I have both of them in the NHL ahead of Mironov, in part because we know that they can play the left side and Lindholm has played both left and right on a professional level. So if Bigras, Lindholm and Makar all make the Avs, plus Johnson, Barrie, Zadorov and Girard puts the Avs at 7 D. If the Avs want to run 8 D next season Mironov could fill that 8th spot, but the Avs may want to bring in a free agent or make a trade for someone. The last time the Avs did not Acquire an NHL defensemen in the off-season was 2011. These acquisitions include the likes of Greg Zanon, Nate Guenin, Brad Stuart, Francois Beauchemin, Patrick Weircioch, Patrik Nemeth and many more not so fondly remembered names. One could hope that the Avs can learn from their history of mistakes but, I wouldn’t count on it. So where does that leave Mironov? Well he could stick it out in the AHL if he thinks he has a legitimate shot at cracking the Avs roster at some point. That is the optimistic view I am taking here at least. Unfortunately what may be closer to the truth is that he heads back home to Russia and sticks to the KHL that he already knows quite well. Honestly, that wouldn’t be that big of a problem for the Avs, of course you don’t want to lose an asset but the Avs have other options that with this projected Eagles roster are getting edged out of the lineup. Getting one of Geertsen or Anderson in the lineup regularly wouldn’t be a bad thing here, that is of course giving the Org the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn’t just fill Mironov’s spot with another AHL veteran which, is more likely than I care to admit. Clearly this spot is still very up in the air and could go any number of ways.
- Denis Smirnov
- Travis Barron
- Conor Timmins
- Josh Anderson
While none of these players have been inked to a contract yet, it is pretty easy to make a case for signing all of them some time in the next 6 months. Consistently bringing new, quality crops of prospects into the AHL is a big step in bringing the organizational depth of the Avalanche up to where it needs to be. This wave of prospects should allow us to make the majority of our AHL team out of prospects. I know that seems obvious but it’s not really something the Avs have been able to do in a while.
Smirnov is an extremely easy choice to bring in for next season. He is a Natural RW, unless you want to move Beaudin off of center the Avs currently have 0 pro prospects that play RW (sorry Petryk you don’t count). Beyond the desperate need for RWs Loveland is going to have, Smirnov is currently in his second year of NCAA play and has little problem crushing the league offensively even when he is in cruise control. Given his ability and role at Penn State the most logical step in his development for next season would be to turn pro. That is, as long as he is turning pro to play in the AHL and not get buried in the ECHL.
Coming into this year it was far from a guarantee that Barron was going to get a contract at all from the Avs. So far this season he has laid a lot of doubts to rest and made a strong case for one. As a 7th round pick he hits on a lot of the things the Avs often opt for in leadership, size, and grit. While he has never reached the scoring potential some thought he was capable of, he has shown marked improvement in that category this year and plays a style of game that shouldn’t be too hard to transition to the AHL. With Nantel and Lewis likely ahead of him on the left side he is going to have to earn every minute he gets, and his road to the NHL will be a long one. Still at minimum he should be able to develop into a solid AHL piece for the organization. For a 7th round pick I would call that a win.
While Makar is hidden away at a lesser watched NCAA school, Conor Timmins has filled the role of fan favorite prospect for the Avs coming out of the 2017 draft. Timmins will be turning 20 right around the time 2018 training camp starts and is a perfect candidate to play on the Eagles right side in the AHL next year. Timmins will be a great litmus test to see what has changed in how the organization operates developmentally. Will he be entirely shafted out of playing time like Meloche has been this year? Or will the org embrace playing the youth in the AHL and focus in on better prospect management. In my book Timmins is a lock for the AHL next year, his game has progressed beyond any type of need to be an overager in the OHL but, with his skating and play style there is going to be an adjustment period as he moves into pro hockey.
If you ignore where Anderson was picked in the draft, Anderson is exactly what he was billed as. A lock down D with little to no offensive upside. Guys like that can make a living in the AHL (see Duncan Siemens and Mason Geertsen). While it’s not a given that Anderson gets a contract, we have heard many times the people inside the Avs like having a few guys like that in the system. When looking at his path, following in Geertsen’s footsteps makes sense. Splitting time between the AHL and ECHL the first couple years is probably a reasonable expectation for him. Given his lack of puck skill his path to the NHL is even harder to see than Barron’s right now but again, if he can develop into a solid AHL piece that is better than nothing.
Odds And Ends
- Felix Girard
- Duncan Siemens
- Mason Geertsen
- Sergei Boikov
These are the skaters that while there is a decent to good chance they will be on the roster next year, they don’t really fit into a clear category. Their status as prospects is quickly fading if not entirely gone and while the Avs may have room for them currently, as they continue to stock their prospect pool more effectively these are players that are likely to be edged out. The hope is that most of these players will become the organizations AHL veterans.
