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From the Rampage Desk: 2016 Player Grades & Contract Status

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The beloved Rampage bookended 50 games of mediocre to horrible play with some stout stretches at the beginning and end of the season. The strong start gently tapered off, which wasn't really surprising, but the strong finish was like flipping a switch and that was surprising. One minute they were losing 10 of 11, the next they were winning 10 of 11. At the time it was baffling, now that Dean Chynoweth has been fired and we've seen comments from several soon-to-be former players the picture of the team's struggles has taken shape.

I've given each player below an arbitrary grade. It's tough doing this because many of them I've rooted for for years and boiling an entire season down to a letter is tricky when everyone is inconsistent and the team finds little success. I've graded prospects differently from vets so the marks indicate performance vs expectations for the most part rather than how well they played overall. The benchmark is a C, for prospects that means little or no development and for vets that means doing their job and not much else. Like anyone that's too nice I gave out too many Bs for team that finished last in the division but remember the end of the season is freshest in my mind and most guys finished strong. With a few noted exceptions I only looked at guys with 20+ games in silver & black this year.

* * * * *

Mikko Rantanen: A-
Pigeonholes: Prospect, 2-way scoring forward
Contract status: ELC slide

Top scorer on the team, top-10 in the league, Rookie of the Year, All-Star, etc. Mikko was fantastic this season and did just about everything you could ask from a very young prospect, including graduating to the NHL next year. The minus is for some remaining questions about his defensive skills which along with some slight needs in skating and strength is about my only concern with his game. He will be very missed.

Max Noreau: C
Pigeonholes: Veteran, NHL depth, offensive defensman
Contract status: Signed to play in Switzerland

As a power play scorer he was one of the best in the league, other than that I didn't care much for his play. Had a knack for giving up breakaways, turned the puck over a lot in general, wasn't very good in the defensive zone. I understand his frustration at not getting a callup in 2 years but he sure didn't earn one either.

Joey Hishon: C+
Pigeonholes: Prospect/NHL depth, scoring center
Contract status: RFA, signed with Jokerit of the KHL

Joey had his healthiest and most productive AHL season to date, playing in 62 games and putting up 43 points. Like Noreau he benefited from a lot of PP time and for some reason loved scoring against the Texas Stars. That said, he was very inconsistent and did a lot of moving around the lineup. As a prospect he didn't improve much other than play more games and as NHL depth he didn't make a case for a callup. At this point in the relationship I'm not even sure they keep his rights. Good luck in Finland, bud.

Dennis Everberg: B+
Pigeonholes: Prospect/NHL depth, 2-way winger
Contract status: RFA, arb elig, QO - $643k, looking for work in the SHL right now

For what it's worth, Everberg has every right to feel jilted by the Avs. He went down to the AHL, worked on his offense and made good improvements to his game, ending up the 4th leading scorer and averaging around 2.5 SOG/game. He should be thought of as good depth in the Avs bottom-6 next year but apparently that's not the case. Hopefully they keep his rights and bring him back later on.

Borna Rendulic: C
Pigeonholes: Prospect/NHL depth, scoring forward
Contract status: RFA, arb elig, QO - $653k, looking for work in Europe

Borna has impressive offensive talent but for whatever reasons it hasn't materialized on a consistent basis. A guy like him should get over 3 SOG a game, not half that. He should be at or over 50 points a season at the AHL level easily. The reality is he's an OK scorer with d-zone issues and the lack of development in either area means he's done with the org.

Reid Petryk: B+
Pigeonholes: Prospect, 2-way winger
Contract status: AHL UFA

Petryk manged to make it all the way to the Monsters 1st line in 2015 after starting in Ft Wayne. He did the same for the Rampage this year starting in the bottom-6. 15G/22A is a lot for a young guy on an AHL contract but he's shown improvement 2 years in a row and just as I said last year, he probably deserves an ELC. He also kills penalties and is one of the best defensive forwards on the team, I really believe he could rise to a depth role in the NHL some day.

Andrew Agozzino: B
Pigeonholes: Prospect/NHL Depth, scoring forward
Contract status: Group VI UFA

After playing 3 years without injuries they finally caught up to him this year. An early shoulder problem and a broken ankle midseason limited him to 41 games with SA and 9 with the Avs. There was a drop in PPG scoring from last year's torrid 30G/34A mark and a rise in minor penalties taken. Whether he comes back depends mostly on what the Avs see in him going forward and whether other clubs value him more than they do. It's pretty doubtful the Avs can make an upgrade on him at the AHL level.

