As anticipation grows for the upcoming 2021-22 NHL season, one of the most exciting aspects is looking forward to those players who will realize their dreams by donning a Colorado Avalanche sweater and playing in their first NHL game.
For those counting at home there were five NHL debuts for the Avalanche last season. Bowen Byram kicked off the 2020-21 Avalanche rookie class when he made his debut in just the fourth game of the season. Although he will still be a rookie by NHL definition in the coming season because he only played in 19 games, Byram showed why he’s here to stay.
As predicted Kyle Burroughs even at 25-years old would get his first taste of the NHL as an AHL veteran brought in via trade from the New York Islanders. Another rearguard in Keaton Middleton however was a big surprise as he did not enter the season with a NHL contract but the organization wanted to give him a try anyway to see if he could fulfill the shot blocking type of defensive role. They each played five and three games with the big club respectively.
For the prospect premieres a couple of highly anticipated debuts occurred at the end of the 2020-21 campaign when Alex Newhook and Sampo Ranta got into NHL action following the conclusion of their NCAA seasons and careers. Newhook was first seen with several weeks left in the regular season where he got into six games and then subsequently eight in the playoffs. Ranta was another big surprise when he made his NHL debut in the first two games of Colorado’s second round series against Vegas. Both will be looking to cement their status as Avalanche regulars in their first full season of professional hockey.
First glance at potential debuts should always go toward the new players the organization brought in as AHL veterans as they will always get a close look for callups. Such new players brought in on two-way NHL contracts Avalanche fans are likely to see such as Roland McKeown and Dylan Sikura have already experienced their introduction to the NHL. However, European free agent signee Andreas Wingerli would qualify as a NHL debut and should get an opportunity during his one-year Entry Level Contract with the Avalanche.
As always prospects are first thought of for NHL debuts and perhaps this is finally time for Shane Bowers to get a proper callup and chance in the NHL before his ELC and waiver exemption are up by the end of the season. Other possibilities from the Colorado Eagles could be Justin Barron and Jean-Luc Foudy who each will begin the season at just 19 years of age but strong cameos in the AHL last year could set themselves up for a look from the Avalanche sooner than later.
Late season debuts are some of the most exciting and highly anticipated. It’s possible someone like Drew Helleson could turn pro and follow in Newhook’s footsteps once his junior season at Boston College is over. The same is possible for Oskar Olausson who has already signed his Entry Level Contract with Colorado but is expected to play with the Barrie Colts in the OHL before getting his first taste of North American pro action.
It would be remiss to leave out the goaltenders because how urgent help in net is needed when a few unfortunate circumstances begin to pile up. Both Justus Annunen and Trent Miner will start their ELCs and careers in the Avalanche development system in the coming year and might possibly receive the call to take their talents to Denver.
So, what are your predictions? Who will we see in an Avalanche sweater this season?
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