The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey writing staff. Our writers, plus a special vote from the readers, ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked
Rocco Grimaldi’s path to the Avalanche begins with JS Giguere’s back issues in the miracle season of 2013-14. The Avs needed a backup to the backup just in case, Sami Aittokallio couldn’t hack it and the one time Calvin Pickard was injured meant he couldn’t save the day. So, the Avs traded a 2nd round pick to Calgary for Reto Berra, whose main legacy was a goal scored while on rehab assignment to Lake Erie, a million pick-a-nick basket jokes and the inability to stay healthy. After sustaining an injury playing pre-game soccer, Calvin Pickard was called up and stole our hearts and his job. Last Summer Yogi was traded to the Panthers for Grimaldi. The Flames, by the way, used that 2nd round pick on hulking winger Hunter Smith, the nephew of Avs Director of Scouting Brad Smith. At the end of the day, the Avs ended up with a 30-goal scorer in the AHL and the Flames ended up with a behemoth that has 5 goals in 88 career AHL games.
Rocco Grimaldi is a shot generating machine. His 230 for the Rampage represented better than 10% of the team’s total and was good for 3rd in the AHL. In his brief time with the Avs he generated shots on goal at a 15 per hour rate. That’s really good, so what’s the bad news? The bad news is that his play outside of the offensive zone doesn’t quite reach that level, although I think there’s enough upside there that the Avs might want to take a look before relegating him to the AHL on a more or less permanent basis. While not a stalwart defender he does have skills like the ability to carry the puck out of the zone and up the ice which come in handy. Anyone that can score 31 goals in an AHL season is talented enough to help a team that only managed 2 per game in the NHL. Despite his size, he’s been incredibly durable as a pro and missed games for the Rampage only due to callups to the Avs.
The Avs seem to be giving Grimaldi mixed messages this off-season. He was protected in the expansion draft, which might lead one to think they valued him as a player with a future in the organization. Then they turned around and hard-balled him when it came to a new contract. He’s a driven guy and wants to play in the NHL, word on the street was that he wanted a one-way deal. Since he’d never get that in arbitration, he declined the leverage and the Avs gave him pretty much all they had to: A 2-way deal with a pay cut at the NHL level and a decent raise in the AHL. I think we can all understand if there’s a bit of frustration there. It didn’t make much sense to protect him in the XD anyway, but to protect a guy that you’re looking at as an AHL vet is very strange. Oh well, it’s a show-me deal and he’s going to show them.
That was almost a year ago but I doubt anything’s changed in his mind. “Just play my game, don’t worry about who’s watching.” He knows he’s not 6’2 and his shot to make the Avs this Fall depends on what he can add with his skill and speed. Either the staff find that preferable to what’s ahead of him or he goes back to dominating the AHL.
So, what is ahead of him? He’s purely a RW, he’s not an effective center even at the AHL level so that limits his opportunities. Avs RW depth chart going into next season:
There’s also guys like Andrighetto, Jost or even Colborne and Nieto that could end up on the right wall. It’s wide open and very competitive at the same time. Whatever Coach Bednar and Ray Bennett have cooked up going into training camp, Grimaldi has a lot of guys he needs to pass to wear burgundy on opening night. If they want a player that can skate with the puck and generate lots of shots while needing a little help in the d-zone, he’ll get his opportunity.