Nikita Zadorov: A-
Pigeonholes: Prospect, 2-way defenseman
Contract status: Signed, 3rd-year ELC

Big Z came to the Rampage, made a bunch of mistakes, gradually learned from them under the guidance of Randy Ladouceur and Nate Guenin and finally graduated to the NHL. Hey, the system worked!

Chris Bigras: A-
Pigeonholes: Prospect, 2-way defenseman
Contract status: Signed, 2nd-year ELC

Like Z, Bigras came to the AHL and honed his craft then graduated to the NHL. Personally I think some more time in San Antonio would have benefited him, especially on the offensive side but conditions dictated staying with Colorado.

Samuel Henley: B
Pigeonholes: Prospect, defensive 2-way forward
Contract status: Signed, 3rd-year ELC

After toiling away in the bottom-6 for a year and half with garbage linemates, Big Sam was moved to wing with some offensive opportunities and started to blossom. One of the few definites for next year, Henley has a chance to play top-6 minutes and make a difference at both ends of the ice and I'm pretty damn excited about it. He's a good guy, a good leader and could develop into a useful bottom 6er in the NHL given a chance.

Garrett Thompson: B
Pigeonholes: AHL depth, 2-way forward
Contract status: Was on a Komets contract this year, AHL UFA

Thompson got a chance when the Rampage needed a callup and whoever they were trying to get was injured and he made the most of it. Solid defensively and on PK, he also put up 13 points and 61 SOG in 32 games. I expect he will be offered an AHL contract once the K's playoff run is over.

Michael Schumacher: B-
Pigeonholes: AHL depth, 2-way forward
Contract status: AHL UFA

Schumi has quietly been a solid part of the LEM/SA bottom-6 for the past couple of years. This year a shoulder injury put him out of commission for last 2 months of the year but he still managed to score 8 goals and be one of the few forwards with a positive shot differential. He's also very slow and takes dumb penalties which are definite minuses. I wonder if he's in the future plans of the org.

Nate Guenin: A-
Pigeonholes: Veteran, 2-way (yes, that's correct) defenseman
Contract status: NHL UFA

After getting dumped by the Avs in February, Nate took the demotion professionally and proceeded to become a mentor for Nikita Zadorov, then Mason Geertsen and finally Sergei Boikov. Along the way he put up 12 points & 33 SOG in 24 games. From all we have heard about the locker-room turnaround at the end of the year, he was a massive part of it and the younger players really looked up to him. If he's willing to keep that role and re-sign, the Avs should be glad to do so.

Alex Belzile: B
Pigeonholes: AHL depth, 2-way forward
Contract status: AHL UFA

Belz spent most of the year in Ft Wayne, where he was one of their top scorers, but came to SA and added some life to a rapidly deteriorating squad. He can score, he plays fairly respectable defense, other than taking dumb penalties too often he's a great guy to have around. I expect he'll be back on an AHL contract.

Nic Drazenovic: C-
Pigeonholes: Veteran, AHL depth, 2-way forward
Contract status: AHL UFA

Coming off a severe neck injury last year, Drazenovic joined the Rampage in December on a PTO and later signed an SPC. With Ben Street out long-term and other vets unable to fill the leadership gap he was brought in to hopefully help in that area. I have no idea whether he did that or not but it doesn't seem like it given the continuing problems. Coach Dean also misused him constantly, trying to make a top-6 forward out of him when he was better suited to a 3rd line role. Not sure he was or will be a good fit going forward.

Trevor Cheek: C
Pigeonholes: Prospect, 2-way forward
Contract status: RFA

Cheek's 3rd year in the org didn't see him developing much, he's much more suited to a scoring role like he's done very well with in Ft Wayne. While he did cut down on penalties his scoring production was flat, 4G/5A in 34 games, and didn't generate SOG like he has in the past. I don't expect him to be back with San Antonio next year.

