As I did last year, I will run down the Colorado Avalanche’s 10 best prospects. It will be interesting to see, in contrast to last year, which prospects made a jump up the list and which prospects dropped down. Of course, last years list was done before the 2016 Entry Draft so there will be some new prospects on this list.
Last year’s 10 best Avalanche best prospects: 1) Mikko Rantanen 2) Chris Bigras 3) J.T. Compher 4) Jean-Christophe Beaudin 5) Nicholas Meloche 6) A.J. Greer 7) Mason Geertsen 8) Spencer Martin 9) Duncan Siemens 10) Sergei Boikov.
What’s considered a prospect by NHL standards? According to hockeysfuture.com, if a forward/defenseman has played in 65 NHL games or more before he’s 24 years old, the player is no longer a prospect. Conversely, if a forward/defenseman turns 24 before he plays 65 NHL games, he’s ALSO not a prospect anymore. For example, Mikko Rantanen will not be included on this list because even though he’s just 20 years old, Rantanen has played in 84 NHL games. Consider him graduated.
As for goaltenders, the exact same as noted above although it’s 45 games in place of 65 NHL games for forwards/defensemen.
So without further ado. The Avalanche’s 10 best prospects.
# 10) Will Butcher (D)
My list kicks off with the 5’10 190 pound defenseman Will Butcher, drafted by the Avs in the 5th round, 123rd overall in the 2013 Draft. This past year Butcher captained the Denver Pioneers all the way to a National Championship where Butcher was the recipient of the Hobey Baker Award (given to the top National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s ice hockey player). Butcher scored 7 goals and 37 points in 43 games for the Pios.
Butcher just missed my list last year and nearly didn’t make my list this year. Why? Well, it doesn’t seem Butcher will be an Avalanche prospect for very long. Butcher just finished his senior year in college which means if he doesn’t sign with the Avs he can become an unrestricted free agent on August 15. Will Butcher hasn’t been signed yet and all signs point to him becoming a free agent in August and signing with a different team. Things can change but it seems likely that Butcher will jump ship.
# 9) Cameron Morrison (LW)
The 6’3 215 pound power forward was taken in the 2nd round, 40th overall last year at the 2016 Entry Draft. Obviously a new comer to the list as he wasn’t yet drafted by the Avs when I did last year’s list.In his draft year, Morrison was the USHL’s Rookie of the Year where he scored 34 goals and 66 points in 60 games with the Youngstown Phantoms.
This year he played with for the University of Notre Dame where he was an integral part of helping Notre Dame reach the Frozen Four (where they were defeated by eventual champs, the University of Denver). In 40 games with Notre Dame, Morrison posted 12 goals and 24 points. He will be back with Notre Dame for his sophomore year.
It might be another 3-4 years at the minimum before we see him in an Avs uniform but the Avs might have a good one in Morrison. A prototypical power forward, Morrison uses his size to his advantage, has an active stick, is good on the boards and has good vision with some offensive upside. Is also a good skater and holds his own defensively. Will need some work on his transition game according to eliteprospects.com.
# 8) Andrei Mironov (D)
Another newcomer to the list is the 6’2 198 pound Russian defender Andrei Mironov. Mironov was chosen in the 4th round, 101st overall in the 2015 overall as an over-ager. Mironov, who turns 23 in July, has spent the last five seasons playing for the Moscow Dynamo in the KHL. A one-time all-star in the KHL, Mironov is best known for his physical play with a highlight real of brutal hip checks and open ice hits.
Mironov definitely has some warts in his game as he’s prone to making stupid mistakes and needs some work on his puck skills. But he adds a dimension that the Avs have been missing from their blueline since Adam Foote retired – a mean nasty defenseman who makes you pay for playing in his zone (yes, Nikita Zadorov also adds this dimension as well). In 196 games in the KHL, Mironov has scored 12 goals and 40 points. The Avalanche recently signed him and he will fight for a roster spot in the fall.
