There were 11 rookies who dressed and played for the Colorado Avalanche in a league high 419 games. All season long we’ve kept an eye on their progress and now that the 2017-18 season has concluded. It is time to determine who deserves the Avalanche Calder Trophy for the best rookie from this season.
Alexander Kerfoot (79GP: 19G, 24A; 6PGP: 2G, 0A)
A surprise late summer college free agent signing, Alexander Kerfoot didn’t stop surprising people all year. He ended up with by far the most production of the rookie class as the fifth leading scorer on the team, narrowly missed the 20 goal milestone. Kerfoot had the uncanny knack for improbable goals scored in unpredictable manners. Some called it luck, or attributed it to a 23.4 shooting percentage, but time and time again Kerfoot would be in the right place at the right time to create a goal. Kerfoot bounced around the lineup and only saw an average of 13:27 minutes per game, so moving forward he’ll need to solidify his role on the team.
A close eye will be on him if he can keep up the same level of production moving forward, but with his hockey sense, playmaking ability, and willingness to go to the tough areas, Kerfoot should be an asset to the Avalanche lineup for a long time.
Samuel Girard (73GP: 4G, 19A; 3PGP 0G, 0A)
Perhaps the most consistent of all the rookies and in the toughest role as a defenseman, Samuel Girard played in all 68 regular season games after joining the Avalanche in the Matt Duchene mega-trade. He averaged over 17 and a half minutes a night, good for fourth among all rookie defensemen in the league, and third in even strength time on ice. Girard’s defensive game was remarkable. He was one of the team leaders in shot suppression and only took four minor penalties all season. When Girard went down with injury after the first postseason game and missed the next three, it was clear just how much his absence was felt and how much the team missed his dynamic puck moving abilities. In his three postseason games, Girard averaged the most even strength ice time on the team at just over 20 minutes, and also finished with the team highest Corsi-For at 53%.
Girard should grow into an even more important part of the Avalanche moving forward especially as he really hits his stride offensively. His 23 points (20 in an Avalanche sweater) might seem modest, but already puts him third in scoring among defensemen on the team. The amount of potential Girard possesses, as well as the steps he took in his rookie year are extremely exciting.
J.T. Compher (69GP: 13G 10A; 6PGP: 0G, 3A)
The rookie who possibly ends the year with more questions than he entered the year with is another young player who needs to find a more defined role moving forward. JT Compher started the year with seven goals and 13 points through December and looked like he was trending toward a second line mainstay. He also bounced around several different lines, but was the rookie forward who saw the most time on ice at 16 minutes per game. In the playoffs, Compher showed renewed purpose and drive, helping create three goals for his linemates including two for Gabriel Bourque. He has the tools to become a very reliable two-way center, but will have to mature his game a bit, and clean up whatever — beyond bad luck — contributed to a team worst (by a mile) -29 rating. Still, there’s a lot to like about where Compher ended his season as we look ahead to next year.
Tyson Jost (65GP: 12G, 10A; 6PGP: 0G, 1A)
A slower start than everyone had hoped for is what Tyson Jost had to overcome in the first half of the season. He battled several injuries, and even had a five game conditioning stint in the AHL with San Antonio, but began to turn his season around in the second half. Jost started showing off his snappy release and potted some goals, several of them at key moments down the stretch. In the playoffs, Jost was largely kept quiet, making it clear that working through tougher defense against him with more speed will be a focus moving forward. Jost should be ready to take on a larger offensive role and see more than 14:38 minutes per game next season. Both hopefully resulting in a jump in offensive production. Jost has the ability and opportunity to fill a key role on the second line as the team and it’s collection of rookies look to take the next step.
Anton Lindholm (48GP: 0G, 4A)
Despite being the last cut in training camp, Anton Lindholm spent the entire season in Colorado after an almost immediate recall. He was a mainstay on the bottom pair and averaged just over 13 minutes of ice-time per game in 48 contests, despite owning the lowest Corsi-For percentage among regular defensemen at just under 45%! Lindholm was starting to finally find some offensive contribution with a total of four assists to go along with his simple and physical play when a February injury, coincidentally in the same game as Erik Johnson went down, appeared to slow his progress. Although he only missed a handful of games due to the injury, he only saw action in five games for the rest of the season including only one appearance in the final month and none in the playoffs. Lindholm has one year remaining on his entry-level contract, and he should still at least have the opportunity to win a roster spot in training camp, but seems to have fallen out of favor somehow and could see a significant portion of time in the AHL moving forward.
