Predicting the Next 5 Colorado Avalanche Prospects to Arrive in the NHL
With the second-most wins in the NHL through this past weekend, it seems that the Colorado Avalanche have found themselves in competition for a playoff spot as this season progresses. That’s a great sign for a young and inexperienced organization, led by first-year NHL head coach Patrick Roy and 21-year-old captain Gabriel Landeskog.
The youth movement in Colorado should extend even further than the team’s current roster soon enough. A handful of prospects, particularly with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, should see more time on the big-league roster within the next year. Some may make it this year as player performance falls off with the big club, while others should slot into openings vacated by free agents next year.
No matter how they make it into the burgundy and blue of the Avalanche sweater, these are the five names to watch whenever Roy has to make significant roster decisions in the future.
Elliott has seen some NHL playing time, skating in 57 games with Colorado over the past two seasons to the tune of five goals and 12 assists. But each year, he’s wound up back in the minors, with coach Patrick Roy determining that top-defenseman minutes were more important than being on the big-league club to start this season, according to The Denver Post.
As such, he’s stayed in Lake Erie this year, scoring 12 points in 20 games as the team’s top defenseman. With a handful of expiring contracts among the Avs’ major-league defensemen, Elliott should be a lock for the roster next year; if somebody gets hurt between now and the end of the season, he should be up even sooner. And whenever that next move comes, expect the move to be permanent.
Now in his second full AHL season, Agozzino has established himself as one of Lake Erie’s top scoring players. As a rookie, he led the team in assists with 32, points with 52 and a plus-16 rating in 2012-13. This year, he has 13 points in 20 games to rank third on the team.
Where Agozzino could really establish himself at the big-league level, however, is on the power play. As of Sunday, the Avalanche power play succeeds at an 18.1 percent clip, good for only 17th in the league. Four of Agozzino’s five goals for the Monsters this year have come on the power play.
This isn’t a knock on Jean-Sebastien Giguere, whose 6-0-0 start to the season is almost reminiscent of how masterfully he played with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks a decade ago. But at age 36, and as an unrestricted free agent after the season, there’s certainly a chance that Giguere is let go at the end of the year.
Pickard and Sami Aittokallio have seen pretty equal playing time this year with Lake Erie, but Pickard’s 2012-13 season (2.46 GAA in 47 games) suggests that he might get the edge if the Avalanche make a call-up. And depending on Semyon Varlamov’s legal status, that may come sooner than later.
Between Hishon and Michael Sgarbossa, the Avs have two left-handed center prospects in the pipeline. With the position already a source of great depth on the major league roster (Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon and so on), it would take a significant injury for either player to remain up the middle in a call-up.
But that doesn’t mean either player couldn’t make it to the bigs this year, with Hishon likely earning the edge for his play this season. He has nine points in 12 games this year and a plus-three rating. Either way, Colorado should be in good hands down the middle over the next few years.
Undrafted out of Michigan State University, Lerg has been a career AHL player thus far, playing for Springfield and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before signing with Colorado and joining Lake Erie before the 2012-13 season. For now, it seems that he’s found a home there, leading the team in scoring through 20 games in 2013-14 and serving as team captain for the second year in a row.
But coach Patrick Roy is the type of guy to reward grit and hustle—just look at his decision to promote Patrick Bordeleau and Cody McLeod to top-six forward slots against Minnesota. If there’s an open spot on the roster, particularly if Jamie McGinn’s doghouse stint lands him in Lake Erie, maybe there’s room for Lerg. And if he gets that call-up, he’s the kind of overachiever to make the most of it.
Chris Leone has written for Bleacher Report since 2008 in multiple capacities. Follow him on Twitter @christopherlion.