Dynasty, a word not mentioned to often in today’s sports. Once the word was mentioned when Colorado won the Stanley Cup back in the summer of 96. The team was deep and full of great talent that few teams could match or overcome. That was then and this is now. The Avalanche organization of present day is slightly different than it was then. Gone are some of the highly touted “role” or “depth” players, such as Ricci and Young, who could play on any other teams top two lines. Many people believe the loss of certain players and sufficient replacements to be the problem with the Avs of today. In their place skate to new youngsters by the name of Drury and Hejduk, who both put up slightly similar numbers to what their counterparts do for San Jose and St. Louis. These type of numbers from two youngsters who never played a game of North American minor or major hockey until this year. How would this ever be a problem seeing they both have bright years ahead of them as dangerously skilled scorers for the Avs?
From the first days in Colorado, and even before the move was complete, a general manager by the name of Lacroix was in the process of building for the “future” of the organization. He took steps to acquire key players, to win the cup, and numerous other elements, to ensure the future of the Avalanche organization. One such element, the organization’s prospects, sticks out more than they ever have, because he has slowly built one of the best collections of prospects in all of hockey. From that collection came Drury and Hejduk who now fill the positions once filled by the Avs of the past.
There are many more waiting and hiding in the shadows of the organization; many overlooked because of Colorado’s depth. A few reside in Hershey, learning the game and waiting for their chance at a shot to play alongside the stars that now play for Colorado. What about the other prospects? Well they are making a name for themselves in the minor leagues, European leagues, and the NCAA. All over the world Colorado’s depth is showing and improving. While this goes on, the players continue to work to join the “Big Club”, so that they can one day breakout and tear up the NHL. Many of the better prospects hail from last year’s draft where Lacroix stock piled draft picks so that he could grab Lecavalier with the first overall pick. That course of action fell through when none of the picks were in the “Top 10”. Some fall through. The first two rounds allowed for Colorado to claim some of the best talent available in the draft, and even the later rounds brought “dark horses” to the fold. This organization is still stocked, its just a good portion of their riches now reside in the minors rather than with Colorado’s parent club.
The following report will analyze the Colorado players of “tomorrow”. It will focus on the players not with the team in Hershey and it will also take time to detail a few of the top players in the minors and other leagues that are owned by Colorado. The beginning will look at the Top 5 “up and coming” prospects as far as non-Hershey players go and will follow up with a small look into each position’s depth based on players not in Hershey.
1) Alex Tanguay ****
2) Martin Skoula ****
3) Robyn Regehr ***1/2
4) Samuel Pahlsson **1/2
5) Tomi Kallio **1/2
Notables: Ramzi Abid, Steve Moore, and Ben Storey
Looking for a scorer? They have a few. Looking for a two-way checking forward who can be dangerous offensively at times? Have a few of those too. One of the best selections of forwards of any team in the NHL, and a few are available and ready to play next year. This is a strong suit for Colorado, not to mention that they are mostly skilled and hard hitting, something Colorado prides itself on. A lot of “Dark Horses” too.
Colorado prospect depth for forwards:
Alex Tanguay (c/rw)
Samuel Pahlsson (c)
Ramzi Abid (lw)
Tomi Kallio (lw)
Steve Moore (c)
Notables: Aaron Miskovich, K. C. Timmons, and Justin Clark
Did someone clone the forwards and teach them how to play defense? You name it, its here. From strong physical defensive defensemen to highly skilled offensive/two-way defensemen, Colorado can supply it all.
The 98′ draft brought in a lot of Colorado’s depth at defense, and with all the defensemen they drafted in the recent years; Colorado is set for down the road. Many could be with Hershey next year.
Colorado prospect depth for defensemen:
Martin SkoulaRobyn Regehr
Kevin GrimesBen Storey
Alex RyazantsevGraham Belak
Notables: Matt Scorsune, Calvin Elfring, and Doug Schmidt
A lot of physical players who can drop the gloves when needed, but no “elite” enforcer here. Most of Colorado’s feared enforcers play in Hershey but a few in the minors can hold their own, such is the case for Regehr and Belak. The last few drafts have allowed Colorado to nab the toughest or one of the toughest players in the draft (Grimes/Regehr) which has allowed Colorado to build upon their physical (aggressive) depth. Most of the physical specimens reside in Colorado’s defensive core.
Heavy Hitters: Kevin Grimes, Robyn Regehr, Graham Belak, and Ramzi Abid
Nothing special here. Just a few average goaltenders that will probably see their time as a back up with another team seeing how deep at goal Colorado is. Neither goalie shows “star” qualities but both can turn it up at times when needed. Both Franek and Sauve are rated as average to above average goalies but neither will get the chance to show their stuff with Colorado unless there becomes an opening in the near future.
