After elite prospect graduations and the sale of significant draft capital over the last several years as the Colorado Avalanche built their Stanley Cup championship winning team, many knew this day would come where the consequences would be felt in a significantly diminished prospect pool. The top 10 picks are long gone and only a single former first round pick remains. It’s imperative the organization figures out development and how to get graduations out of the system or else this will begin to impact the NHL roster down the line.
First of all, the names not included in this ranking is a long list to address. Graduations as expected were Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook who will have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup instead. Other departures on the list include Justin Barron and Drew Helleson who were moved at the trade deadline and Nils Åman departed after his rights expired in June and signed with the Vancouver Canucks.
As always the prospect cut off is 23-years of age and the expiration of one’s Entry Level Contract which typically means a player has reached the apex of his development curve and is likely waivers eligible too. Those currently still Avalanche property in which this age barrier now applies to includes Shane Bowers, Shamil Shmakov, Nate Clurman, Nicky Leivermann and the newly signed Ben Meyers. In the case of Meyers there’s a fair argument to include him as the number one ranked Avalanche prospect because he is expected to graduate immediately to the NHL but due to his age (23) he’s not a prospect by definition.
There’s also a grey area debate on Tyler Weiss and Nikolai Kovalenko as well as both are not yet 23 years old and technically should be included in this ranking. However their contract situations makes it unlikely either will continue with the organization. Weiss should see his NHL rights expire upcoming on August 15th and Kovalenko has decided to sign yet another multi-year extension in the KHL with his third team. There’s still a chance Kovalenko will sign with the Avalanche in the future but if he does will be well past prospect age and therefore shouldn’t be considered one moving forward.
Thus, 15 prospects are left in the Avalanche development system.
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.
1 LW Oskar Olausson (+4)
Narrowly edging out the player ranked directly below Olausson takes on the crown of the Avalanche prospect pool. His proximity to the NHL and glimpses of success at the pro level help place him there but Olausson will have to find more consistency and steady improvement to keep this ranking.
2 LD Sean Behrens (+7)
A great freshman season set the table for what’s to come but the talented blueliner is still several years away from the NHL. Behrens’ upside is encouraging though and with a big year could become the organization’s top prospect.
3 G Justus Annunen (+7)
Any hope of an internally developed goalie rests in Annunen and after a good but still at times inconsistent first year pro. The organization has shown a commitment to him but when will that become a real shot at a NHL job?
4 C Jean-Luc Foudy (+3)
Foudy really flashed towards the end of the year and in the AHL playoffs after finally getting some top six responsibility. Already ahead of his peers with 100 games AHL experience at 20-years old will that translate to a NHL look soon?
5 RW Martin Kaut (+1)
A player who is both NHL ready and whose clock is ticking in the organization and it’s beyond now or never… is what I wrote last year and the same continues to apply. Kaut is ready for a NHL opportunity, we’ll see which team gives it to him.
6 LW Sampo Ranta (-2)
There’s still a lot to like about his power forward game but it’s hard not to wonder if the window of opportunity with the Avalanche passed him by with a slow and injured finish to his season. This coming year is beyond critical for Ranta’s future.
7 C Colby Ambrosio (+6)
Ambrosio continues to bring his feisty and skilled game to the ice and after another good NCAA season could be ready to turn pro after his upcoming junior year.
8 RW Alex Beaucage (+6)
After a quietly solid first year in the AHL where he found his footing especially defensively Beaucage will have to take a step forward in the very critical upcoming second year pro to get on any sort of NHL trajectory.
9 G Trent Miner (+6)
Talent is there but is Miner just a Utah afterthought? He needs more looks in the AHL to progress but has shown flashes.
10 C Matt Stienburg (+14)
Stienburg finally had a breakout season at Cornell after a couple tough years. Can he carry the momentum into this year and then pro hockey?
11 LD Danila Zhuravlyov (+5)
Four years after getting drafted Zhuravlyov finally signs a NHL contract and is now in North America. We’ll see how quickly he acclimates in the AHL.
12 C Taylor Makar (+8)
His light usage as a freshman at UMass is a concern but Makar was always going to take a long path through college before thinking pro hockey. The genetics are there but will the hands catch up?
13 C Andrey Buyalsky (+5)
A season-ending injury after only three games into his freshman year at Vermont didn’t afford much time or many viewings to assess Buyalsky’s development. He’s still big, has a nice shot and skates well.
14 RD Chris Romaine (NEW)
The first pick of the Avalanche’s depleted 2022 draft class heads to the USHL before the NCAA. Some raw tools are visible but will take a lot of patience to see them develop.
15 G Igor Zhigalov (NEW)
Already in North America Zhigalov has two years to earn himself a NHL contract and at least follow the Trent Miner path. This raw talent will need to learn quickly.