Dominic Toninato (37GP: 0G, 2A)
Another summer college free agent signing, but unlike Kerfoot, Dominic Toninato had to begin his season in the AHL with San Antonio before earning several callups where he ended up spending the second half of the campaign (37 games) in Colorado, but without any time in the playoffs. Despite only chipping in two assists and averaging just under eight minutes of ice time per game, Toninato was an effective fourth line center and showed a glimpse of a role he could hold at the NHL level. He was the only rookie used in a fourth line role to have a positive relative Corsi, stood at 48.47 CF% overall, plus he was one of the strongest on the team at suppressing shot attempts against. Hopefully a spot on the Avalanche for a full season is available to him next year.
A.J. Greer (17GP: 0G, 3A)
It was once again an up-and-down year for AJ Greer, but this time he split most of the season between San Antonio and Colorado. Greer only got in 17 NHL games, and hasn’t yet answered any questions about where he ultimately fits. There has been much debate about if Greer focuses too much on the sandpapery part of his game in order to make an impression, or if it is just unusual seeing that type of player and prospect in an Avalanche sweater. There’s also a lot of concern about his offensive upside; three assists in mostly a fourth line role averaging just over seven minutes a game in those 17 contests doesn’t offer much answer either. Decision time is coming sooner than later as Greer heads into the last year of his entry-level contract, and with over 100 professional games played, he’ll either be given room on the Avalanche’s roster where he can develop and play a role at the next level, or not.
Duncan Siemens (16GP: 1G, 1A; 5PGP: 0G, 0A)
Finally in his fifth year in the organization, Duncan Siemens found a chance and some traction at the NHL level. He was able to see action in 16 games and played just over 12 minutes a game, including over two and a half minutes on the penalty kill per game. One of the best moments of the season was when Siemens scored his first and possibly only NHL goal on an empty net. His efforts were further rewarded by getting into five playoff games, though he only saw just over seven minutes of ice time per game and the majority of such on the penalty kill. It is clear coach Jared Bednar sees value in Siemens’ game, but to what extent he can find permanent footing in the NHL remains to be seen. At the very least Siemens should return as organizational depth and a good leader for the new AHL team in Colorado.
Andrei Mironov (10GP: 1G, 2A)
The experiment ended in early March when Andrei Mironov’s contract was mutually terminated by the Avalanche and he headed back to Russia. Mironov had showed glimpses of what the organization saw in him but ultimately was not adjusting well to the North American game. Understandably, he didn’t cross the pond to play in the AHL and he just was not able to contribute at the NHL level defensively, so there were few options on what to do with him. A 23-year-old and five-year veteran from the KHL isn’t the type of player that is brought over for development. It was worth a shot but best for both parties they they cut bait when it wasn’t working. Sticking him in the AHL for more than a short while was not going to be an appropriate solution to get his game up to speed. Mironov’s NHL stint ends with 10 games and three points, including a goal.
Vladislav Kamenev (3GP: 0G, 0A)
Perhaps the rookie with the most unanswered questions heading into the offseason is one of the more intriguing pieces from the Duchene trade. Vladislav Kamenev brought with him near 150 AHL games played in the Nashville system, including a 50 point season. In the most unfortunate way he was injured just four minutes into his first game with the Avalanche and spent four months rehabbing a badly broken arm. He only played two games with the Avalanche at the end of the season, and showed promise, but also rust and rawness. In short stints in the AHL with San Antonio before and after his injury, as well as at the beginning of the season in Milwaukee before the trade, Kamenev showed flashes of dominance at that level with 16 points in 17 games including impressive puck control and offensive ability. His next step will be to bring that game to the NHL level, something he will be given every opportunity to do by the Avalanche next season.
Mark Alt (7GP: 0G, 0A)
Yes, the 26-year-old defenseman claimed from Philadelphia on trade deadline day in late February still qualified as a rookie this season. Mark Alt was picked up as depth and insurance when injuries were limiting available options at all levels of the organization. Alt waited around as a healthy scratch for quite a while before he finally got in seven games at the end of the season. Though he did not score any points, Alt contributed just over an average of 11 minutes per game, and generally solid play. Likely not any kind of option for the Avalanche moving forward, Alt pretty much did his job of an extra option who was good to have around.
Who should win the Avalanche Calder Trophy?
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