Colorado goaltending depth:
Notables: Kai Fischer
Forwards- You would think with all of the draft picks Colorado used the past few years on defensemen, that their forward depth would be really weak. That is not the case. The small collection of non-Hershey forwards, alone, can rival almost any other team’s prospect depth. This group is comprised mostly of younger junior players and unsigned European players. The mix is good with a few snipers and scorers leading the way and even a two-way scoring forward or two to close out the group of non-Hershey forwards. The only downside to this area, as far as depth goes, there is no “inbetweeners” to rank between the bottom and top of the “pack”. After Moore, you basically have a bunch of leftovers who where late draft picks by the organization. But the good thing is, from Moore on up; you have a great group of all around players who will soon be in an Avs jersey. If they develop as projected, with these prospects alone, Colorado has their next top two lines of the future.
Ramzi Abid- A strong two-way forward who tore up the QMJHL last year on his way to league MVP. He was the top scorer last year and even was one of the top PIM players in the league. This year has seen his stock drop some from when he was once ranked near the top 10 of the 98′ draft. The new season started off by seeing himself go 28th overall in the draft to Colorado. At the beginning of the season he struggled offensively and soon was traded to Laval where he has put up marginal numbers, no where near what he did last year with Chicoutimi. Despite all this, Abid is still leading his new team in other ways, such as physical play and other intangibles known to his character. Abid shows the ability to be a strong power forward with Colorado in a few years because of his skill and hard work. Even with his slumping numbers, no one questions his ability to score around the net. The only thing holding him back now is his missing “knack” for the net and his average skating, but both should get better with time. Something Colorado has plenty of for a highly skilled power forward like Abid. Destined to be a second liner in Colorado in a few years.
NHL Projection20g50p2nd line power forward
Tomi Kallio- The unknown of the group and one who could “steal” the show just like he did for Finland at the world juniors a few years back. Kallio brings a great mix of skill, aggressiveness and shiftiness to his game. His skating is great and so is his ability to put the puck in the net. This year sees Kallio setting career highs in both goals and assists on a team that expected him to lead before the season began. Because of the lack of scoring forwards, Kallio has been looked to lead his team more now than ever. Alongside a few other surprise scorers on his team, Kallio is one of the top scorers on his team and second in plus minus in the league. Because of his hard-nosed style and skill, he has become one of the better two-way forwards in the league. All that is stopping him now is his ability to play the North American style of hockey, which some feel he might not be able to do. Even with all the doubts, Kallio has proved them wrong wherever he has played. From his marvelous goal scoring show at the WJC a few years back to this season playing on the top line with TPS of Turku, Kallio has lead the way some way or another. Something Colorado hopes he will do again when he decides to play for them. If his transition to “our” style of hockey goes smooth, you could see him develop into a 30-goal sniper but more likely than not he will remain a strong two-way scorer on the Avs second line.
NHL Projection20g40p2nd line two-way scorer
Steve Moore- Colorado decided to pick safe and smart when they took Moore in the second round of the 98′ draft. And that’s exactly what they got, a smart and safe player who had a little extra package in tow. That package happened to be a little skill and aggressive play to boot. Moore is your typical two-way grinder but with a better upside, he can skate well, score, and even out work most other players. On top of that, Moore is a bit more experienced and older than most of the players in last years draft. When September roles around, Moore will be the ripe age of 21. With all of the experience and skill that he brings to Harvard, his team has still struggled. On top of it all, Moore has seen his numbers drop a bit from last year. His goal-scoring prowess is better seeing that he has scored one more goal than last year in 15 fewer games. Its Moore’s assist total that has plummeted, and seeing that he is primarily not a scorer this should hurt his ranking. It has not hurt him because he is playing great hockey despite Harvard having a terrible year because of injuries to key players and the younger players still learning the style of college hockey. With all this Moore has shown his leadership and hard work enough to make him one of the Avs favorite prospects and one of the more overlooked ones. In a few years, when Moore finishes school, you could see him having the ability to play on one of the top two lines in Colorado, but most ikely he’ll see third line action as an energetic grinder/spark plug who is dangerous any time he is on the ice. Something Colorado doesn’t mind having a lot of.
