The Avalanche were so kind as to provide a rookie camp roster prior to the one-day rookie training camp practice on September 7th and the 8th-11th tournament in Las Vegas. There’s quite a bit to be gleaned from the roster plus some expectations for the group when they hit the ice ahead of main camp.
The roster contains 29 players, up one from last year, and is comprised of 17 forwards, 10 defensemen and two goaltenders. The number of Avalanche draft picks in attendance is down from 16 to 12 this year and is supplemented by an increase in AHL contract invites, up from four to eight.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) August 24, 2018
First of all, those missing should mostly be expected. Cale Makar, Shane Bowers, Cam Morrison, Denis Smirnov, Nate Clurman, Nicky Leivermann, Sampo Ranta and Tyler Weiss are unavailable due to NCAA commitments. Those playing in Russia such as Nikolai Kovalenko, Danila Zhuravlyov and Shamil Shmakov weren’t anticipated either. Swedes Gustav Olhaver and Adam Werner were more up in the air but the former has been to several rookie camps and the latter has yet to leave Sweden for a fall camp.
The Avalanche generally spare those who are going into their third professional season so it is understandable AJ Greer and Julien Nantel are considered graduated from rookie camp. Dominic Toninato is also not considered a rookie either and makes sense for he and Greer to keep skating with the NHL players leading up to main camp. It should go without saying those such as Tyson Jost and Sam Girard have graduated as well but the CBA also prohibits those who played 50 NHL games the previous season from attending rookie camp. Pavel Francouz was in attendance at development camp and could have been in consideration for the roster however it’s the right call to let the reins go to younger goaltenders Justus Annunen and Petr Kvaca to see what they can do carrying the load in net for the tournament. It wouldn’t be unexpected to see either head back overseas before main camp though.
Sergei Boikov and Vladislav Kamenev are in their last Entry Level Contract year but missed significant time with major injuries are included on the rookie roster as they could use the extra game action. The Avalanche typically look for NHL ready players to lead their rookie team much like how Mikko Rantanen and JT Compher did the season they solidified as NHL players. Kamenev has both the most NHL and AHL experience among the group so he should stand out in this setting. Boikov hasn’t played a game in nearly an entire year so it will be interesting to see where his game stands currently.
Returning prospects with pro experience under their belt and are looking to prove something are JC Beaudin and Nicolas Meloche. They didn’t get as much time at the AHL level as many had wanted or expected and hopefully they come out in this camp and show that the Avalanche can’t write them off this year. As second year pros, it is also likely their last rookie camp to leave an impression. Increased physicality and intensity would go a long way to ensuring such.
All eyes will be on Martin Kaut as the only first round draft pick of the group and head of the most recent draft class. He is one of the youngest players at this camp and has not been in North America very long so there might be an adjustment period for him but Kaut should flash his skill and mature game among his peers. The same could be said for Igor Shvyrev as one of the most skilled players on the roster but might need a period of transition in his move from Russia.
Travis Barron and Josh Dickinson both got a taste of pro hockey in the spring but are still rookies heading into the season. They should look to show they are good depth options at the AHL level in camp. Josh Anderson is the forgotten man most times but hopefully he makes it tough on the coaching staff to keep him out of the lineup even though options on defense are plentiful. Ty Lewis needs to build off of an impressive final WHL season and development camp to show he can be a difference maker to the Eagles if given the opportunity. As rookies all four would be easy for the organization to ear mark for some ECHL time but a strong camp could change minds and plans.
Nick Henry and Brandon Saigeon also fall under this category who are both attending rookie camp for the first time, though in different circumstances. Henry was recovering from shoulder surgery last fall and was unable to attend camp. Saigeon was just drafted as an overager and is looking for a pro contract at this camp in order to begin his pro career. The Avalanche will also likely decide if Henry will get a contract offer depending on how this camp goes so both possibly have the most on the line of anyone in attendance.
Those who are not property of the Avalanche either by draft or NHL contract are considered invited but fall into two distinct categories. One, those who are already part of the organization on AHL or ECHL contract and attending NHL camp on a try-out basis and two, those who are purely camp invitations.
Michael Joly is well-known after his tremendous performance with 41 goals in 52 games and winning playoff MVP as a member of the ECHL Colorado Eagles but is attending his first camp with the Avalanche on an AHL deal. His age and experience should really shine in order to show that he can possibly translate his success to the AHL and solidify his place on the new Eagles roster.
Others who will play for the organization at some level but expected to have modest impact are defensemen Turner Ottenbreit, Kevin Davis, Matt Pufahl and Nolan De Jong. The first three are AHL contracted with De Jong on an ECHL deal this year. All have attended a development camp in the past, even as far back as four years ago in Pufahl’s case. Ottenbreit looked good in his brief Rampage try-out in the spring and flashed some skill at development camp so he could be a sneaky surprise at some point when he gets an opportunity.
On the contrary, contracted forwards Tim McGauley, Cole Ully (AHL deals) and R.T Rice (ECHL deal) were not at development camp and therefore are walking in unfamiliar. Of the group Ully is intruiging because he’s a former Dallas Stars 5th round pick and has produced at the AHL level after a successful career in the WHL. He’s one to have an extra eye on as someone who might help the Eagles.
It is tough to see another potential Ty Lewis type invite-turned-prospect success story within this group especially with Vladislav Kotkov opting to sign with the San Jose Sharks. Defenseman Alex Breton and forward Matthew Boucher are already aged out of junior and committed to Canadian University teams for the coming season. Forwards Robbie Holmes, Cole Reinhardt and defenseman Sean Strange could possibly make an impression but would need to conjure up a massive performance before going back to junior. Reinhardt had some moments in development camp so he could be one to keep in mind.
Usage and linemates are going to say a lot in the tournament games such as it was clear Alexander Kerfoot and Ty Lewis were getting big opportunities last year. Logan O’Connor might be the one unexpected surprise as he was one the Avalanche decided to quickly move to sign this summer and is closer to pro ready than most of the others on this roster. His upside might not be very high but could be someone the Avalanche think they could use sooner than later and at the very least could take up a large role on the Eagles.
Conor Timmins is another to watch very closely to see his usage and what plans the organization have for his role in the immediate future and going forward. Truly anything could be in the cards with him and will be interesting to see if he can separate from the pack beginning with rookie camp. Timmins’ true test will be if he can make an impression next to the NHL players in main camp like he did last season but a good rookie camp showing would be a great head start. His health is also something everyone will be watching as he missed portions of on-ice activities over the summer but hopefully should be good to go.
Who are you excited to watch and hear about from rookie camp?