In our final installment of Lake Erie's 2014-15 season review we get to the fun stuff, our beloved prospects! I'm going to break it down by contract status and add a word or two on the merits of keeping those who aren't in the fold for next year. It's a bit lengthy, so grab some coffee, tea or juice and let's get to it.
Ben Street - After dealing with some wrist/hand issues for most of the early part of the season, ended up with 39 points and an insane 172 SOG in just 44 games. Street was exactly what we thought we'd be getting, a solid veteran 2-way center for the top line. Not a very accurate shooter at 5.2%, sheer volume makes up for it.
Colin Smith - Missed a lot of the 2nd half with a broken leg, but Smitty solidified his role as another sound 2-way forward and cut way down on PIMs from last season while still playing tough defensive minutes and PK. Size is the only thing limiting his upside.
Troy Bourke - Versatile rookie winger was a victim of Coach Dean's questionable player usage strategy more than he should have been but still managed 9G/13A. Where he really stood out was defensively and on the PK - probably his key to making the NHL anyway. Towards the end of the year we saw flashes of what could be in the future as he learned to start making that one extra move to create space in the offensive zone. Should be a fixture on the top lines in San Antonio next year.
Trevor Cheek - Played many roles from grindy bottom-6 center to wing on the skill lines, Cheek has size, a good shot and can play the physical game. In the final year of his ELC, this is a key season coming up. 6G/9A and healthy 112 SOG is ok but might not be enough for him to stick around.
Sam Henley - Missed 22 games due to injuries and other issues, but was a defensive force when in the lineup. I think a nice long off-season to heal up and work on his skating will do wonders for Big Sam, he has some offensive talent that wasn't exploited nearly enough this season for various reasons. He does that and he's on the fast track to the Avs for sure.
Borna Rendulic - After spending the first 3 months of the season with the Monsters he earned a callup to the Avs and unfortunately broke his leg soon after, ending his rookie season. Has a lot of offensive skill but needs time to gain consistency and solidify his defensive play before he will be NHL caliber.
Garrett Meurs - Spent a good part of the season in Ft Wayne and was used sparingly in his time in Lake Erie. One of my favorite guys to root for, it's going to be interesting to see what happens in his final ELC year.
Max Noreau - One of only 2 true vets on the roster to start the season, Noreau was the team's leading scorer when he succumbed to season-ending shoulder surgery and still ended up 6th. Mediocre at best in the defensive zone, his experience and offense will be nice to have as long as it doesn't take time away from the prospects.
Duncan Siemens - Still has plenty of talent, still has plenty to learn. After 2 years and 2 mid-season injuries, there were definite signs of progression towards the end of 2014-15. Siemens had his first NHL callup, albeit in a meaningless final game for the Avs. As I outlined last week, Duncan's development has suffered due to Coach Dean's insistence on playing vets over young players, which we all hope will be remedied next season one way or another. With another good camp he should be in position to get top-pair minutes in San Antonio and be first callup for Colorado.
Cody Corbett - The undrafted FA rookie was listed as appearing in 47 games but took regular shifts in maybe half of those and ended up with only 3G/3A after a nearly ppg effort in his overage year. Coach Dean wanted to use him as a PP specialist when he would have been better served giving him plain old 3rd pair minutes and letting him develop his 2-way game. Corbs is a lot better defensively than you'd think from looking at his junior stats and while there were the usual rookie mistakes there were also some really promising defensive plays in transition and clearing the zone via the pass. Depending on who gets re-signed on the right side this summer he could find himself on the bench once again next year because of the talent in front of him on the left side.
Gabriel Beaupre - Cast in a variety of roles from playing in Ft Wayne all the way to a few games on the top pair due to injuries, the Avs 6th round pick in 2011 probably tops out as a 3rd pair AHL defender. I like Beaupre a lot but 3 years in the org hasn't rid him of the kind of defensive mistakes that often end up in the back of the net. This year was his shot to make a case for regular playing time and it didn't happen unfortunately.