NHL Projection20g40p3rd line two-way grinder
Samuel Pahlsson- Has seen himself struggle for most of the season with Modo. Unlike the past when he scored with ease and pizzazz, Kallio has started to make the Avs organization question his future because of his declining play. He has the skill to be a great two-way forward for the Avs, but it’s his lack of involvement at times that might be hurting him. Some feel he doesn’t attack the net enough and tends to “lose” his head at times and not settle down to play the game he’s accustomed too. There is a fear he is starting to lack in his defensive play, something the Swedes are known to be good at. The question remains is whether this slick Swede can follow in Peter’s footsteps and make a name for himself on one of Colorado’s top lines. He has close to the same style and plays on a great team in Sweden but he is no where near the “star” level that Peter or the Sedin twins are at. If he does come over and show the same hard nosed style he showed at times in Sweden, this kid could be a great find for Colorado. When he plays his style and sets his teammates up like he once did with his sweet and exact passes, Pahlsson is a definite 20-goal 50-point forward, but that could be a thing of the past. At the very least, Pahlsson will be a 15-goal 30-point 3rd line two-way center who could see time as a winger with the Avs with all their depth at center.
NHL Projection15g30p3rd line two-way grinder
Alex Tanguay- The pride of the Avs organization. Tanguay has it all, from skill to physical play. He can score at any point on the ice or set up a teammate with a precision pass from across the ice. Tanguay showed his skill in the preseason for the Avs when he tied for the rookie scoring lead on the team with five goals and eight points. He even had a hat trick in the same game that his teammate, and fellow scoring leader, Drury had his hat trick. Once questioned about his skating and his ability to “get open”, Tanguay has begun to quiet scouts with his superb play and continued work in the area of skating. Last year he played on a decent team that saw his numbers be known as “above average” for a player of his skill. What a year can do for a player. This year, Tanguay came out blazing with 9 goals in his first four games only to see himself suffer a concussion early in the fifth contest. After he recovered, Tanguay has begun to turn it back up even though he started his return slowly. With all his offense and skill, many overlook his strong two way play that he exhibits. With continual development, Tanguay will easily make the team next year after he signs with the Avs. This kid has a great future and if he does return to the QMJHL for another year, look for this “pure goal scorer” to blow away the WJC in the year 2000. Just like in the game today, Tanguay seems to always be at the right place at the right time. Something Colorado seemed to notice when they snatched him up at 12th overall.
NHL Projection 40g90p1st line scorer
Defensemen- Colorado is starting to realize they have a logjam at defense not just at center. Once questioned as far as defensive depth went, Colorado erased all that in the past few drafts when they acquired some of their best defensemen in a long time. In the past few drafts, Colorado has drafted tons of defensemen with their picks, with each one being able to play a strong defensive game. They come from all backgrounds and styles. Some play physically while others prefer timing and skill, but each is a top notch prospect who will atleast see time as a depth player for the Avs. Two of the Avs top five prospects reside at this position. Not bad for a team who once wondered about their quality depth on the blue line. With all of the Avs depth at the blue line, each prospect has the time to evolve and adjust to being a “star” player with the Avs organization, unlike other organizations where the better prospects are rushed into NHL duty.
Graham Belak- The “little” brother of Wade Belak (another Avs prospect), Graham is just as scary as Wade was at that very same age. Graham is an aggressive hard-hitting defensemen who has no quarrels with dropping the gloves to come to a teammates rescue. He is basically a stay at home defensemen who will never be a big “numbers” guy because of his style and limited skill. Much like his brother, Graham doesn’t skate well or do anything else well except for fighting, but he does play a sound defensive game and even punishes an opposing player who gets to close to his team’s net. His work ethic is outstanding and he seems to “die” for the chance to improve even though he lacks the skills to do so. Was ranked 76th overall in his draft year where Colorado took a chance and drafted him in the second round, 53rd overall. That was some jump for a player who will only be a marginal defender and most likely will see most of his time on the bench and as a replacement when a player gets hurt. But the organization likes his aggressiveness and ability to fight so he might one-day stick if he ever solidifies his defensive game and becomes a strong defensive defenseman.
NHL Projection–g10penforcer/7th defenseman
Kevin Grimes- A physically imposing player who has seen his stock rise and fall in the past few months. Was drafted in the first round of the 97′ draft because he was the most aggressive player available and the Avs needed some more of those types of players at the time. Not to mention he’s related to the Avs once head scout, Draper (and Kris over in Detroit). Grimes is a hard working defenseman who clears the net well and can physically punish an opponent when in close. Few ever fight him for fear of his punishing blows. He is still young and needs to round out his game since he is looked at as being a defensive defenseman and not one who contributes offensively. Grimes has picked up his game each year and added offensively a little more each time but he still will never be looked to lead that way. He does have a nice hard shot that travels to the net quickly and accurately that could one day be helpful on the Avs powerplay. His skating is good and he tends to be hard to knock down even with the puck in tow. But he does have his flaws with the puck. Grimes tends to not carry the puck enough or at times lose sight of it causing him to be out of position, something he has worked to improve on. The Avs organization still considers Grimes top notch even with his decent play this year with Kingston. Some consider him as a depth defenseman while more see him as a 4th or 5th defensemen who will see a good portion of his ice time against other teams top lines and on the penalty kill. Look for Grimes to join Hershey next year with a few call-ups the following and possible full time duty in three years. A definite prospect to keep an eye on.