Cody Corbett: C-
Pigeonholes: Prospect, scoring defenseman
Contract status: Signed, 3rd-year ELC

Even though he scored more points in about half the amount of games played as last year (thanks mainly to PP time), there really wasn't a ton of improvement in his game. Cody struggles a lot in the d-zone and with turnovers in horrifying spots, like Max Noreau he has a knack for giving up breakaways at the offensive blueline one can see coming a mile away. Unless there's a big turnaround in camp next year I would expect him to spend most of his time in Ft Wayne.

Troy Bourke: D
Pigeonholes: Prospect, scoring forward (even if Dean didn't think so)
Contract status: Signed, 3rd-year ELC

It pains me to give Bourke a D but I'm sure he would agree with it based on his play in San Antonio. He went from 22 points in 61 games to 9 points in 56 games, that's major regression even with the horrifying puck luck he saw. Bourke is the single most misused player I've seen in 4 years of Dean Chynoweth's tenure. He flat refused to try making anything but a grinder out of him and it wore Bourke down to hopelessness. Bourke is the leading scorer for the K's in the playoffs and averaged well over a point per game in the regular season too. Whoever becomes head coach in San Antonio next year is going to have to go back to basics and rebuild this guy's confidence and scoring instincts. There's no reason he can't be a 50+ point scorer for the Rampage next year.

Mat Clark: D
Pigeonholes: Veteran, defensive defenseman
Contract status: Signed, 2nd year of 2-year deal

Considering he went to arbitration then signed a 2-year contract, Clark was nothing short of a massive disappointment. There to provide solid defense & leadership, he did little of either on the ice. The org is stuck with him for another year and I have no idea how they can make a positive out of that at this point.

Mason Geertsen: B
Pigeonholes: Prospect, 2-way (sort of) defenseman
Contract status: Signed, 2nd-year ELC

Mason struggled to get in the lineup for most of the year and finally was sent to Ft Wayne where he found his game again and finished the year strong. Given greater responsibilities and time on the PP he also started to generate shots and points to move into that "2-way" rather than "defensive" defenseman range. He's got a brighter future now than I thought midway through the season and we should be excited for what he can produce with top-4 time next year.

Duncan Siemens: B-
Pigeonholes: Prospect, defensive defenseman
Contract status: RFA, QO - $907k

Duncan developed into the Rampage's best defensive defenseman and the only one with a positive shot differential from Topher Minasi's charted games. Although his point production was about the same as last year, he generated almost twice as many SOG, still without the benefit of any PP time. Unfortunately he once again missed lots of time with injuries. There's still a lot to like about Duncan, he's a big guy that skates very well and can cover a lot of ground. The downside is the slow development, losing big chunks of time to injury and questionable puck skills. I doubt the Avs can find someone better to take his place in San Antonio but I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to move on either.

Brandon Gormley: D
Pigeonholes: Prospect/NHL depth, 2-way defenseman
Contract status: RFA, arb elig, QO - $893k

For whatever reasons Gormley was a disaster at both ends of the ice after being re-assigned by Colorado. I don't want to go all Chambers on you but he was -19 in 39 games and only had 6 points. I can't imagine either side being interested in continuing together.

Patrick Bordeleau: F
Pigeonholes: Veteran, depth forward
Contract status: NHL UFA

Bordy entered the season coming off a couple of bad injuries to his back and knee and never got going. He's a good guy and I wish him well but this is probably it for his hockey career.

Dan Maggio: F
Pigeonholes: Veteran, AHL depth forward
Contract status: AHL UFA

Maggio's role in pro hockey is all but gone now. Most teams don't have enforcers anymore and low-skill, physical 4th liners are also marked for extinction. Fare thee well, Mags.

Short-timers:

Ben Street: A
Pigeonholes: Veteran, Captain, scoring 2-way forward
Contract status: NHL UFA

Only played 15 games and was the 10th leading scorer on the team with 7G/14A and 73(!) SOG. I can't tell you what an amazing effect Ben Street had on this team, he is invaluable. Like Guenin, the Avs should do what it takes to keep him around for the good of the franchise.

Garry Nunn: A
Pigeonholes: some guy who came out of nowhere to become almost a PPG player
Contract status: ECHL UFA

Garry Nunn was called up from the Atlanta Gladiators for 1 game and ended up staying the rest of the season. 7G/7A and 27 SOG in 16 games. Maybe it's just a fluke but it's one worth betting on. The org likes this guy and I'll be astonished if he doesn't return on an AHL contract.

