This Week in Avalanche Prospects

CALGARY, CANADA - JANUARY 5: Sami Aittokallio #30 of Team Finland gets down to stop the puck on a shot by Brett Connolly #14 of Team Canada during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship Bronze Medal game at the Scotiabank Saddledome on January 5, 2012 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Team Canada defeated Team Finland 4-0. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope you had a safe and happy holiday season. The World Junior Championship crowns a new champion and an Avs prospect put on a solid performance. As players return from holiday breaks in the Canadian Hockey League, clubs position themselves for a run to the playoffs and consider the future of their organizations. The Lake Erie Monsters find themselves in a downward spiral.

After a 31 year drought, Sweden won the World Junior Championship by defeating reigning champion Russia 1-0, in overtime, on a goal by Ottawa Senators prospect, Mika Zibanejad. In the bronze medal game, Canada shut out Finland 4-0.The starting goaltender for the Finns, Sami Aittokallio, had a solid tournament overall despite the loss. He had wins against the US and the Czech Republic in the preliminary round and had 24 saves in a quarter-final win over Slovakia.

Clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the third period of the semi-final game against Sweden, Aittokallio played the puck behind the net, which was intercepted and converted into the game tying goal for the Swedes. The Finns suffered a bitter defeat in a shoot-out. Aittokallio had 55 saves in the game, but his puck handling blunder and Mikael Granlund's fumbling of the puck on his shoot-out opportunity will certainly haunt the Finns.

The Plymouth Whalers are one of the hottest teams in the CHL. Winners of nine of their last 10, the Whalers are on a six game winning streak. Garrett Meurs had 12 points in nine games during the month of December and has started the new year off right with three points in three contests. With 38 points in 39 games, Meurs only needs three points to match his total from the 2010-11 season.

The trade deadline for the WHL is today at 3:00 PM MST. There have been rumblings that Calvin Pickard would find himself with another WHL club, but thus far, he has remained with his Seattle Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds, realizing that Pickard is likely to begin his professional career next season, wouldn't mind garnering some younger assets for their talented netminder, but Pickard is most likely to stay put.

In Saskatoon, the Blades struggles have been a source of frustration for the team, and that includes captain Duncan Siemens. The club finds themselves losers of six of their last 10 games. Siemens offensive numbers have plummeted from his 43 points in 72 game performance from the previous season. He currently has five goals and 14 assists in 40 contests.

In Cleveland, the Lake Erie Monsters are on a three game losing streak and find themselves at the bottom of the North Division with a record of 16-18-1-1. The news isn't all bad, Cedrick Desjardins, who is currently recovering from a lower body injury, was named to the AHL's Western Conference All-Star Team. Atlantic City is hosting the All-Star Classic later this month.

In addition to Desjardins season long performance, the Monsters are receiving reinforcements. Brad Malone was recently returned to the club after a nine game stint with the Avs, in which he produced two assists in nine games. Also a good sign, the near return of Mark Olver, who has yet to play this season due to concussion like symptoms. With 40 games remaining, the Monsters have time for a playoff push. They will conclude their current five game road trip this week with stops in Peoria, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

Next week, a check-in on how some of the college prospects are fairing when it comes to NCAA tournament hopes. A look back at the Monsters five game road trip and check-ins with players in the CHL.

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