NHL Projection5g10pdefensive defenseman
Robyn Regehr- What can I not say about such a strong prospect in the organization. Only Skoula ranks higher as far as defensemen prospects go. Has even added a step offensively this year. Regehr is another one of the Avs aggressive defensemen but with a little bonus, he has skill too. Regehr is a hard nosed and hard working “Foote”(hint) soldier who plays a sound defensive game that mixes skill with aggression. He has no problem ripping apart opposing players who attack the net or take the puck to the boards. His positioning is solid and he can skate well for a defensive specialist making him a great pick for any team looking for a defensive defenseman for the future. Has dropped the gloves before and even once with fellow Avs teammate Parker. Fear is not part of his style, but physical play is, and it’s more prominent now than ever with his present team in Kamloops. He leads in all aspects from on the ice to off it. Regehr leads his team with a plus minus of plus 26 after only 35 games; something a true defensive gem is known for. On top of his leadership and sound aggressive play, Regehr has worked to improve and mature in his overall play. In 34 games so far this year, Regehr has broke his previous goal/assist/point totals of the past when he had 4 goals, 19 assists, and 23 points in 64 games. Talk about increased production, and he still has a ways to go as far as maturity goes. With time and continual development, Regehr will be a “hot” prospect for the Avs and one-day may find himself as a 3rd or 4th defenseman for the Avs. That is if he doesn’t turn into an offensive defenseman before long.
NHL Projection 5g20p#1 defensive defenseman
Alex Ryazantsev- A “dark horse” prospect for Colorado who was rated at 8th overall in the European rankings for the 98′ Draft. Ranked higher than both Ossi Vaananen and Petr Svoboda who were both taken in the 2nd round, but managed to fall to the sixth round where Colorado nabbed him with the 167th pick overall. That’s some drop in rankings. All this from a skilled defenseman who’s tearing up the QMJHL with Victoriaville. Ryazantsev is a slick player who combines skill and finesse to his dangerous arsenal. The big drawback tends to be his lack of size. Listed at 6’0″ he looks more like he’s 5’11”, not to mention he’s lanky at a mere 191 lb. On top of that he sometimes takes bad penalties, something common for young prospects with a little “jump” in their game. But that doesn’t stop the Russian defenseman who could be a steal for the Avs if he continues to develop at the rate he is. He is presently within the top 5 scoring defensemen of the QMJHL as a rookie, and has made the adjustment well. He is one of the plus/minus leaders on his team with a plus 12. Ryazantsev was invited to play for Russia at this year’s WJC where he saw limited ice time and registered no points for his native country. Look for Ryazantsev to continue to improve on a mediocre team, and then return to the WJC next year where he should have a strong showing as one of the better offensive defensemen prospects at the tournament. The Avs liken him to the possibility as a cheap replacement Ozolinsh if it came to that, but more than likely he will be in the Avs top six after a few more years of seasoning. There is no rush for this prospect because he could go either way. Ryazantsev could end up being a great powerplay specialist or a depth player with decent offensive skill in the mold of “Jon Slaney”. In the Avs case, they hope it to be the better of the two.
NHL Projection10g30poffensive defenseman
Martin Skoula- Why? That’s one question you should ask yourself when it comes to Skoula. Why would no team take him in the Top 10? Let alone the top 15? It took till Colorado’s 2nd pick, 17th overall, for Skoula to be nabbed by a team, this from a player who is now blowing away the OHL with his skill and abilities. Not to mention he was passed over by his native Czech country to play for them in the WJC where he was sure to shine. Sure he wasn’t a “sure fire” prospect a few years back while over in the Czech Republic but now that he’s come over, Skoula has shown that he has it all. He is a blue-chip prospect who combines great skill and mobility into a decent frame. His puck control is spectacular and he can set up the rush with ease. His skating is superb along with his “on-ice” vision, which keeps him from rarely being caught out of position. He will not jump into the play like some offensive defenseman but he will attack when the time is right making him more along the lines of a two-way defensemen. Has almost surpassed his original career high, which he set last year in 66 games while with Barrie, in goals/assists/points in just 46 games. Another one of those high skill blue liners that seem to drop into the Avs lap. Skoula will finish the year with Barrie where he will continue to lead his team in plus minus, not to mention one of the tops in the OHL, with a plus 43. That’s franchise material right there. Next year, Skoula could find himself in a Colorado uniform playing alongside another skilled defenseman named Sandis Ozolinsh. Look for Skoula to be in an Avs jersey in less than three years with the ability to be one of the top two D’s on the team.
