Colorado Avalanche: Young Players Who Will Help Avs Once NHL Season Starts

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Colorado Avalanche: Young Players Who Will Help Avs Once NHL Season Starts
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Stefan Elliot is one of the top prospects in the Avalanche organization.

If the NHL and NHLPA are able to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement and there’s a shortened season, the Colorado Avalanche will likely look to some of their top young prospects.

Of course, Colorado will still have its stars on the ice such as Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Erik Johnson, but seeing some new faces wouldn’t hurt.

Since there will not be an 82-game season this year, it’s going to be tough for the Avalanche compete. Colorado probably won’t be playing many out-of-conference opponents. Instead, the Avs will likely be taking on more of their Northwest Division foes.

That means playing the revamped Minnesota Wild—who are now one of the top teams in the NHL after landing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter—more often as well as the Vancouver Canucks.

Making the playoffs is going to be extremely tough with a shortened season despite missing the 2011-12 postseason by seven points.

Due to the toughness of finishing in the top eight of the Western Conference, it makes sense for Colorado to use the condensed schedule as a time for its younger players to develop.

Here are some players who could get their feet wet with the Avs in 2013:

 

Duncan Siemens, Defenseman, Saskatoon Blades

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Duncan Siemens has been playing for the Saskatoon Blades during the NHL lockout.

Duncan Siemens is arguably the top prospect under Colorado’s control.

In his first full season with the Saskatoon Blades, Siemens racked up 10 points in 57 games—a fair point total considering he’s a defenseman. But Siemens erupted the next season for 43 points in 72 games. He slowed a little last season, totaling 28 points with a career-high six goals in 57 games for the Blades.

During the lockout, Siemens returned to Saskatoon has been playing decently. He has one goal and 10 assists through 33 games.

It would have been nice for Siemens to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships, but that didn’t happen, according to the Canadian Press (via The Star Phoenix):

Defenseman Duncan Siemens, who was drafted in the first round by Colorado in 2011 and playing in November’s Canada-Russia Subway Series, was also under consideration but did not make the cut.

Despite not making Team Canada, there’s a decent chance that Siemens could play with Colorado if there’s a season. He may, however, finish the season with Saskatoon and then come to the Avs—or Lake Erie Monsters—for the 2013-14 season.

 

Michael Sgarbossa, Forward, Lake Erie Monsters

One of the smartest moves Colorado made last season was trading Daniel Winnik, T.J. Galiardi and a draft pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Jamie McGinn, Mike Connolly and Michael Sgarbossa.

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Sgarbossa was still playing for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League at the time, but he was playing incredibly. Sgarbossa finished the season with 47 goals and 55 assists in just 66 games for the Wolves—averaging about 1.5 points per game.

In fact, Sgarbossa's points per game average actually decreased after spending the second half of the 2010-11 season with the Wolves. During that campaign, he had 62 points in 37 games which works out roughly to 1.7 points per game.

Even though the NHL is locked out, Sgarbossa likely would have started the season with the Lake Erie Monsters—where he has been playing instead of Sudbury.

Through 31 games with the Monsters, Sgarbossa has scored 12 goals and tallied 15 assists. It has taken some time for him to adjust, but there’s no reason to doubt he will be a great talent once he reaches Colorado.

 

Stefan Elliott, Defenseman, Lake Erie Monsters

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Stefan Elliott has been playing for the Lake Erie Monsters during the NHL lockout.

Stefan Elliott may have the best shot to make the Avs come the season opener just because he’s played in the NHL before.

Elliott played in 39 games for Colorado during the 2011-12 season, scoring four times and totaling nine assists. He is another prospect who has played for the Saskatoon Blades, completing four seasons with them. He finished the 2010-11 season with the Blades with 81 points in 71 games.

What’s been troubling for Elliott is that he hasn’t played well during the lockout with the Lake Erie Monsters. Through 30 games, he’s scored three times and has five assists, but hasn’t played well on either side of the puck.

“Stats don’t always tell the whole story,” said Avalanche vice president of player development Craig Billington (via The Denver Post). "I think Stefan has played really well the past few weeks. I saw him last night and I though he played well. He had a slow start.

The American Hockey League is a very good level of hockey and very challenging. He’s still learning. I think he’s on the right side of the curve if you will. It’s going to work out just fine. He’s a good evaluator of his own play. He’ll keep learning.”

Based off of what Billington said, as long as Elliott can continue to play hard there should be a spot on Colorado’s roster once the season begins. He doesn’t have to score a lot of be a part of a lot of goals in order to make the team.

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