As NHL teams look toward the April 12 trade deadline, the Colorado Avalanche could soon be making two significant additions from within the organization.
Avalanche prospects Alex Newhook and Sampo Ranta both had their NCAA seasons come to an end Sunday night.
Ranta, who is one of the best goal scorers in the NCAA, is almost certain to turn pro this week. After putting up 19 goals—second in the nation—and 31 points in 31 games as a junior, most believe Ranta is set to move on from the University of Minnesota.
In Sampo Ranta We Trust. pic.twitter.com/9nQ8ywjl4W— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) March 14, 2021
Drafted in the third round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, many viewed Ranta as a steal when he fell to the Avalanche at 78th overall. He is big, plays with speed and uses his high-end hockey instinct to put himself in a position to score.
The way Ranta plays fits into the Avs’ system perfectly. He plays a style reminiscent of something between Val Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky. He is an offensive-minded player that can play at a high tempo and does a great job of using his size to maintain possession of the puck.
Avs GM Joe Sakic was able to watch Ranta in person over the weekend as his Minnesota team played its regional bracket of the Frozen Four tournament in Loveland, Colorado.
Turning 21 at the end of May, Ranta looks like a player who has learned all he can at the NCAA level. He is almost certain to sign his entry-level contract in the next few days and join the Colorado Eagles to finish out the AHL season.
As for Newhook, there’s a slight possibility that he goes back to Boston College for his junior year, but right now it seems unlikely.
After exploding onto the scene as one of the best players in the NCAA during his freshman season, Newhook had to battle through a little more adversity in 2021 due to an injury suffered at the World Juniors. Despite the health issues and disjointed season, Newhook was able to finish with 16 points in only 12 games. If he were to return to BC for one more year of polishing—as we saw from Cale Makar a few years ago—he would undoubtedly be one of the favorites to win the Hobey Baker.
Drafted 12 picks after Bo Byram in 2019, Newhook has the potential to be one of the best forwards from his draft class. He skates with a speed and purpose reminiscent of Nathan MacKinnon while having the ability to play the role of either a playmaker or sniper.
Newhook played on both the power play and penalty kill at Boston College and has shown the ability to be a true leader on the ice. He is an immensely skilled player that can do just about anything coaches ask of him.
He might not be able to make the jump right to the NHL the way Makar did, but Newhook is one of the best prospects in the world, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes an impact player in the Avalanche lineup.
The Avalanche currently have only 44 of a possible 50 contracts on the books, so they have more than enough space to sign both players to ELCs right away. That said, if the plan is to leave either in the AHL for the rest of the season—which is the most likely scenario—the team could sign either to an Amateur Tryout (ATO) contract with the Eagles with their ELCs kicking in next season.
News could come as early as today, but if not, it shouldn’t take long before we see these two high-end prospects officially join the Avalanche organization.