Chris Bigras - We were treated to a glimpse of the future when Bigras got into the last 7 games of the LEM season. Although he struggled defensively at times I don't see that continuing for long. Offensively, we saw the smooth skating in transition and the smart plays from the point and half-wall on the PP that will really make a difference next season. The main question here is how long is he going to spend in the AHL.
Mason Geertsen - Like Bigras, joined the Monsters after the conclusion of his junior career and ended up playing 9 games. Incredibly strong and a much improved skater from his draft year, Mason excelled at keeping the play to the outside and winning physical battles. One thing that impressed me was his ability to absolutely flatten an opponent without any noticeable effect to his position or stride. It's one thing to take someone out, but taking someone out and collecting the puck at the same time is magnificent.
Roman Will - Although he was the new guy in net, his birthday falls right between Pickard and Aittokallio so he wasn't without experience. Thrown into a few starts early in the year due to callups, he struggled mightily and ended up with a 2-6-1 record, 3.54 GAA and .869 Sv%. He did put together a nice campaign in the ECHL for the Komets and is leading them through the 2nd round of the Kelly Cup playoffs right now. It remains to be seen whether that experience will translate into AHL ability, he and rookie Spencer Martin will be battling for the backup spot in San Antonio next season.
Reto Berra - Yogi had a 5-game conditioning stint with the Monsters in January, winning 3, losing 1 and getting an OTL on a penalty shot of all things. And he scored a goal! I don't really expect him to start the year with the Rampage but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he ends there long term at some point.
Andrew Agozzino - In 3 years, Aggz has become Lake Erie's all-time leader in goals, assists, points and games played as well as becoming the franchise's only 30-goal scorer. Thanks to a torrid 2nd half of the season with 23 goals and 25 assists including 21 points in March that earned him AHL Player of the Month honors, he finished 7th in AHL scoring. There's really no reason the Avs should let him go, finding a leader and scorer like Aggz for your AHL team is damn near impossible and there's still NHL potential there.
Joey Hishon - I'll call Hish's season in Lake Erie wildly inconsistent. Points by month: OCT 1, NOV 8, DEC 4, JAN 12, FEB 7, APR 4 (in the final 3 games). The company line was to put him in a spot to improve defensively and that happened to a degree early on but once the top scorers were injured or called up that luxury went out the window and he went back to an offensive role. The Avs staff seem to be pleased with his 13 game stint in Colorado and he looked phenomenal in his short return to the Monsters at the end of the year. So much more confident, really great to see. I'd say he's a lock for another contract. The only question is whether he starts with the Avs or the Rampage.
Mitch Heard - One of the most hated Avalanche draft picks of all time, Mitch followed up a lackluster training camp with a trip down to the Komets, presumably forever. Heard promptly became an offensive force in the ECHL and got his confidence back. Called back up to Lake Erie right before Thanksgiving, he stuck around for the rest of the year and tallied 6G/5A from December through February before tailing off at the end of the season. I get the feeling he's not in the Avs plans going forward, hopefully he can go somewhere without the stigma of being a 2nd round draft pick that didn't measure up to expectations and put together a decent career.
Freddie Hamilton - Acquired for Karl Stollery at the deadline, Freddie played just 5 games for the Monsters and had 2 goals and 2 assists. I'd like to see him re-signed for sure and he should be. Strong AHL player and the coaches in Colorado are obviously comfortable with him in the lineup up there.
Tomas Vincour - Hampered by injuries for almost the entire season, Vinny came alive finally in the last 19 games of the year totaling 9G/6A including a 5-game goal streak. Is that enough to get him another contract? I tend to doubt it but if he can play like he did in March & April over a full season he would definitely be a good guy to have on the roster.
Stefan Elliott - Still dangerous in the offensive zone, still finds trouble in the defensive zone. Elliott had his most productive year in the AHL by a fair margin with 19 goals (13 on PP) and 21 assists. I guess I'll say it's an improvement having his defensive play go from scary to just inconsistent. That said, he's still young and still an asset. From a trade standpoint he's essentially worthless without a contract, so if the Avs want to move on they either sign him and wait another few months to see if a deal turns up or just lose him for nothing in July, which would be entirely too typical.