The return for Cody McLeod, Girard initially saw a large uptick in production when he joined the Avs organization. That scoring ability has not surfaced this season and he seems squarely stuck in a middle 6 AHL role as a defensive forward. He will be a 24 year old RFA at the end of this year and the Avs will have to make a decision on him. Given the Avs lack of forward depth in their pro prospect pool there should be an AHL roster spot readily available for him to fill.
At this point Siemens is no longer a prospect, he is an AHL veteran. He has been a staple of the Avs AHL team for almost 5 years now and has also seen a handful of NHL games. He is the exact type of player you want to keep in the system to help your young up and comers along the way and teach them how to be a pro. Assuming the Avs qualify him for a new contract this off-season, Siemens will not have the opportunity to look for a different NHL organization. So if he wants to play in North America the choice rests with the Avs. Realistically if Siemens is not brought back next season you can insert [veteran AHL players name here] in that slot.
Currently in the last year of his ELC Geertsen has finally found himself as an everyday regular in the AHL lineup. Due to Warsofsky being signed through the 2018-19 season and the obligatory veteran spot designated to Siemens we may see Geertsen start to get edged out of the lineup. If Mironov ends up not being with the Rampage you may be able to pencil in Geertsen as the 6th D or otherwise he will likely be the first healthy scratch. Injuries are inevitable, especially in the more physical minor leagues so Geertsen likely wouldn’t have much trouble drawing into the lineup a significant amount of the time. The Avs have no problem handing out contracts to #7 AHL dmen as shown by the Jesse Graham contract from this season. With the number of drafted Dmen either already with contracts or in line to get contracts from the Avs it’s hard to see a long term future with the organization for Geertsen.
The hope was Boikov would graduate into a full time AHL regular this year. Then he injured his shoulder severely in preseason and it has been complete radio silence since. He has already missed half a season in what needed to be a crucial year in his professional development. He ELC runs through the 2018-19 season and given he is younger and still considered more of a prospect, I have him slotted into the starting lineup. The fact that he is a familiar face for Eagles fans likely also helps his case but, we just won’t know until he returns to the ice and we see where he is at.
Wishful Thinking For Current Eagles
- Matt Garbowsky
- Drayson Bowman
Realistically it’s unlikely these two players will be with the Eagles next year for various reasons. There slots in the lineup can be easily filled by any given AHL player that can be picked up this off-season. I don’t want to rule them out completely though as they would help create familiar faces for eagles fans.
Garbowsky was named Captain of the Eagles this year, if anyone would be a familiar face to keep around as you move to the AHL it’s him. He was a top 10 scorer in all of the ECHL last season and currently sits at over a point per game this year. While he is clearly a top end ECHL player his lack of AHL experience and production is a concern. Last season he didn’t see a single AHL game and in the 24 he played in the previous 2 years he recorded just 2 assists. With other more potent options like Joly and Belzile who are natural right wingers edging him out of any opportunity to play in the top 6 it becomes a tough fit for him to make the AHL squad next season.
From a skill perspective Bowman is fully capable of playing in the AHL. If he did decided to play for the Eagles next year he would likely be one of the most experienced players on the team. He has 180 NHL, and over 260 AHL games on his record, not to mention a stint of play in the top German hockey league. So why is he playing in the ECHL this year? To play with his brother Collin Bowman. Collin is a defensemen and there just simply won’t be room for him on the Eagles next year so a package deal is not an option. If Drayson Bowman wants to continue playing for the Eagles I am sure the opportunity will be there for him but, as it stands I don’t know what his motivations to remain with the team will be.
- Spencer Martin
- Petr Kvaca
Martin is the easy choice for AHL starter. His ELC expires at the end of this year but the Avs have no one else to really fill the role and it should be an easy call to re-up and continue developing him as a prospect. Martin has not played well enough to earn a real shot as an NHL backup yet either and another year of development seems to be the most logical path. Next season and potentially the one after that as well are going to be crucial in seeing where Martin’s abilities can take him.
Of the Avs three unsigned goalie prospects Kvaca is the likely front runner for a contract at the end of this season. The question is what does his game really look like, We have only seen him play 1 game in North America and that was at a rookie tournament so it is extremely hard to judge. Beyond that he has played quite well in the 2nd Czech league, even earning a call up to the top league where he struggled in the 2 games he got into. If Kvaca comes over (that’s a big if) he will probably split time between the ECHL and AHL in his first year as the Avs often like to do with goalie prospects. You can fully expect A Jeremy Smith/Joe Cannata type goalie getting signed to act as stand in AHL backup/ECHL starter within the org.
Notable Absent Players:
- A.J. Greer (NHL)
- Cale Makar (NHL)
- Chris Bigras (NHL)
- Vladislav Kamenev (NHL)
- Rocco Grimaldi (unsigned)
- Reid Petryk (unsigned)
- Trent Vogelhuber (unsigned)
- Gabe Bourque (unsigned)
It will be interesting to watch the process of molding the roster this off-season. Historically the Eagles are franchise that win championships and no doubt they would like that to continue. There will certainly be some bumps along the way moving up to a more competitive league and the roster decisions they will have to make are going to be tough.