Taylor Beck: INC
Pigeonholes: NHL depth, scoring forward
Contract status: RFA, arb elig, QO - $918k

Beck was acquired for M-A Cliche and promptly injured himself after 2 games then made it back for the last 2. He's got 87 games of NHL experience for the Preds and good AHL scoring numbers. I'd like to see him back.

Goalies:

Roman Will: C-
Pigeonholes: Prospect
Contract status: RFA, arb elig, QO - $629k

Roman struggled with the starting role once Calvin was called up to Colorado and Berra was still injured. I could load you up with statistics showing how ineffective he is but the telling one is that he didn't play at all after getting pulled for the 5th time with a month left in the season. Don't think he'll be back.

Calvin Pickard: B+
Pigeonholes: NHL depth
Contract status: RFA, arb elig, QO - $893k

Calvin deserves an A for graduating and winning the backup job in Colorado but there were some bad games in December that weren't all on the team. Doesn't matter, SA was lucky to have him for the short time he was around. I'm sure the Avs will re-sign him.

Spencer Martin: B+
Pigeonholes: Prospect, AHL depth
Contract status: Signed, 2nd-year ELC

A young talented goalie that showed great skill as well as vulnerability, in other words - a rookie. Some positives: 3 shutouts, a 50-save loss, lowest GAA and highest Sv% on the team, a 4-game win streak that turned what little was left of the season around. I look forward to seeing Spencer as either a high-use backup or part of a tandem next year in San Antonio.

Reto Berra: B
Pigeonholes: Veteran, NHL depth
Contract status: 3rd year of a 3-year deal

Reto came into a tough spot, demoted from the Avs following an injury to a team that was totally on the skids in the AHL. Everyone seems to think one of the Avs goalies is getting traded this summer so his time with the Rampage could be over but it would be a great situation both for the team and for Spencer Martin if he were to come back. The $500k cap hit the Avs take with him in the minors is a bit of a deterrent there but if it plays out like that it's probably worth it.

Others that spent time with the team:

Colin Smith (54g), Hubert Labrie (50g), Marc-Andre Cliche (38g), Zach Redmond (11g), Andreas Martinsen (10g), Justin Hamonic (7g), Sergei Boikov (4g), Garrett Meurs (3g), Jackson Houck (3g), Will Weber (2g), Gabe Beaupre (1g) and Brock Higgs (1g).

TML hold Smitty's rights
Clish & Reds are NHL UFAs
The Avs hold Martinsen, Meurs, Beaupre and Boikov's rights
The rest are all free agents of some sort

If Martinsen sticks around it will be with the Avs.
I sure hope they are in the process of signing Boikov like right now. Probably the most polished junior player I've seen on an ATO and can definitely play in the AHL right out of the box.
I get the feeling the org likes Hamonic, he'll probably be back in a similar AHL depth defenseman role. I know the Komets like Weber, he's an alternate captain there. He's gigantic and slow but can be an AHL depth D if the need arises. Dean hated Beaupre (and not without reason) but the K's seem to dig him, maybe he sticks around on some 2-way AHL deal.
Jackson Houck had an ok ATO, maybe he gets a rookie camp invite.

* * * * *

With more empty spots than signed players I'm going to hold off on any roster projections for a while. The Avs keep hinting that there will be big changes in San Antonio but there's little guidance as to where these fresh new faces will come from. They seem to have lost the desire to scrape up undrafted European players, they've forsaken the OHL & WHL pipelines, the NCAA rush has come and gone. What's left? There's the QMJHL, older AHL free agents and re-signing guys they said they were probably replacing.

With 5 likely ELC candidates at least next summer it makes sense to go short term on contracts and avoid the 50-contract limit mess they've been in for the past couple of years. Julien Nantel and JT Compher are the only ELCs they've signed so far. I think Boikov gets one too but that could be it this year. There are a few players that keep popping up in rumors, then you have Avs 2014 5th rounder Anton Lindholm, maybe Reid Petryk in the mix, but it could easily end up just 3 or 4 entry-level deals plus a bunch of more experienced players on one-year contracts (get Kenny Ryan back please) as far as roster changes.