Markus Lauridsen - Moose finished up his ELC this year totaling 5G/11A on 56 SOG in 62 games played. Like many recent Avs defensive prospects he's inclined to the offensive side of the ice and struggles in the defensive zone. Coach Dean stuck with him in the top 2 pairs for most of the season but it just wasn't a good fit and all it ended up accomplishing was less time on the ice for younger guys that really could have used it and a few goals against that didn't need to happen. Played the last few weeks of the season at forward for reasons I still wonder about. I don't expect him to be re-signed.
Mat Clark - Acquired at the deadline for Mike Sgarbossa, the former Ducks 2nd round pick in '09 (4 spots behind ROR!) provided good size and veteran presence on the blueline and worked his way into top-pair duties with Ben Youds for the final stretch. One thing I noticed as his PT went into ridiculous levels was that playing him all the time in all situations doesn't work. Keep his minutes around 22 a night and he's going to be just fine. Even though he probably won't see any time in the NHL for Colorado I'd be very surprised if he's not re-signed.
Calvin Pickard - Broke out of the tandem he shared with Sami Aittokallio for the last 2 years to become the Monsters #1 goalie and never looked back. On the way he also appeared in 16 games for the Avs, posting a 6-7-3 record with a righteous .932 Sv% and 2.35 GAA. In Lake Erie he became the all-time leader in wins and ended his season with a 23-17-9 record with .917 Sv%, 2.61 GAA and 3 shutouts. Obviously the Avs will want to re-sign Calvin but that might not go as smoothly as they'd like. Although unproven, he's more attractive than the options a few NHL teams have right now.
Sami Aittokallio - Demoted to Pickard's backup at the beginning of the year and further demoted to Ft Wayne for a gruesome 4-game .823 Sv% stint, Sami played only 16 games for the Monsters registering a 7-5-1 mark with a .900 Sv% and 3.19 GAA. After 3 years in the org he still struggled with the same consistency issues and fundamental flaws he had when he arrived, which will likely lead to his departure this summer. It's too bad, he can be very good at times but there's just no room for him right now.
Reid Petryk - The 6'2 210# RW spent most of the season bouncing back and forth between Lake Erie and Ft Wayne but something clicked when he was placed on the top line with Agozzino and Street and he became a fixture there for the rest of the year. Petryk's strengths are possession-related things like moving the puck out of the d-zone or through the neutral zone without giving it away or collecting pucks in the corners. He's not going to rack up a lot of points but he's the kind of player that allows skilled guys do their thing better. He's been on the org's radar since 2013 at least and from where I sit has done exactly what was needed to earn an ELC for next season.
Kenny Ryan - Yet another 2009 2nd rounder, he was picked by the Leafs right after Stefan Elliott. Plays mainly at RW but takes a lot of faceoffs on PK. Also has good size at 6' 210#. Ryan ended the year with 12G/17A on 106 SOG in 73 games. He was also a major reason why the PK was so effective this year, 3 of his 12 goals were shorthanded, and he and Troy Bourke had some great chemistry both there and 5v5. I have no clue why the Leafs let him go. He's very fast, plays very good defense and puts up good offensive numbers. Ryan's already been through his ELC so a 1-year 2-way contract is all it would take to lock him up for next year, if I were the Avs I'd do it in a heartbeat.
Michael Schumacher - Finished his second year with the Monsters with 12G/15A on 136 SOG in 73 games played. Was more of an agitator this season and continued his consummate trash-talking abilities but a consequence of that was more time in the penalty box. He's always had a nose for the net, I'd say 90% of his goals come from within 10' of the crease, but his defensive play is a little inconsistent probably due to lack of footspeed. This is a tough call, I don't think he deserves an NHL contract but he's a very good guy to have on the AHL roster. Whether he's willing to take an AHL contract for the 3rd year in a row or perhaps can find an NHL or SHL deal somewhere else might determine if he returns or not.
