This first time I can recall seeing Borna Rendulic play hockey, he had just been called up to the Colorado Avalanche in 2014-15. Four games into his NHL tenure against the Philadelphia Flyers, the lanky Croatian skated into the high slot found a loose puck and ripped a beautiful slap shot into the net in one fluid motion for his first career goal. I remember thinking to myself at the time: "Now here's a young player I can get behind!"
He had the length, the puck sense, and an instinct for taking shots that appeared sorely lacking down the lineup for that Avalanche team. He appeared to be a good fit and primed to grow along with a team on the rise, racking up just two points in eleven games but putting up a Plus-4.0 5-on-5 shot differential (in sheltered starts). But then he broke his leg 1:54 into a game against the Florida Panthers and would sit out the remainder of the year.
MHH Survey Grade: 72.1%
The 2015-16 version of Borna Rendulic was unfortunately not nearly as effective. Despite making the big club after a strong training camp, he struggled mightily on a line with Carl Soderberg and Mikko Rantanen for three games before being reassigned to the AHL Rampage. How bad was it? Rendulic received just 22 minutes of playing time for the Avs this past season, and still managed a Minus-18.0 5-on-5 shot differential relative to his teammates -- good for dead last.
In San Antonio he would put up a solid but unspectacular 38 points in 68 games for a struggling team in a number of roles up and down the lineup. The knack for scoring goals remained, but like a lot of other Avs reassigned to the AHL to improve, he failed to inspire another call-up. Coach Dean Chynoweth was fired following the season and one can't help but wonder if the development of Rendulic, and other players like him, was not a major reason. Management clearly felt he was a player with NHL potential, signing him to two contracts and giving him multiple opportunities on the active roster. So, why wasn't he improving with Colorado development team?
It appears Rendulic didn't value the experience much either as he quickly signed in Russia following the season and had some interesting comments about playing on the team after his departure. It's really too bad because there was certainly potential there.
MHH Staff Grade: D
But only so much blame can be put on a coaching staff. At some point, a borderline NHL player has to overcome his surroundings and stand out among the lesser competition. Rendulic failed to do so in San Antonio and never got another shot on Patrick Roy's roster.