As the season is winding to a close, most of the Avalanche prospects are entering the playoff phase of their year. Here's a look at where each stand at the conclusion of the regular season and heading into the playoffs.
Will Butcher - Denver (1) vs Michigan Tech (4)
It was a huge year for Denver (29-7-4) and even bigger for Butcher. As for the team, they finished the season as the top ranked overall seed for the NCAA tournament despite losing to North Dakota in the NCHC conference tournament. Denver is very deep and defensively sound as they are expected to make the Frozen Four and contend for the title. Their first round match will be Michigan Tech and that game can be seen at 1pm eastern on Saturday, March 25th on ESPN News.
Among the many accolades Butcher has accumulated this season is NCHC conference player of the year and Hobey Baker finalist. He scored 35 points including six goals and is a big part of the offense generation for the defensively oriented DU.
Tyson Jost - North Dakota (3) vs Boston University (2)
After a trying seasons of ups and downs, North Dakota (21-15-3) scraped enough points and a couple wins in the NCHC tournament to secure their 15th straight berth in the NCAA tournament. Their reward for doing so is taking on high powered Boston in a tough first round matchup featuring nearly a dozen NHL drafted prospects between the two teams. The road will only get more difficult from there as they'd likely take on top seeded Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday if they advance. Puck drops at 3pm eastern on Friday, March 24th on ESPN2.
Jost enjoyed a season of more ups than downs as he scored three points in the NCHC title game, was selected to the conference all-rookie team and all-tournament team. Taking a month off for an ankle injury seemed more to serve as rest after a intense and lengthy World Juniors run to the silver medal for Canada than a setback and Jost picked up right where he left off as he finished with 35 points including 16 goals. If North Dakota is going to make noise in the tournament then Jost will be a big contributor. Once North Dakota is ousted the watch for Jost to decide if he will begin his pro career will be officially on.
Cam Morrison - Notre Dame (4) vs Minnesota (1)
Notre Dame (22-11-5) isn't a likely contender this season but played solidly consistent earning then a spot in the NCAA tournament. Morrison had a nice freshman season with 20 points and nine goals and hope for a bigger role and impact next season. The Fighting Irish bring an experienced and deep team hoping to upset a Gophers team with a lot of star power. Their tourney begins at 3:30pm eastern on Saturday, March 25th on ESPNU.
J-C Beaudin - Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (2) vs Halifax Mooseheads (15)
The machine of the Huskies (43-18-7) continued to hum along even if they were not as dominant as last year. They still managed to win the division while facing stiff competition and a few hiccups along the way. The Huskies enjoy the second seed and a playoff road which should give them an easier second round matchup. With their depth and experience this should be another long run for the Huskies as they look to repeat as league champions. Halifax should prove a plucky opponent with top draft eligible prospect Nico Hischier but their youth and lack of defensive prowess should show. This is an interesting matchup as the Huskies have only played Halifax twice this season, winning both, and is a meeting between the Huskies and their former boss Andre Tourigny. Series begins Friday, March 24th.
Beaudin enjoyed another solid and productive season which saw him hit the 30 goal and 80 point mark once again. He also finished top 11 in league scoring and tied for team lead in scoring as well. Beaudin finished the season with a 59.8 face off percentage, which was the highest in the league of players who took over 800 draws. He also took the 4th most faceoffs with 1498 taken. Beaudin is the all situations top center of the team and will be relied on heavily on the playoffs.
Nicolas Meloche - Charlottetown Islanders (4) vs Baie-Comeau Drakkar (13)
The Islanders (46-18-4) finished their season on a tear but wasn't enough to catch first overall seed Saint John for the division title. As such, the Islanders find themselves in an interesting matchup with Baie-Comeau, who they only played twice very early this season resulting in a split. This is Meloche's former team and he's only played once in Baie-Comeau (plus the Super Series) since the trade which sent him away a year and a half ago. He is a big fan favorite and still has emotional ties to the area so this will be a big moment and series for Meloche. The Islanders should be a tough task for a young Baie-Comeau squad and roll through this series quickly. Their second round match should prove a much bigger challenge. Series begins Friday, March 24th.
Meloche finished the season strong with Charlottetown to the tune of 16 goals and 47 points, good for 2nd in the league for goals from defensemen and 7th in scoring from defensemen. He's made big strides playing in Charlottetown playing big minutes in all situations and ended up a +33 in 35 games following the trade.
Travis Barron - Ottawa 67s (7) vs Mississauga Steelheads (2)
Ottawa (26-34-8) was a young team, particularly on defense, and it showed at times this season. However they managed to qualify for the playoffs but will be looking to play spoiler in an underdog role. The Eastern Conference in the OHL wasn't very strong this season and coupled with Ottawa's unpredictable nature, it's not impossible that they could put a few wins together in this series. Mississauga has been on a run the second half of the season and brings a high powered offensive game including a pair of potential first round draft eligibles in Owen Tippett and Nicholas Hague. The season series was split 2-2 and this playoff matchup could see a lot of goals scored. Series begins Friday, March 24th.
Barron's first season as captain went well as he scored 34 points with 13 goals. His growth was more away from the puck as he is a big presence defensively and physically. Playoffs will be the time for those attributes to shine.
Josh Anderson - Prince George Cougars (1) vs Portland Winterhawks (WC1)
A fantastic season start to finish for the Cougars (45-21-6) as they won their first division title in team history and head into the playoffs as a favorite to go on a long run. Portland, a perennial playoff team, is at the beginning stages of a reload but bring enough weapons to the table, most notably in possible top 10 draft eligible Cody Glass, plus lots of experience. The Cougars will have to fight off expectations and looking too far ahead and concentrate one game at a time. This will be a battle of the Cougars' defense vs the Winterhawks' offense and the season series was split 2-2. Series begins Friday, March 24th.
Anderson is part of a deep defensive core and helped the Cougars play physical and tough defensively. He chipped in a few more points this year, topping out at 11 with three goals. He will be called on to bring that tough intimidating style to the playoffs.
Several other prospects have seen their season's end already. Andrei Mironov and Dynamo Moscow were ousted in the second round of the KHL playoffs. Mironov played nine playoff games and added three points to his 18 regular season games and four points. Gustav Olhaver enjoyed a productive season in Sweden for Rogle's J20 team scoring 15 goals and 38 points. He also added a goal in three games of the playoffs before they were knocked out. Olhaver also got in 10 games with the SHL club and contributed an assist. Ben Storm and St Cloud State were eliminated in the NCHC tournament and Storm subsequently signed an ATO with San Antonio and is awaiting his first professional action. He scored four points in his final collegiate season.
Note on Further ATOs
Speaking of ATOs, there is enough time for a short stint in San Antonio (or the NHL) for anyone ousted in the first round of the CHL playoffs or in the case of the NCAA the first two rounds which will occur over this weekend (March 24-26). As described above, only Travis Barron is favored to fall in the first round of the CHL playoffs and it's possible he would be available for an ATO. However, the Avs seem to prefer looking at prospects at the end of their junior careers and might not be interested in bringing the 18 year old in. Should a big upset in the QMJHL occur, Beaudin or Meloche certainly could get a look. Anyone turning pro from the college ranks would have an opportunity for a couple weeks unless they reach the Frozen Four.