It’s that time of year again to add the new 2021 draftees and delete the departures to see where the Colorado Avalanche prospect pool stands heading into the 2021-22 season.
All factors of ceiling, floor, proximity to NHL and likelihood of contributing are all considered with more weight given to upside and current performance in higher leagues. Prospects don’t exist in a vacuum so their place and probability for success within the organization are factors as well.
In the interest of keeping this a prospect list, those who are already 23 years of age despite still having Entry Level Contract years remaining are excluded such as forwards Mikhail Maltsev, Andreas Wingerli and defenseman Keaton Middleton. If forced to rank the former two would hit the list around 10-12, the latter near the bottom. All other eligible players are ranked as there are only 25 true prospects left in the system.
While there are a lot of interesting players through the top 15, this is a thinning group with those who were listed in the 2020 ranking gone either via trade or rights relinquished including Conor Timmins, Ryder Rolston, Ty Lewis, Adam Werner, Sasha Mutala and Luka Burzan. Even more departures are expected — with hopefully at least a couple graduations — in the coming year.
The 2022 draft class is already mortgaged for the short-term therefore this list is for all intents and purposes the prospect pool for the next few years and its imperative at least one of the names beyond the top two become an Avalanche regular. Over half of this group already holds a pro contract which makes the runway shorter (and the reserve list minimal) but also holds promise for NHL contributions just a short transaction away.
1 LD Bowen Byram (–)
Already proven an effective NHLer hopefully it is just a mere formality Byram is on any prospect list. Now it’s a matter of reaching his sky high upside.
2 C Alex Newhook (–)
Showed flashes of brilliance in a shortened season, Newhook should solidify himself as a NHL regular and look to climb up the lineup this coming year.
3 RD Justin Barron (+2)
Strong AHL debut at season’s end pushes Barron ahead of the pack with the promise that his NHL debut might be on the horizon. Upside and pedigree will afford Barron a good look in the big leagues.
4 LW Sampo Ranta (+5)
One could argue Ranta had the best season of anyone on this list as he was named All-American, scored .5 PPG in the AHL and debuted in the second round of NHL playoffs. Upside meets opportunity leads to this elevated ranking.
5 LW Oskar Olausson (NEW)
Ranked on pure upside here, Olausson has top six potential with his size, skating and shot. Could possibly be on the fast track in either direction after signing his ELC.
6 RW Martin Kaut (-3)
A player who is both NHL ready and whose clock is ticking in the organization. It’s beyond now or never.
7 C Jean-Luc Foudy (+3)
Fantastic unexpected debut in the AHL where Foudy adapted well and showed his incredible hands in traffic. If he is able to remain in pro this season an accelerated timeline could follow.
8 RD Drew Helleson (+4)
On an upward trajectory in the rankings and with his game finding offensive consistency and a bigger role. Needs to show it in pro which is why Helleson is not ranked higher.
9 LD Sean Behrens (NEW)
Great value pick at the end of the second round, Behrens should star in the NCAA for a couple years before signing a contract.
10 G Justus Annunen (-3)
The long awaited move to North America is finally here and now Annunen will have to make good on the hype he built two years ago.
11 C Shane Bowers (-5)
Path to NHL getting very unclear for this upcoming third year pro. That compounding AHL experience keeps Bowers ahead of others — for now.
12 RW Nikolai Kovalenko (-4)
Disappointing that Kovalenko chose to stay in Russia a couple more years but he needs to be ready to contribute to the Avalanche and a trade to Ak Bars to immerse in a bigger role should help.
13 C Colby Ambrosio (+4)
Nice freshman debut in the NCAA and Ambrosio is looking at climbing even higher with more minutes in upcoming season.
14 RW Alex Beaucage (-1)
A NHL level shot and title of back-to-back QMJHL champion follows Beaucage to the pro game but any plans the Avalanche have for him — or not — should be evident very quickly.
15 G Trent Miner (NR)
No player made a bigger impression than Miner with his play last season in both his strong — unplanned — play the AHL and opening the WHL season with four consecutive shutouts. A contract and opportunity earned in every sense.
16 LD Daniil Zhuravlyov (-1)
Still a middle of the road prospect but Zhuravlyov has a lot of experience refining his defensive game in a men’s league to his credit. Will he sign next summer and come to Colorado is the next step.
17 LW Tyler Weiss (+5)
Weiss has always had slick skill but finally turned the corner in his junior NCAA season though unsure if it enough to get him a pro contract.
18 C Andrei Buyalsky (NEW)
An older prospect but Buyalsky has an intriguing skill set with speed to burn. Are the Avalanche willing and able to give extra help to someone who has a non-traditional hockey background?
19 LD Nicky Leivermann (-1)
Curious why Leivermann did not sign a contract after his junior season but still brings some skill to the table and a hint at upside.
20 C Taylor Makar (NEW)
Forging an identity beyond his brother should be easy as Taylor is a gritty power center though with hints of that Makar family talent. But do the Avalanche have plans for him?
21 RW Nick Henry (-5)
Time is running short for Henry as a third year pro who has seen way too much ECHL time and therefore isn’t likely to progress beyond his ELC in the organization.
22 C Nils Åman (+1)
As a depth player in the SHL it is tough to evaluate where Åman stands in upside or any plans for the Avalanche. Hints at increased production as of late provides hope.
23 RD Nate Clurman (-4)
A pro contract and AHL experience are in his favor but the skill level and ceiling are too low to project a NHL future for Clurman.
24 C Matt Stienburg (-4)
Missed a whole season due to injury but Stienburg was always on a long timeline before turning pro.
25 G Shamil Shmakov (NR)
Shmakov returned from North America for a short and relatively successful VHL stint last year. He needs much work before his rights will expire next summer.