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Colorado Avalanche prospect report: The World Juniors and NCAA winter break have ended

Let’s see how everyone fared over the last three weeks.

Nikolai Kovalenko (15) battles for the puck during Russia’s IIHF World Junior Championship Bronze Medal Game against Switzerland on Jan. 5, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia. 
Kevin Light/Getty Images

Here’s to the first prospect report of 2019! Sorry it’s been a couple of weeks, I’ve been on World Juniors coverage at Raw Charge. Now that it’s over (yes, I’m still in withdrawal), these should start becoming more frequent.

I am so glad no more leagues are on holiday breaks! There were a couple of surprising performances by Avalanche prospects over the last three weeks, and of course I did do some World Juniors analysis for the three prospects who played at the tournament.

Ontario Hockey League

#17 - Brandon Saigeon (C)
Hamilton Bulldogs (18-18-4)
Oshawa Generals (23-15-2)

Since the last prospect report, Saigeon has put up three goals and four assists in six games with the Bulldogs. He also racked up six penalty minutes and averaged 52% in the faceoff circle.

With the OHL trade frenzy in full swing, the Bulldogs traded Saigeon to the Oshawa Generals. Tom wrote a thing on the trade yesterday:

“The addition of Saigeon gives the Generals a veteran scorer that can fill the void created by trading away their captain Studnicka. Oshawa has done an interesting job this week of selling for the the future while maintaining a team that can easily win a round or two in the OHL playoffs this season.” [Mile High Hockey]

Saigeon amassed 194 points in 214 games with the Bulldogs, including 18 goals in 21 games during Hamilton’s run to the Memorial Cup last spring. Hopefully he can find the same success in Oshawa that he did in Hamilton.

Western Hockey League

#21 - Nick Henry (RW)
Lethbridge Hurricanes (21-10-8)

Hindsight is 20/20, but given the way Henry tore up games while the World Juniors were going on, maybe Canada could have used him. In six games played with the Hurricanes, Henry had two goals and 13 points.

Henry was named the third star of the night in the WHL on December 29th for his five point performance against Kootenay:

Henry sits 5th in WHL scoring with 62 points in 40 games, one spot behind Brett Leason, who did play for Canada at the World Juniors. The Hurricanes are third in the Eastern Conference and first in their division, which puts them in a pretty good spot when it comes time for the playoffs.


#16 - Cale Makar (D)
UMass Amherst Minutemen (15-3-0)

The Minutemen have only played twice since coming off the winter break, and Makar has only tallied one assist. However, he did put up seven shots on goal and was a +2 in those games, where UMass went 1-1. Plus, there was this great 45 second shift against American Invitational:

Makar looks like he’s going to pick up right where he left off before the break. It’s a shame he was too old to play at the World Juniors — Canada could have used him. Makar has 20 points in 18 games with the Minutemen as Massachusetts pushes for a national championship.

#15 - Shane Bowers (C)
Boston University Terriers (6-8-3)

The Terriers kicked off their second half of the season last night against Harvard, tying with the Crimson 2-2. Bowers went pointless.

During the break, though, Bowers joined Team Canada at the World Juniors, where he played five games as Canada was eliminated in the quarter-finals. Bowers finished the tournament with two assists (against Denmark and Switzerland), four penalty minutes, and averaged 14:24 of ice-time per game. He played a fourth line role with Canada, but saw his ice-time jump over 18 minutes in the quarter-final against Finland. Obviously it wasn’t the result he and his teammates were looking for, but I didn’t think he ever played badly.

World Juniors Statistics:
vs. DEN — 1 A, +1, 13:41, 0 PIM
vs. SUI — 1 A, +1, 11:02, 2 PIM
vs. CZE — 0 PTS, -1, 16:21, 0 PIM
vs. RUS — 0 PTS, 0, 12:36, 2 PIM
vs. FIN — 0 PTS, -1, 18:23, 0 PIM

#26 - Cam Morrison (LW)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-6-1)

Notre Dame came back from their winter break a day before the New Year with a 4-0 win over Boston College, before dropping their second game 4-2 to Michigan in an outdoor game. (I had no idea outdoor games were a thing in the NCAA, but the photos on Twitter looked cool!)

Morrison went pointless against the Eagles, but scored Notre Dame’s first goal on the powerplay against the Wolverines. Here’s Morrison’s deflection:

He was on the ice for two goals against, but he now has seven goals and 13 points in 16 games on the season now. Hopefully he’s starting to heat up.

#4 - Nick Leivermann (D)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-6-1)

Leivermann was a scratch for Notre Dame’s first game out of the break, but he did dress against Michigan. Even though there were zeroes across his statline, he wasn’t on the ice for any of the Wolverines goals, which is good!

