One of the most important days in the prospect cycle is upon us. March first always marks the date in which future contracts for the following season (2022-23) can get filed with the NHL. No contract slides or early payment of signing bonuses required and thus begins the watch for prospects preparing to enter the pro system as a lot of action is expected to commence around this time.
As the Colorado Avalanche prospect pipeline is dwindling so are their options to sign but several new contracts are still expected during this preferred time. The organization’s lone CHL prospect Oskar Olausson already has a NHL contract which makes the rest of the bunch on a much more unpredicatable timeline.
Typically Entry Level Contract season opens once the NHL trade deadline has passed but this season that wondrous occasion is not for another three weeks. This could impact signing strategies and timelines as any of these players could get shipped out as trade chips. All the following players will need either their seasons to conclude before signing anyhow and action on the fax machine for the Avalanche probably won’t pick up until closer to April.
The time is now for Drew Helleson. With his junior year at Boston College nearing completion it is the appropriate juncture to look at moving him along the next step to professional hockey. If not, then Helleson has a good enough case as now an Olympian and along with a strong three-year college resume to look at his senior year as a springboard to unrestricted free agency and that would not be an ideal scenario from an Avalanche standpoint.
Helleson is physically ready and has earned a commitment with an added sense of urgency so this is the contract which is most likely to come to fruition especially as he can get a couple months of AHL experience, or if they promise it NHL action, before the season concludes. Boston College is not having a great year and likely won’t see their season extend past the conference tournament set for mid month.
[Update] Helleson signed with the Anaheim Ducks
Nicky Leivermann is one of those aforementioned college seniors who can walk right to unrestricted free agency this summer. Since there was never any reporting on why the Avalanche did not sign him after a good junior season, and inked teammate and now an ECHLer Nate Clurman instead, there’s no telling which direction the hesitancy came from. Still, Leivermann is worth adding to the pro system and is an option to sign. If the delay was just about finishing his degree then Leivermann could become a quick signing once his season at Notre Dame concludes.
Another college senior with options is Tyler Weiss. It has been difficult to handicap his future as a prospect as Weiss has struggled with a very slight frame and weight but it seems his career turned a corner once he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and has been productive in his junior and senior years. The skill level is worth a contract but it is difficult to see Weiss have much NHL promise. This one could really go either way.
The biggest prospect surprise this season is Matt Stienburg‘s breakout in his technically junior season at Cornell which elevates him as a realistic option to sign this spring. Still, there’s no great urgency to get this done now and one more year of college shouldn’t hurt either party. As a legacy prospect there always seemed likelihood in seeing Stienburg in the pro system but a step forward in production certainly helps.
Sean Behrens and Colby Ambrosio have enjoyed nice seasons themselves but there’s really no reason for either to leave the NCAA just for the AHL at this time even though they would probably do fine at the pro level. Their decisions will become much more serious next year.
An even larger degree of uncertainty exists for this group across the pond which in no small part is also impacted by recent events is but headlined by Daniil Zhuravlyov whose KHL contract is believed up at the conclusion of this current season. That’s usually the logical and expected timeline for transitions to North America but as we saw with Nikolai Kovalenko that doesn’t always get accomplished.
Update: The Avs decided they should sign somebody from the reserve list and got Zhuravlyov under contract shortly after the KHL league year turned over on May 1.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) May 2, 2022
Speaking of, Kovalenko is still a signing option this year because, well, money talks and these things with contracts can get worked out if the desire is great enough. If not, Kovalenko will still be in the conversation next year as his new KHL deal is up then. Nils Åman and Shamil Shmakov are both long shots to sign ELCs but still on Colorado’s reserve list for now.
Assuming none of them get traded I will wager that Helleson, Leivermann and a dark horse surprise Stienburg end up inking deals with the Avalanche in the coming months.
Note this article will update when any signings are made official