One part of looking forward to the upcoming season is anticipating the prospects and minor league players who will make it to “the show” for the first time and experience their NHL debut. The coming 2022-23 season is no exception as there are several candidates who might get the call to join the Colorado Avalanche and get into a game.
It was a smaller group in the 2021-22 season than usual but not unexpected when only three players made their NHL debut wearing burgundy and blue. First up was goaltender Justus Annunen who entered a game in relief of Jonas Johansson at the home of the Ottawa Senators in a losing effort in overtime. The following game Annunen got his first NHL start and win over the Philadelphia Flyers in early December in a thrilling 7-5 final. Later that month, former first-round pick and top defense prospect Justin Barron got in two games before COVID-19 shut the team down for the holidays.
A complete unknown this time last year was the eventual signing of college free agent Ben Meyers who then got in five games with the Avalanche in April before the end of the regular season. That short taste of NHL action included a special moment when he scored a goal in his NHL debut. Giving NCAA players their NHL debut in the spring is pretty standard practice and a carrot to get them to sign right away with NHL games left on the schedule, Meyers as a free agent was no exception despite the team focusing on their upcoming championship postseason run.
As per usual the possible NHL premieres for the upcoming campaign run the gamut from top prospects to veteran minor leaguers. On the prospect side of things the most anticipated debut, if it happens, in the new season or later on down the line is former 2021 first-round pick Oskar Olausson. The winger is expected to play pro with the Colorado Eagles this season so his opportunity might only be a phone call away.
A couple of other prospects could also find themselves in their first NHL game and that includes anyone on an NHL contract playing in the minors. The most likely candidate outside of Olausson might be Jean-Luc Foudy. Though only just 20 years of age, due to special COVID-19-related circumstances he already has over 100 AHL games under his belt and could be ready for a look at the highest level.
Then there’s always Shane Bowers, who just recently signed a one-year contract to return, as the only 2017 first-round pick to have never played a single game in the NHL. Rounding out the possibilities on Entry Level Contract is the newly signed Danil Zhuravlyov who will begin his first season in North America. Given that he’s already 23 years of age there might be some urgency to see if he has any NHL-capable tools.
As far as the veteran minor leaguers most who are signed for the impending season have seen the NHL at some point. The lone exception is forward Spencer Smallman who is a former 2015 fifth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes but never got in a game with the team after spending five years in their organization. A fresh start with a new team might be just the trick to make it happen.
Who would you like to see make their NHL debut with the Avalanche?
How many NHL debuts will the Avalanche have in 2022-23?
6 or more