# 7) J.C. Beaudin (C/RW)
He was on this list last season as I listed him as the Avalanche‘s fourth best prospect. A slight fall down the list but Jean-Christophe Beaudin is still seen as a very good prospect in the Avalanche system. Beaudin, a 6’2 190 pound forward was chosen in the 3rd round, 71st overall in the 2015 Draft.
Beaudin. a right shot center has seen some time playing on the right wing. Beaudin exploded in his draft plus one year where scored 33 goals and 82 points in 58 games. Unfortunately this past season his production dipped to 30 goals and 80 points in 65 games which is why he slid down this list this year. But on a positive note, Beaudin produced more points in less games in the playoffs this past season than the previous year.
Beaudin is a smart cerebral player who is effective in all three zones. A good back checker, Beaudin also possesses good speed and a pretty good slapshot. Projected as a third line center in the NHL, Beaudin will make his pro hockey debut in the fall with the San Antonio Rampage (Avalanche AHL affiliate) as he was signed to his ELC (Entry Level Contract) earlier this year.
# 6) A.J. Greer (LW)
He was #6 on this last year and he”s #6 on this list this year too. A.J. Greer was one of two 2nd round selections the Colorado Avalanche made at the 2015 Draft, drafting Greer 39th overall.
This past season was Greer‘s first year in pro hockey after signing his ELC in July of last year. Greer scored 15 goals and 38 points in 63 games for the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage. Greer started the year on a tear which helped him to be named to the AHL All-Star game. Greer‘s impressive start earned him a call up to the Colorado Avalanche where he suited up for his first five NHL games where he registered an assist. Unforunately, near the end of the year his production fell off a bit as did most of the Rampage roster.
But all in all, it was a very successful year for Greer and he may be in the plans for an opening night roster spot for the Avs come October. Greer, a 6’3 205 pound power forward is a tenacious forechecker who plays a pesky type of game. He’s physical and plays with a ton of speed. He’s a prototypical 3rd line forward in the NHL. Probably not a ton of offensive upside at the NHL level but can provide some secondary scoring.
# 5) Chris Bigras (D)
Last year I listed him as the Avalanche‘s second best prospect and best defensive prospect overall. Well, he’s slipped in both categories. Out of all the Avs‘ prospects, this might be the most disappointing of all.
The 6’1 190 pound two-way defenseman was selected in the 2nd round, 32nd overall in the 2013 Draft. In his final year in juniors, Bigras was second in scoring among d-men in the OHL with 20 goals and 71 points in 62 games for the Owen Sound Attack. In the 2015-16 season, Bigras split the campaign between the Rampage of the AHL and the Avalanche, playing in 31 games in the NHL and registering 3 points.
Unfortunately, he suffered his first concussion at the end of the campaign. And this is where it gets a bit dicey. This past season Bigras spent the whole year in the AHL with the Rampage where he was uneven and inconsistent. Many call it a lost year as he missed more than a month of hockey after he suffered another concussion. Bigras scored 5 goals and 19 points in 45 games with the Rampage this season.
It’s a bit worrisome this Bigras situation. He was seen as the Avs‘ best blue chip d-man prospect as many had him penciled him in a top four role. Hopefully he can turn the page on this year and put his development back on track. Good news, he’s still only 22. Bad news is he’s no longer considered a sure thing anymore.
# 4) Spencer Martin (G)
The Avalanche‘s top goalie prospect was #8 on my list last year. The 6’3 210 pound goaltender was taken in the 3rd round, 63rd overall in the 2013 Draft. Some may believe Spencer Martin at #4 might be a too high as statistically speaking he didn’t have a great year in pro hockey that featured a brief stint for the Avs but the majority of the year in San Antonio.
With San Antonio this year, Martin posted a 19-26-1 record with a 2.90 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .904 save percentage (S%). With the Avs, he posted a 0-2-1 record with a 4.35 GAA and a .865 S%. Yeah those numbers don’t look very good.
However, Martin had a strong start with the Rampage that earned him a spot in the AHL All-Star game. Also, Rampage were decimated with injuries and Avs made some call-ups which hurt the team. And it showed with the team’s performance the last couple of months of the season. Rampage were a bottom feeder in the AHL so with that in mind, Martin’s numbers aren’t all that terrible. His numbers in the NHL were awful but the team in front of him were the Avalanche, who were the worst team in the NHL in 17 years.
