Before players report to camp is a good time to take a glance at where the organization is, what spots are up for grabs and what needs there are to fill out an NHL roster, an AHL roster and even what our good friends with the Colorado Eagles still need. As of right now, there are 44 players signed to NHL contracts, 5 players signed to AHL contracts with the Rampage and 13 players on the Eagles roster, plus 3 try-outs we know of (and there’s certainly more). Just for reference, an NHL roster is 23 players, and ECHL roster is 20 players and the AHL is unlimited but optimally at 22 or 23 mid-season with a few extra at the beginning of the year. This assumes no injuries of course. Let’s look at what the Avs have, and where they slot into the depth chart:
Forwards (10): Mackinnon, Duchene, Landeskog, Soderberg, Iginla, Comeau, Colbourne, Grigorenko, McLeod, Mitchell
Defense (6): Johnson, Barrie, Beauchemin, Tyutin, Gelinas, Weircioch
Goalies (2): Varlamov, Pickard
Not saying all these guys are 100% dead locks but most of them are and it would be a surprise if any were not on the opening night roster. There’s 8 forwards that are legitimate top-6 or at least have handled that kind of ice time recently, which is nice because the defense is going to need help. JB’s “unit of 5” strategy will hopefully make up for the dropoff in defensive talent (or experience if youngsters like Z and Bigras are in the mix) beyond EJ/Barrie. I like our goalies and it should be interesting to see what happens if by some miracle shots against drop dramatically.
Fighting for NHL spots
Forwards (8+2): Rantanen, Grimaldi, Martinsen, Compher, Smith, Elson, O’Brien, Sislo (plus PTOs Bourque & Bourque and maybe Skille again?)
Defense (4): Zadorov, Bigras, Siemens, Stanton
Goalies (2): Smith, Martin (fighting for #3 spot FWIW)
These guys are working for the remaining spots on the NHL roster and early-season callups. Obviously Mikko and Z should make the Avs but they weren’t able to stick last year so there’s an element of battling for spots. Assuming the guys at the top make it to opening night healthy then there’s 3-4 forward spots and 1 or 2 D spots in play. The Avs are starting to build some pretty exciting forward depth, and a lot of it is coming organically from development for a change. At this point in the depth chart the defensive depth starts to look good too with Bigras close, Siemens a wild card that hopefully will thrive under new coaching and a guy that lots of folks forget, Ryan Stanton, who has two full NHL seasons under his belt. Jeremy Smith is a lock for the #3 G role at the beginning of the year but it would be good to see Spencer Martin continue to progress and perhaps get a crack at a callup late in the season.
Forwards (10): Greer, Bourke, Petryk, Vogelhuber, Henley, Whitney, Nantel, Belzile*, Nunn*, St Amant*
Defense (5): Lindholm, Geertsen, Corbett, Clark, Boikov
Goalies (2): Simpson*, Lieuwen*
“*” - AHL contract
These fellows plus the 5 above that do not make the Avs will make up the bulk of the San Antonio roster when they take the ice against Milwaukee on October 15th. I’m sure there will be a few try-outs in Rampage camp along with a few of the top players from the Eagles.
With Mat Clark, Reid Petryk and Big Sam Henley the only returnees that spent the entire season in San Antonio, the evidence of major housecleaning is very broad. The Avs bought a complete AHL 1st line, a top D, a starting goalie and a couple of solid defensive forwards to anchor the lineup so the Avs prospects can develop without the added pressure of carrying the team. As above, so it is below. The Rampage D corps is again a bit thin and inexperienced so the forwards and new Coach Eric Veilleux will have to craft a style of play that doesn’t depend completely on the D to drive play all the time. When healthy, Nathan Lieuwen is a stout goalie and should be a big help whether he starts in San Antonio or with the Eagles.
Forwards (8): Bootland, Garbowski, Lazo, Mychan, Nichols, Pierro-Zabotel, Rodwell, Salazar
Defense (4): Marto, Nyren, Zahn, Zimmerman
Goalie (1): Saunders
As it stands now they need 3 forwards, 3 defensemen and a goalie. Good news, they will get 2 goalies in all likelihood and it looks like there should be at least one forward coming down from San Antonio camp but that’s it.
/ / / / /
Forgetting the PTOs for a minute and the fact we have no idea if Coach Bednar will have 13F/8D or 14F/7D as a matter of course, let’s take a top-to-bottom look at surplus and defecit by position.
Forwards - need around 38, there are 36 signed
Defensemen - need around 22, there are 19 signed
Goalies - need 6, there are 7 signed
We have plenty of goaltenders, even with Varly off at Worlds, so no reason to think we’ll see any more added to the camp rosters.
There are plenty of forwards when you add in the PTOs and Beaudin/Barron definitely attending camp. The small defecit is at the ECHL level for now so the plan would seem to be adding someone at the NHL-AHL tweener level like Gabriel Bourque maybe and letting that spot trickle down and then adding a youngster or two at the AHL or AHL/ECHL level. There is adequate experience and young talent at forward in the organization to fill out both the Avs and Rampage rosters for now.
Defense is where, as usual, there is some depth concern. The Avs on average use 8 Ds for 20 or more games over the course of a season and 11 overall. Right now there 9 Ds that have played more than one game at the NHL level (plus Mat Clark, but we just don’t want to go there) so that looks ok but San Antonio is pretty thin with 2 rookies (Boikov, Lindholm) and 2 players with less than a full season of AHL experience (Corbett, Geertsen). If Siemens and especially Ryan Stanton are in the Rampage lineup then we’re probably good but if that’s not the case then it would make a lot of sense to bring in another veteran D. Of course the downside to that is taking development time away from players we would really like to see get a bunch like Geertsen, Boikov and Lindholm. That said, the Rampage/Monsters have used 10 Ds for more than 20 games a season on average and dressed an average of 15 so having a solid backup plan is prudent.
What I’m looking for over the next five weeks is for the Avs to sign a PTO to an NHL contract at forward, a couple of dependable defensemen to AHL or AHL/ECHL contracts and another young forward or two to some sort of minor league deals. The Eagles will probably end up having to come up with a few players from the ECHL pool (they should maybe call the Komets, who are over the roster by 6 already) to fill out their needs but optimally their roster would be filled out with players on the border between the A and the ECHL.
What or who do you see being added to the rosters before opening night, dear reader?