Good morning all. The Avs kick off pre-season training with Rookie Camp Day 1 in preparation for the inaugural Rookie Showcase over the weekend. There will be practices at Family Sports Center this morning and Monday morning with afternoon games at Westminster Promenade Saturday and Sunday. Main camp begins a week from today.
Today - Practice at 9:15am MT, FSC
Saturday - Avs vs Sharks 2pm MT, Westminster Promenade
Sunday - Avs vs Ducks 1pm MT, Westminster Promenade
Monday - Practice at 9:45am MT, FSC
Forwards: Travis Barron (2016 7th-ATO), J-C Beaudin (2015 3rd-ATO), Troy Bourke (2012 3rd), JT Compher (2013 BUF 2nd), AJ Greer (2015 2nd), Sam Henley (2014 FA), Jackson Houck (ATO), Filip Karlsson (ATO), Julien Nantel (2014 7th), Brogan O’Brien (ATO), Gustav Olhaver (2015 7th-ATO), Mikko Rantanen (2015 1st), Shawn St Amant (2016 AHL Contract), Cole Sanford (2016 AHL Contract), Jeffrey Truchon-Viel (ATO)
Defense: Josh Anderson (2016 3rd-ATO), Chris Bigras (2013 2nd), Sergei Boikov (2015 6th), Cody Corbett (2014 FA), Mason Geertsen (2013 4th), Anton Lindholm (2014 5th), Nicolas Meloche (2015 2nd-ATO), Nikita Zadorov (2013 BUF 1st)
Goalies: Spencer Martin (2013 3rd), Chase Marchand (ATO)
Breakdown & Fun Facts:
15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 2 goalies. Assuming everyone is healthy and the org wants to see all play, 6F/4D and both goalies will play only one of the games at the Showcase.
10 players are still amateurs, 5 of them drafted by the Avs. Any of them can sign an NHL contract but only Olhaver, Houck, Karlsson and Marchand are eligible to play in the AHL this year.
Three prospects - Mikko (9), Bigras (31) & Z (89) have played NHL games. Oddly enough this is Zadorov’s first Rookie Camp with the Avs.
Seven players did not return after participating in Summer Development Camp - Butcher, Jost, Clurman, Storm, Morrison, Luce (try-out) and Werner. All are in NCAA programs or will be except for Werner who is working with the Swedish U20 Junior Squad and his team in Allsvenskan IF Björklöven.
Seven new players have been added since Dev Camp - Corbett (who actually participated but wasn’t listed), Bigras, Mikko, Z, Henley, Bourke and AHL signee Cole Sanford
Out of the 27 players at last years Rookie camp, 12 are returning - Bigras, Bourke, Martin, Henley, Geertsen, Corbett, Meloche, Nantel, Beaudin, Boikov, Olhaver & Mikko. Three more are still in the org - Duncan, Petryk and Pajpach - and the rest have moved on. Zadorov, Greer & Compher were in the org last year but did not (or could not) attend Rookie Camp.
Sam Henley is the oldest, having just turned 23 this summer. Josh Anderson is the youngest, turning 18 at the end of August. Zadorov (141), Bourke (132) and Henley (130) have the most NHL/AHL experience of the bunch, they along with Cody Corbett are going into their 3rd seasons since turning pro.
No coaches were listed but I’m guessing that new Rampage head coach Eric Veilleux will be behind the bench with Randy Ladouceur working the defense. Since he’s never coached any of these guys and we’ve never seen him coach any other players it’s a tough call on how he’s going to craft the lineups.
Starting with the defense, the easiest thing to see is that Meloche is the only RHD so he’s a lock to play on the right side. Corbs and Bigras have experience on the right side and I’ve heard Lindholm does too. You want to see experienced Ds paired with younger guys, Z, Bigras, Corbett and probably Lindholm fall into that category. Just to throw some logical pairs out there:
Z - Meloche
Geertsen - Lindholm
Anderson - Bigras
Boikov - Corbett
The forward lines could be anything and change rapidly. Other than reuniting the Huskies just for fun I have no strong feelings about how that shapes up but here goes:
Bourke - Compher - Mikko
Greer - Beaudin - Nantel
Henley - Karlsson - St Amant
Barron - Olhaver - Sanford
O’Brien - Truchon-Viel - Houck
At first the center depth is troubling, then you realize there’s a whole bunch of AHLers that aren’t participating plus I put Nantel at RW just because I like nostalgia. We like Big Sam on the wing better but he could also be a better C option than some of those. Again, with no insight in to the coach’s mentality or even what the Avs want to see during the showcase it’s all guesswork.
Superficially the goal here is to quickly prepare for two games then win them. With a wide variety of ages, experience levels and differences in contract status within the group, we are going to see a wide variety of motivations as well.
For players expected to contend for spots on the Avalanche like Bigras, Zadorov and Mikko, the Avs want to see them differentiate themselves from the others and provide skill and leadership on the ice. Third year pros like Bourke, Corbett and Henley have the same task to a lesser degree with the added pressure of looking for new contracts at the end of the season while not having a sniff of a callup so far. Henley began to take a leadership role while the Rampage were imploding last year and also had a signifigant role shift after plodding along for the first year and a half of his pro career as a bottom-6 defensive center. The staff moved him to top-6 wing and his development really took off, out of those 3 he might have the best shot at the NHL in the near future so it’s safe to say camp is a big opportunity for Sam.
The Avs drafted amateurs are there to impress the staff enough to earn contracts, especially Beaudin and Meloche who are likely in their final year in Juniors. Jackson Houck and Filip Karlsson are flat out trying to make cases to get signed this year. The other amateurs like O’Brien, Truchon-Viel & Marchand are there to make impressions on the development staff for consideration in the future. These guys will be hungry.
The rest of the squad, 1st & 2nd year pros, are battling for roles - anything from trying to avoid being sent to the ECHL all the way up to making a case for NHL consideration. The thought of having a truly competitive AHL affiliate for the first time is exciting for both Avs and Rampage fans and having a new coach that (hopefully) won’t just rack the lineup based on experience means some real competition for playing time & roles and more opportunities for youngsters to move up based on merit. It all begins here.
Some notes on the Showcase
Per the Avs site, admission is free but finite so if you’re planning on attending the games get there early, especially on Saturday.
The Avs do not plan on streaming the games in any form so those of us not on the Front Range will not be able to watch. Or will we? Thanks to a site called livebarn.com (and tigervixxen for finding it) there’s a slight chance a fixed camera could be in operation over the weekend. There’s a 1-day free trial available and it’s better than nothing. We’ll see if it works.
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As always, the comments section will be littered with tweets/observations from our good friends that are able to attend the sessions. Once we get a handle on who’s there I’ll get a follow list going. Off-season is officially over!