Martin is still a very good prospect but he still needs a lot more development time in the AHL before he’s ready for the NHL full-time. Probably needs another two seasons in the AHL. Nonetheless, he’s still the Avs’ best goalie prospect.
# 3) J.T. Compher (C)
He was also #3 on my list last year and is the only prospect on this list that was not drafted by the Colorado Avalanche. Compher was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2nd round, 35th overall in the 2013 Draft. Compher was one of the pieces the Avs received in the deal that sent Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo in 2015.
A 5’11 195 pound center, Compher was a star at the University of Michigan where he captained the Wolverines before signing his ELC with the Avalanche last season. In his first season in pro hockey, Compher started the year in San Antonio before being permanently re-called by the Avs. With the Rampage, Compher formed instant chemistry with A.J. Greer and Rocco Grimaldi and he scored 13 goals and 30 points in 41 games.
With the Avs, Compher notched 3 goals and 5 points in 21 games. Although 5 points in 21 games isn’t something to get overly excited about, a guy playing his first NHL games needed time to adjust. And considering that he was thrown on the league’s worst team it really isn’t that terrible. But if you just look at his game (never mind the stats for now), it’s very clear Compher is a player.
Compher is a very cerebral player who is defensively responsible and has a high hockey IQ. He also is a fierce competitor and plays with a bit of grit and tenacity. Although he may not have a high offensive upside, Compher looks to be the Avs’ 3rd line center for a very long time to come.
# 2) Nicholas Meloche (D)
He was #5 on my list last year and now he makes the jump to #2. The Avalanche‘s best defensive prospect was drafted in the 2nd round, 40th overall in the 2015 Draft. A 6’3, 205 pound right shot defenseman, Meloche signed his ELC with the Avs earlier this year.
This past season, his final season in juniors, saw him split time between the Gatineau Olympiques and the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL. Statistically, Meloche had his best year in scoring 16 goals and 47 points in 61 games while adding additional 3 goals and 7 points in 13 playoff games. His previous point totals (starting in 2013-14) were 25, 34, and 33.
Meloche is a smooth skating, two-way defenseman. He’s very sound defensively and plays with a bit of an edge. He also has a great hockey sense and sees the ice very well. Although he isn’t flashy he can provide some offensive punch. It’s unclear if his offense can translate in the NHL though but it’s possible.
Meloche will jump into pro hockey next season with the San Antonio Rampage. He’ll most likely need two to three years at the minimum before he’s NHL ready. Projected as a 2nd pairing d-man at the NHL level, 3rd pair at the minimum.
# 1) Tyson Jost (C)
The Avalanche‘s top prospect was the team’s first round selection at last year’s draft, making Jost the 10th overall pick. In his draft year, Jost played with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL where he annihilated his competition, scoring 42 goals and 104 points in 48 games.
Jost went on to join the University of North Dakota this past fall where he enjoyed a successful freshman campaign scoring 16 goals and 35 points in 33 games. After failing to win a National Championship with NoDak, Jost signed his ELC with the Avalanche. As there was only 6 games left in the Avs’ season at the time of the signing (playing 10 games would burn a year off his 3 year ELC), Jost managed to get his first taste of NHL action. In his first 6 NHL games, Tyson Jost managed to score his first career NHL goal against hated rivals Minnesota Wild.
A 5’11 195 pound centerman, Jost is a crafty two-way forward who is effective in all three zones. A cerebral hockey player with high hockey IQ, Jost thinks and plays at a high tempo. Jost has great hands and can make plays in tight areas. For a guy his size, he’s not afraid of the dirty areas and shows a lot of determination in winning puck battles. Jost will need to add some muscle to his frame in order to be a consistent NHL contributor. Jost will be on the Avalanche‘s opening night roster in the fall. He is the Avalanche‘s second line center and will most likely be that for many years to come.
Prospects just missing the list: Anton Lindholm (D), Sergei Boikov (D), Julien Nantel (LW), Mason Geertsen (D).