Finally the 2020 NHL Entry Draft has completed and it’s time for an update to the Colorado Avalanche prospects ranking. All factors of ceiling, floor, proximity to NHL and likelihood of contributing are all considered with more weight given to upside and current performance. Prospects don’t exist in a vacuum so their place and probability for success within the organization are factors as well.
Just to note those who have played through their Entry Level Contracts and are now waiver eligible are not considered for this ranking which excludes players such as Logan O’Connor. Also, those who are at 24 years of age are considered aged out which removes Dennis Gilbert from the pool. Conversely, those who remain Calder Trophy eligible are still prospects and a handful of NHL games for a player such as Martin Kaut does not exclude him from the list.
This is a strong top 10 with real NHL skill upside in each of those prospects. If players such as O’Connor and Gilbert were ranked they would be considered around Werner for the likelihood of NHL games. Past them is a group of players who will have to traverse the land mines of the minors to get a NHL opportunity.
For your audio pleasure, a podcast on the subject is also available HERE.
1 LD Bowen Byram
Byram has put in the work and is now waiting for an opportunity from the Avalanche. In the time off his skill level and upside seems to have gone under the radar but make no mistake he will have high impact in the NHL. However his first task seems to be leading Canada’s defensive core to another gold medal at the World Junior Championship where he’s looked dominant against his peers in early camp viewings.
2 C Alex Newhook
Riding the wave after an incredible freshman season at Boston College and now the question is just how special of a player he can be. Still, Newhook needs more defensive polish and a concrete plan of how he’s going to get a role in the Avalanche lineup. Newhook will get a chance to prove he’s worth all the hype at the upcoming WJC as well.
3 RW Martin Kaut
Another prospect who worked hard and is ready for a NHL opportunity. The maturity in Kaut’s game shouldn’t distract from the fact that he does pop skill especially in his heavy shot. Desperate to play during the break and prove he’s NHL material Kaut has already produced highlights all over Europe this fall.
4 RD Conor Timmins
He can’t manage to escape health questions but at 22 years old Timmins is at the precipice of needing to solidify a NHL role. His tastes of action in an Avalanche sweater have been mostly successful and Timmins should be a contributor if he can play consistently. The skating is still a drawback but his IQ and outlet passing ability has always been top notch.
5 RD Justin Barron
The newest first rounder to join the fold, Barron also has to put a health issues behind him but that should be the case with a recent corrective procedure on his shoulder to solve the blood clots. A tremendous skater especially at his 6-foot-2 height Barron is also dynamic in the offensive zone but also needs to make up for nearly a year missed on the ice and overcome some defensive and decision making questions.
6 C Shane Bowers
He looks like he does everything right and is a coach‘s dream but Bowers needs to put that to the test in the NHL. Question of role is also a hurdle as he performed better at wing in the AHL. The offensive upside may not be great but Bowers is a player that makes a team better.
7 G Justus Annunen
A record breaking first half last season propelled Annunen to top goaltending prospect status. But an uneven WJC and some injuries thereafter ended the year a touch slower for him which has yet to rebound. The Avalanche were excited enough about Annunen’s prospects to give him his Entry Level Contract and burn a year already so it’s easy to see him as someone with high regard in the organization.
8 RW Nikolai Kovalenko
Kovalenko has a well-defined pro game at this juncture but needs to venture to North America to begin the transition. Hopefully that begins sometime in 2021 where he can show his extremely tenacious brand of hockey to the org.
9 LW Sampo Ranta
Ranta will need to refine and polish his game to get ready to make an impact in pro hockey likely beginning in 2021. His athletic gifts will take him far but needs the trust of coaches to get any notice.
10 RW Jean-Luc Foudy
Exciting upside for a third rounder with elite skating talent. He has a long path to the NHL of two more years of junior hockey in the OHL which could either help or hurt his chances. He is a big talent to get excited about in the meantime.
11 G Adam Werner
Highs and lows have defined Werner over the last year starting with a win (and practical shutout) for the Avalanche but also struggles to put together back to back strong efforts. It’s encouraging to know what he looks like in the NHL but there are concerns of what Werner’s ceiling is.
12 RD Drew Helleson
Although he got a lot of playing time as a freshman on a top program Helleson only produced six points. While offense will never be Helleson’s calling card he will need to display NHL level puck skill. A long NCAA career at Boston College should help polish his game.
13 RW Alex Beaucage
After last season it was clear Beaucage is ready for a new challenge as he can just score at will in the QMJHL with his explosive shot and that theme has continued early in the 2020-21 season. Skating is still a major concern but it really won’t be tested until Beaucage begins playing at the professional level.
14 RW Sasha Mutala
Another player who looked ready to move on to a higher level after carrying his team all last season. Mutala combines hard work with some slick skill and is readying himself for pro hockey.
15 LD Daniil Zhuravlyov
Now a mainstay in the KHL it’s clear that Zhuravlyov can play at the highest professional level. He’s even finding some pockets of offense although seems settled into a depth defensive role.
16 RW Nick Henry
The expected burial unfortunately happened. Henry has one more year to turn the patience edict into a plan and not an ending. The well-rounded tools and strong shot are still there but what can he still become as a pro?
17 C Colby Ambrosio
Small but speedy with a high level motor, the Avalanche are taking a chance on a guy with skill who can develop for a while at a good Boston College program. How much of that scoring from the USHL translates remains to be seen but there is upside.
18 LD Nicky Leivermann
He has a chance to become a real catalyst on offense for Notre Dame and seems ready and capable of a much bigger role in now his junior season. If all goes well he will position himself in consideration for an ELC, maybe sooner than later.
19 RD Nate Clurman
It’s been a long road for this 2016 (!) draft selection but perhaps his path is beginning to come into focus now in his junior year as captain at Notre Dame. Upon graduation Clurman should be at the ripe age and maturity level for a long look from the Avalanche. He plays a steady game with good mobility and some puck moving ability.
20 C Matt Stienburg
Stienburg possesses intangibles in spades but still has big questions about puck skill and NHL talent level. A long college career will probably have him turn pro right when the Avalanche would consider using him.
21 C Luka Burzan
Playing an overage year in the WHL isn’t a great sign but there’s still a chance for Burzan to earn a ELC. He plays a hard to find power forward type game but ironically could stand to play a bit more physical.
22 LW Tyler Weiss
Consistency still eludes Weiss but his playmaking ability and production made an appearance in his sophomore season. He possesses a world of skill but still a very slight frame although a recent diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease might give Weiss answers on how to gain weight.
23 C Nils Åman
A smart center with good speed playing at the men’s level in the top league in Sweden coupled with an older draft age of already 20 years old could put Åman on the fast track in the Avalanche system.
24 LW Ty Lewis
All hope for a career with the Avalanche is lost but he does have talent and a versatility in his game. Hopefully it won’t be too late for a fresh start for Lewis when he exits the system.
25 RW Ryder Rolston
Another incoming freshman at a familiar program in Notre Dame. His time at the NTDP and subsequently the USHL set him up as a good defensive player but Rolston will have to prove more than bloodlines and improve on his very hunched skating posture to get a NHL contract.