NHL Projection5g30ptwo-way defenseman
Ben Storey- One of the higher ranked college defenseman when drafted by Colorado in the 96′ Draft. He followed behind other defensemen such as Tom Poti and Peter Ratchuk (who was also taken by Colorado) in the draft but managed to be taken in the fourth round. Has shown that he can be a strong two-way defenseman in the recent years and a solid “depth” defenseman at the very least. Storey has nice passing and scoring skills not to mention a strong skating stride that allows him to play a sound defensive game. He even adds a bit of aggressiveness to his forte, something the Avs will notice for sure when deciding if he’s ready for the NHL or not. His leadership is also felt in the locker room and it showed especially when he was injured early in the season with Harvard. While fellow prospect Steve Moore and Harvard’s team struggled to get even one win, Storey sat at the sidelines nursing his injury. It wasn’t until his recent return, and added offense, that Harvard finally got a “W” up on the board and started to turn up their goal scoring. This was just a minor contribution that Storey brings to the game. If Storey continues to develop his all around game, and one day makes it to the AHL, he could find a job on the Avs blue line with in a few years of being with Hershey, that is if the other D’s don’t beat him. On another note, he could follow the same route as fellow prospect Elfring, and end up with Hershey’s minor affiliate, because Elfring was never able to “break” into Hershey’s lineup at the time he signed, but that is almost impossible with all of the skills and abilities that Storey possesses. He will be a solid two-way defenseman with the Avs and mostly will be looked at as a 5th or 6th defenseman if he cracks Colorado’s lineup.
NHL Projection10g30ptwo-way defenseman
Goaltenders- This is where Colorado’s left-overs are…well not exactly. With all of Colorado’s depth at goal, and many of them being young, these goalies are basically the overlooked goalies in the system. They still have the skill to be above average but only one has time on his side. Franek is at a time in his career where he needs a chance…NOW. That’s the sum of it, but with Sauve’s case he has time to make a mark. If Franek or Sauve get a chance at the NHL it will most likely be with another team, but that’s not a problem with any other team seeing the lack of skilled goaltenders to choose from because of expansion. Sauve remains the only “real” goaltending prospect outside of Hershey.
Phillipe Sauve- The son of long time friend of Lacroix’s (and now owner of Lacroix’s one time sports agency), Sauve is a strong goaltender who positions himself well for any shots from any angle on net. His positioning is one of the best and with his aggressive poke checking and skating style he tends to rarely get caught out of position or placed into one where he can not make an effort to block the shot. His agility is extremely good and coupled with his above average skating skills, Sauve moves well from one side to the next. With his sound technical play and ability to cut down angles, he remains as one of the safe bets to play in the NHL one day. As long as he continues to improve and show his strong playing style, Sauve will one-day crack a NHL lineup. More likely it will be with another team unless either Denis or Aebischer are moved. Colorado is still happy to have him in their organization as a back up of the future.
NHL Potential#2 technical goalie
And so the book closes on yet another chapter of Avalanche Forecast. One that brought numerous players and even more depth to the forefront for fans and people alike to enjoy and reflect on. The past brought you a look into the minor club in Hershey and the players who play there. The future will bring a look into who is hiding away in the folds of hockey and the Avs organization. The last two looked more at the prominent players in each section of the organization’s prospect depth, with the third installment digging deeper into the unknown. The next installment, entitled “Hidden Agenda”, will focus on the lesser-known players in both Hershey and the other minor leagues that the Avs own. It will encompass not only the “longshots” in the system but also the free agent signees that never really made it in another team’s system but now reside in the Avs’ system. It’s those players who pop up later, who end up being the role players of tomorrow’s team. And as long as Colorado’s system continues to bring along such a great mix of youthful prospects and grizzled veterans, they may one day once again become the championship team they once were back in 96′. When that happens, the word “Dynasty” will be spoken again, and maybe this time the word will stick, along with the players who go by the name of Skoula, Tanguay, Regehr, and Abid.