With preseason roster cuts nearly complete, we can start figuring out which AHL skaters impressed coaches enough to warrant call-ups when injuries arise this year. The Avs have more legitimate prospects and depth options on the Rampage than they have in years but the coach and GM have stayed the same, so for reference let’s look at how the team approached call-ups in 2016-17:
October (Mitchell, R. Bourque injuries):
Gabriel Bourque (5 games)
November (Duchene, Landy injuries):
AJ Greer (5 games)
December (Soderberg, Colbourne injuries):
Sam Henley (1 game), Rocco Grimaldi (1 game), Gabriel Bourque (1 game)
March (Trade Deadline, Nieto injury):
Anton Lindholm (12 games/season), JT Compher (21 games/season)
April (Comeau, R. Bourque injuries):
Duncan Siemens (3 games), Rocco Grimaldi (3 games)
In addition to this, let’s look at how much ice time these call-ups actually saw:
Gabriel Bourque: 11:12
AJ Greer: 13:39
Sam Henley: 5:18
Rocco Grimaldi: 11:00
Anton Lindholm: 14:45
JT Compher: 14:56
Duncan Siemens: 12:19
Up front, the Avs’ top-six had a healthy season, which meant that Greer’s five games, while Duchene was out, was the only time a call-up had a real chance for good minutes. He didn’t get them (being limited to under 14 minutes) but what’s important is that in this example an appropriate player was recalled for the injury that was suffered. This is also true for the bottom-six injuries that led to the recalls of Bourque, Grimaldi, and Henley. After the trade deadline left an Iggy-sized top-nine hole, Compher was appropriately called up to finish the campaign in that spot.
Based on this activity, we should divide call-ups into 4 categories:
Should the likes of Comeau, Colbourne, Nieto, or similar go down, the Rampage have a number of conservative players that could plug the hole. Up the middle, Rocco Grimaldi is the perennial veteran but both Dominic Toninato and Felix Girard made good cases in camp. Given Toninato’s status as a rookie pro, and Girard’s lack of offensive upside, Grimaldi is most likely to get the call in my opinion.
On the wing, any of the above names could, of course, be used in a pinch, but the returning Andrew Agozzino becomes a favorable option given his veteran status and ability to score some points in the AHL.
In the much more distressing case of a player like Duchene, Rantanen, or another big-minute scorer getting hurt, the situation gets more complicated. It's more likely that someone like Compher or Jost move up the lineup than an AHLer get plugged straight into the hole, but despite this being what happened last year, they still recalled scoring prospect Greer. Assuming they stick to this approach, AJ Greer is once again the best option (when he returns from injury).
On the back end, Colorado’s hands may be more tied than they’d like. With two of Bigras, Mironov, and Lindholm likely to make the team out of camp, the third name becomes the instant favorite to take an injury spot. Should the team choose to carry 7 d-men at all times and those three are already present, then the only real options become Nicolas Meloche and Duncan Siemens. If a big-minute man goes down, I’d favor Meloche to get the call, but as 7th defender, Siemens will get the press box spot he whiffed on earning in the pre-season.
TRADE DEADLINE TRYOUTS:
Unless the Duchene saga is still alive by then, the only trade-deadline sell-offs will be bottom-six players Colbourne and Comeau. This will open up a more realistic spot to try out Dominic Toninato in a bigger capacity if his first AHL season is as promising as training camp.
Thanks for reading! Which players would you want to see called up in each situation? Should the Avs play it slow with important pieces like Greer and Meloche or get them NHL experience ASAP?