Dan Maggio - The popular Monsters enforcer played 48 games and had a goal and 3 assists while accumulating 215 PIMs to become the all-time franchise leader in the category (522 in 119 games). I'd like to see him back with the org for the simple reason that I don't want Duncan breaking his wrist anymore and I don't want Sam Henley hurting himself unnecessarily, or anyone else for that matter. It's the AHL, there will be fights. If someone like Mags can take up that responsibility so others don't have to, then he's worth his weight in gold.
Ben Youds - Came over from Providence in a side deal to the Talbot/Carey/Caron trade at the deadline and slotted right into the spot vacated by Karl Stollery on the top-pair. Described as "shifty" by Coach Dean, the diminutive defenseman moved the puck up the ice well and was good on the PP. Like Mat Clark he showed signs of diminishing returns when overused. I definitely don't see him getting an NHL contract and if Noreau and Elliott are going to play every night he's pretty redundant. A few dominos need to fall before we can say whether he will be invited back next fall.
Bruno Gervais - Whatever, I've tooled on him enough for a lifetime. I see him with TVA more than I see him in the AHL next year.
Those who left us
Karl Stollery was traded to San Jose for Freddie Hamilton and ended his Monsters career with 195 games played, 19 goals and 66 assists. Also played a total of 7 games for the Avs.
Mike Sgarbossa was traded to Anaheim for Mat Clark. In 3 years with Lake Erie he totaled 28 goals and 59 assists in 146 games. Played in 9 games for Colorado and had an assist.
Paul Carey was traded to Boston with Max Talbot for Jordan Caron, a 6th rd draft choice and the side deal for Benny Youds. Carey finished his 171 game stint for LEM with 40 goals and 49 assists. Played 22 games for the Avalanche and had 1 assist.
I'll miss all 3 of these guys but the only one I'd actually want back is Paul Carey, he really seemed to improve this season and had the most to contribute both in the A and the NHL.
Can't say that any of the forwards that were called up from the Komets impressed me all that much, but one guy we called up from Greenville might be worth a tryout. Kyle Jean played 4 games for Lake Erie during mid-March and was solid on the 4th line and big at 6'4 216#. Not a fighter either, I guess you could say he's a skill guy in the ECHL with a career 0.73 ppg.
Spencer Martin - Didn't play in the AHL this year but most likely will this coming season. The Avs 3rd round pick in 2013 was signed in October but returned to junior while his contract slid to next year. Suffered a gruesome knee injury midway through the year but word on the street is that he should be good to go for training camp. Will contend for backup spot in San Antonio with Roman Will. A big goalie, he played for a poor team that gave him many many shots to save, very similar to Calvin Pickard's time in the WHL.
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This was the biggest Monsters team since they made the playoffs back in 2010-11 and the youngest ever at an average of just over 23 years old. The formula for winning in the AHL is to dress your allotted 5 veterans every night and complement that with your prospects. Lake Erie never had more than 2 vets in a game and on a couple of wonderful evenings had not a one. The fact that the Monsters had one of their best seasons in team history relying exclusively on Avalanche prospect talent is a big positive going forward. I don't see many or even any vets added for next season. Noreau becomes the only true vet and Street will be a semi-vet (260+ games in AHL/NHL) as will Elliott & Clark if they re-sign.
I'm fine with that. There just isn't enough room on a developing team like the Avs for a group of older players signed only to make the AHL team look better. Not to mention that any minutes guys like that take are at the expense of younger players development time. Without a clue to what the divisions are going to look like next year it's difficult to make any predictions but objectively the Rampage should be a playoff team next year.
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I'm sad to say this will be the final Monsters Desk article. Starting whenever something new breaks or the mood strikes me, the next article will be From the Rampage Desk. I'll really miss the Monsters and all the great fans like Cathy, Justin and others who stopped by and gave their 2 cents on MHH. I'll miss LostGrlWendy's photos and practice/injury reports on twitter as well as Bordy's Hooligans and the LEM Backers on facebook. I'll also miss Dougie Plagens radio play-by-play and Coach Jock on the TV broadcasts. It's going to be tough to root against Lake Erie when we play but at least they're affiliated with a likable franchise and hopefully someday we meet in the Western Conference finals or even play each other for the Calder Cup.
Bonne chance Monsters!