With the NHL Lockout finally coming to a close, hockey fans can breath a deep sigh of relief and make their way back to the rink. While it’s tough to draw any positives from this lockout, there are a few Avalanche prospects in the system who could benefit from the late start and short training camp. This year Avalanche veterans, rusty but hopefully in playing shape, will be competing for roster spots with young AHL’ers just hitting their midseason stride.
Here is the Avalanche's roster at the end of last season, amended for free agent acquisitions:
|Jamie Mcginn (11)||Paul Stastny (26)||David Jones (54)|
|Gabriel Landeskog (C) (92)||*Ryan O`Reilly (37/90)||Steve Downie (27)|
|P.A. Parenteau (15)||Matt Duchene (9)||Milan Hejduk (23)|
|Cody Mcleod (55)||John Mitchell (39)||Chuch Kobasew (17)|
|Erik Johnson (6)||Ryan Wilson (44)|
|Jan Hejda (8)||Ryan O'Byrne (3)|
|Shane O'Brien (5)||Greg Zanon (?)|
|Matt Hunwick (22)|
|Semyon Varlamov (1)|
With 7 NHL defensemen under contract and assuming that Ryan O’Reilly signs a new deal with the Avalanche, there are very few open spots on this roster. Regardless, lets look at a few players to keep your eye on this weekend, as they look to make the jump into the NHL.
How many times does this guy have to prove he belongs in the NHL? After working his way out of Lake Erie and on to the Avalanche each of the last two years, Mark Olver will fight to earn a roster spot straight out of camp this season. Olver is a small but feisty forward who can play center or wing. He has good vision on the ice and a decent shot, but what makes Mark Olver fun to watch is his huge motor. Olver plays much bigger than his 5-10 frame and does a great job getting under opponents skin. He'll never light the lamp much, but he's a solid 4th line player who can change the pace of a game when given the chance.
After a painfully slow start to the season, 1G 3A and a -7 in his first 25 games, Stefan Elliott's game has improved some in recent weeks, picking up 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 8 games. Elliott had varying degrees of success with the Avalanche last season. At times he was a great catalyst for the offense but he was always suspect defensively. When Elliott's scoring dried up he saw some time in Sacco's doghouse and never quite recovered. Although Eliott's performance in Lake Erie isn't screaming for a call up, its possible that some NHL competition and a steady, stay at home D partner (Greg Zanon anyone?) could be just what the doctor ordered.
While Stefan Elliot has struggled in the AHL this year, Tyson Barrie has absolutely flourished in his growing role as the Lake Erie Monsters top defenseman. Barrie leads the team in assists and sits 1 point back from the team lead in overall points. While he still has some defensive lapses, Barrie has been a spark-plug for the offense sitting 2nd on the team in shots with 83 (only forward Bryan Lerg has more with 85). Tyson Barrie failed to register a point in his brief 10 game call up last season, but not for lack of trying. On three separate occasions the rookie was credited with an assist, only to have it taken away later in the game. Barrie will not only be looking to make the team for pride, but to finally tally his 1st NHL point.
#43 / Center / Lake Erie Monsters
Jul 25, 1992
|Sudbury Wolves (OHL) 2011-2012||66||47||55||102||68||-|
Michael Sgarbossa was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche last spring along with Mike Connolly and Jamie McGinn in exchange for Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi. The undrafted forward quickly shot to the top of the OHL winning the scoring race with 102 points in 66 games. The question for Avs fans: would Sgarbossa's sleek finesse game translate to the pros. So far, it has. Sgarbossa is a good skater with really good hands and a quick shot. He's very creative offensively, sees the ice well and isn't afraid to go to the corners or the front of the net. Sgarbossa is tied for 3rd place in AHL rookie scoring with our next potential callup....
#11 / Left Wing / Lake Erie Monsters
Jan 3, 1991
|Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) 2011-2012||67||40||48||88||67||-|
Another Undrafted prospect, Agozzino played 2 games with the Peoria Rivermen last season before signing as a free agent in Lake Erie. Agozzino finished 5th in last seasons OHL scoring race with 88 points and won the Mickey Renard Captain's Trophy for the OHL's top captain. Agozzino is not currently under contract with the Avalanche, but if his stellar play in Lake Erie continues he could very easily get an entry level deal from the team. Agozzino is tied with Sgarbossa not only for Monster's best last name, but also the team's points lead. He has good speed and a quick shot and could fill time on the 3rd or 4th line if he gets a contract with the Avalanche.
#24 / Defenseman / Lake Erie Monsters
Mar 19, 1990
Avs fans have got to begin to wonder, will Cameron Gaunce ever get a real chance with the big club. Gaunce plays a solid, physical game and seems to have 5-6 stay at home defender potential, but he just cant seem to find the consistency necessary to get a call up. Some nights he is a true shut down D for Lake Erie and others he takes bad penalties and makes enormous defensive errors.
#3 / Defenseman / Denver Cutthroats
Feb 28, 1991
|Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) 2011-2012||58||6||24||30||32||32|
|Denver Cutthroats (CHL) 2012-2013||30||6||9||15||14||2|
Lauridsen may seem like a longshot for a training camp appearance, considering his CHL play and brief forgettable stint in the AHL, but remember that the Avalanche signed Lauridsen to a tryout contract over the summer. While he may not make the team, dont be surprised if Lauridsen makes a camp appearance this week. After all, it is justa short drive from the fish tank.
On a related note, feels damn good to talk about hockey again.