Colorado Avalanche: Ranking the Top-10 Prospects in Their System

Austin SnowCorrespondent IIOctober 28, 2011

Colorado Avalanche: Ranking the Top-10 Prospects in Their System

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    It is a well known fact that players drafted in late rounds don't often make the ranks of an NHL team. If your team does happen to select a gem, it can be like striking gold.

    Just ask the Detroit Red Wings, whose two best players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, were selected in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively.

    The Avalanche have been known to make some shrewd late round picks as well, nabbing Dan Hinote (seventh), John-Michael Liles (fifth) and David Jones (ninth) well after the opening rounds.

    But for every hit, there are at least a couple of misses.

    Ever heard of Jonas Johansson?

    Or Mikhail Kuleshov?

    Or Vaclav Nedorost?

    All three were first round picks by the Avalanche that turned out to be busts.

    The last few years have produced a bit more talent, though, and the organization seems to be sitting prettier at present than in years past.

    Let's take a look at the top-10 Avalanche prospects, where they are now, and what can be expected of them in the future.

10. Patrick Bordeleau

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    Patrick Bordeleau was drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 entry draft by the Minnesota Wild.

    At 25, his age is starting to catch up to him. No, he's not old, per say, but you don't see many guys approaching their 30's break into the NHL for an extended career.

    Bordeleau, was one of the final cuts made by the team after training camp this year, so it's possible he could get a call-up at some point during the season.

    While he may skate with the team for a few games, his role wouldn't be much more than that of an enforcer or gritty fourth liner due to the fact that he led the Lake Erie Monsters in penalty minutes for the last two seasons.

9. Ryan Stoa

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    Ryan Stoa's stock has slid over the past couple of years.

    The former captain at the University of Minnesota was taken in 2005 in the second round.

    He has played 37 games with the big club over the last few seasons, but was unable to secure a spot on this season's squad.

    This is the precise reason he comes in at No. 9 on our list.

    At 24, Stoa's window to stick at the NHL level is closing rapidly. He has size that makes scouts drool, but his failure to use it has frustrated coaches within the organization.

    If he wants to make an impact, Stoa is going to have to learn to use his size like a power forward.

    It better happen fast, though, because he likely will only get one more shot at an NHL career.

8. Trevor Cann

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    Trevor Cann stayed around the team longer than many people anticipated during the preseason this year. He was eventually sent down to Lake Erie, where he has struggled in the early part of the season, going 2-6 so far.

    However, Cann has solid mechanics and there are a number of successful NHL goaltenders who didn't have stellar minor-league careers.

    Much of that can be blamed on the defense, but Cann still needs to step it up if he wants any chance of a call-up this season.

    Twenty-two is a prime age to make the jump, but he'll have a hard time supplanting fellow masked men Desjardins and Calvin Pickard.

7. Brad Malone

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    Brad Malone spent four years at the University of North Dakota before signing a professional contract with the Avalanche and reporting to Lake Erie in 2011.

    During his senior campaign, Malone ranked fifth on the team in scoring and first on the team in penalty minutes.

    While he is not projected to be a scorer or an enforcer, he has the potential to be a gritty third or fourth line role player.

    These are the types of players who get called up most often, so it would not be a surprise to see Malone wearing an Avalanche sweater at some point this season, especially given that Malone put on an impressive training camp and was one of the last forwards to be sent back to the minors.

6. Duncan Siemens

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    Duncan Siemens was selected 11th overall in this years entry draft, with the pick that came over from St. Louis in the Chris Stewart/Erik Johnson/Kevin Shattenkirk deal.

    He has prior experience with another one of Colorado's top prospects, Stefan Elliott, sharing the blueline in Saskatoon as Elliott's partner last season.

    Siemens brings a gritty, defensive brand of hockey to the organization, and he has been compared to recently retired Adam Foote.

    At 18, Siemens is still a couple years away from a full-time NHL career, but he is projected to toughen the Avalanche defensive corps once he makes the squad.

5. Calvin Pickard

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    There was a point before this season that Calvin Pickard was being touted as Colorado's future in net. The team was just recovering from the tandem of Peter Budaj and Brian Elliott, and many fans were hoping for a Tomas Vokoun type of signing to hold the team over until Pickard is ready.

    Avalanche brass went another direction, trading for young star Semyon Varlamov, but that's not to say Pickard won't be good.

    At 19, he still has a lot of development to go through, especially considering goalies peak a bit later than forwards. Still, he has been a finalist for WHL goalie of the year, represented Canada at the 2010 U-18 World Championships, and was the No. 1 rated goalie in the 2010 entry draft.

    Hopefully Pickard will develop into that high-level netminder many expect him to, and the Avalanche will have two highly skilled goalies, a la Vancouver (Luongo, Schneider) or Los Angeles (Quick, Bernier).

    For now, Pickard stands between the pipes for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.

4. Cameron Gaunce

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    Cameron Gaunce is just one piece of the organization's riches at the defensive position.

    The 21-year-old had an 11-game stint with the big club last season, scoring one goal and racking up 16 penalty minutes.

    Gaunce was drafted in the second round in 2008, and spent three seasons as one of the OHL's top defensemen with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors before beginning his pro career in Lake Erie.

    Known for his well-rounded play, Gaunce can take care of business in his own end, while being able to contribute offensively as well. If he is able to do the same at the professional level, you can expect to see his name on the roster very soon.

3. Joey Hishon

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    Much hype came about after the Avalanche chose Hishon in the first round of the 2010 draft. Perhaps not as much as when the Denver Broncos selected Tim Tebow in the first round, but it was a stretch nonetheless.

    A year later, Hishon proved why the Avalanche were so high on the Stratford, Ontario native. He scored 87 points in 50 games for the Owen Sound Attack, and helped the team to an OHL championship.

    However, Hishon suffered a concussion in the Memorial Cup and has been rarely seen since. While many expected Hishon to compete for a roster spot, the 20-year-old didn't even show up for training camp, and would be ranked higher but for his condition.

    Hishon's elite stick-handling and scoring touch would no doubt benefit the team, but fans are hoping that he can just get healthy, especially given the misfortune of Avalanche forward Peter Mueller.

2. Tyson Barrie

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    Tyson Barrie is another of Colorado's defensive gems. He was drafted in 2009 in the sixth round, and was named the WHL's top defenseman in 2010 as a member of the Kelowna Rockets.

    Barrie is not big—at 5'10", he fits more of a John-Michael Liles profile, but his offensive prowess could provide a future boost to a defensive corps that may have trouble scoring this season.

    It is not likely that Barrie will be called up this season, but if his development goes as planned, Barrie will play a big part on the Avalanche blue-line in the next few years. 

1. Stefan Elliott

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    Stefan Elliott is the pride and joy of the Avalanche organization's scouting corps. He is one of the main reasons the team saw fit to deal highly touted prospects Colby Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk.

    Elliott was named the top defenseman in the WHL last season, an achievement shared by fellow prospect Tyson Barrie.

    Elliott's defensive skills are on par for his age and maturity, but it's his offensive upside that has fans and staff drooling in anticipation of his entrance into the NHL. 

    Last season, Elliott soared to a plus-62 rating, and notched 81 points in 71 games.

    Coaches have little doubt that Elliott will be able to translate his game to the NHL, and although his numbers won't be nearly as high, he should still be able to put up some impressive stats.

    Elliott may have a hard time making the lineup this season due to coach Joe Sacco holding onto extra defensemen like Matt Hunwick, but if there is a trade or an injury and a spot opens up, there's a good chance that Elliot will make his NHL debut and begin what will hopefully be a long career in Colorado.