I don’t really have anything else to say, but the Notre Dame team’s twitter account was all over the outdoor spectacle, so here are some interesting tweets:

#2 - Nate Clurman (D)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (12-6-1)

I mean, I did double-check the box scores, but it looks like Clurman had an extra-long winter break, because his name wasn’t anywhere to be found. Hopefully he gets in against Minnesota on Friday.

#58 - Sampo Ranta (RW)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-8-4)

Ranta was the last (all right, maybe second-last) cut from the Finnish World Juniors team, which has to be incredibly painful since they went on to win gold. In fact, he was actually cut mid-tournament as Finland wittled their roster down to 23 skaters. On one hand, your country won! On the other, they really didn’t need you at all.

Maybe that was a little harsh. But the good news is that the Gophers got Ranta back in time for their second half of a back-to-back against Ferris State. In the three games that Ranta has played since returning from Victoria, he had one assist (and put up six shots on goal). He assisted on the opening goal against Penn State (the first half of a back-to-back) and now has eight points in 18 games this season.

#25 - Denis Smirnov (RW)
Penn State Nittany Lions (12-6-2)

The Lions have played twice since the break ended. Smirnov was great in Penn State’s first game against Minnesota, scoring a goal and finishing with four shots and a +2. He was a little quieter the next night (two shots, minus-2).

I couldn’t find a GIF or video of the goal, but I’ll include this because it made me smile:

I totally lied, I found this seconds later. You can also see Smirnov creating havoc in front of the net on Penn State’s second goal (Smirnov’s goal was the third):

And I suppose congratulations are in order because Penn State had two players take home medals at the World Juniors — Aarne Talvitie won gold with Finland, and Evan Barratt took silver with the United States. That’s pretty awesome.

#40 - Tyler Weiss (LW)
Nebraska Omaha Mavericks (6-10-2)

It was a good start to the second half of the season for the Mavericks, who beat Alaska Anchorage twice in as many nights (and shut them out, to boot). Weiss had two shots on goal in the first game (a season-high!), but that was as close as he got to contributing offensively.


#51 - Nikolai Kovalenko (RW)
KHL - Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (30-14-3)

Wow, I was so impressed with Kovalenko at the World Juniors. He scored a shorthanded goal against the Czech Republic, which turned out to be the game-winner.

Unfortunately, he fell hard into the boards in the same play. It wasn’t the only big hit he took against the Czechs, either:

Kovalenko played 18:19 in the game against the Czechs (and was named player of the game), but his ice-time dipped significantly after he was injured. He wasn’t able to play against the Swiss in Russia’s next game, and he only played less than 10 minutes against Canada. He contributed two assists in the quarter-final against Slovakia, but it was more than that. He was hard on the forecheck (despite battling injury) and always looked dangerous in the offensive zone. Kovalenko might not have contributed as much offensively, but he was able to help bring a bronze home for Russia.

World Juniors Statistics:
vs. DEN — 0 PTS, +1, 10:02, 12 PIM
vs. CZE — 1 G, +1, 18:19, 2 PIM
vs. SUI — did not play
vs. CAN — 0 PTS, -1, 9:06, 0 PIM
vs. SVK — 2 A, +2, 12:56, 0 PIM
vs. USA — 0 PTS, -1, 14:20, 4 PIM
vs. SUI — 0 PTS, -1, 11:37, 0 PIM

#2 - Danila Zhuravlyov (D)
VHL - Bars Kazan (17-15-6)

Zhuravlyov also won bronze with Russia at the World Juniors! Now, he was a bottom-pair player, but his ice-time didn’t necessarily reflect that...? He broke the 20 minute mark in the tournament opener, but also played less than 12 minutes against Slovakia. It was kind of all over the place. Zhuravlyov only had one assist (strangely, against Slovakia), and I didn’t notice him that often on the ice. But for the role he was asked to play, not being noticed all that often is probably a good thing. Zhuravlyov has an opportunity to return for next year’s tournament — and hopefully be given a larger role.

World Juniors Statistics:
vs. DEN — 0 PTS, 0, 20:07, 0 PIM
vs. CZE — 0 PTS, +1, 15:36, 2 PIM
vs. SUI — 0 PTS, -3, 19:50, 0 PIM
vs. CAN — 0 PTS, -1, 16:54, 0 PIM
vs. SVK — 1 A, +1, 11:52, 0 PIM
vs. USA — 0 PTS, 0, 13:38, 0 PIM
vs. SUI — 0 PTS, +1, 17:19, 0 PIM

#19 - Gustav Olhaver (RW)
Allsvenskan (SWE) - Tingsryds AIF (13-16-5)

Tingsryds has played five games since we last checked in on Olhaver (going 2-3-0). Olhaver only tallied one assist in that span (and now has seven points in 33 games this season). In the last prospect report, Tingsryds had climbed up to fifth-last in the league. Unfortunately, their subpar stretch has seen them fall back to second-last in Allsvenskan, but they’re still 23 points up on the last place team in the league.