Welcome to today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects” a team by team look at the top prospects in the NHL. Today, as I continue my alphabetical journey through the NHL I bring you a look at the Colorado Avalanche. As always you can find a complete listing of my previous articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2012 draft, as there have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed. What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2012-13 roster of the NHL team in question. I will also bring you one sleeper pick. A player who was either drafted in the 4th round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. For those asking the cut off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 45-50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2012 NHL Draft Prospect Reviews:
Top Prospect: Stefan Elliot, Defenceman
Born Jan 30 1991 — Vancouver, BC
Height 6.01 — Weight 180 — Shoots Right
Selected by the Colorado Avalanche in round 2, #49 overall of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
With Elliott playing in 39 games last season for the Avalanche I debated even including him as a prospect. He acquitted himself very well at the NHL level and I believe he will start next season with the big club. However given his age, and the way he really flew under the radar of the mainstream hockey media, I felt it fair to give him a detailed look today. Elliott had a Stellar junior career with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. With 241 career points at the WHL level Elliott became Saskatoon’s all-time leader for points by a defenceman. He finished his career with a particularly stellar 2010-11 campaign which saw him record 31 goals and 81 points in 71 games, and be named the WHL Defenceman of the year.
Elliott has an excellent combination of offensive skills that make him a prime candidate to quarterback the Colorado power play in the near future. He is extremely skilled with the puck on his stick and shows the patience and puck control to beat defenders one on one. He is extremely intelligent with the puck, possessing a high level hockey IQ, which helps him to make the right play more often than not. Elliott has great vision and when he finds an open teammate, he is able to fire a crisp tape to tape pass to set up a scoring opportunity. Elliott also has a hard slapshot, and he is able to walk the line and avoid shot blockers, and create shooting lanes. His low accurate shot not only results in goals for Elliott but in tip ins and rebound opportunities for team mates.
Elliott is a decent skater despite lacking top end speed. He still possesses good agility and balance, and decent mobility on the backend which allows him to play his defensive game that relies more on instinct and positioning than physicality. Elliott is not a big hitter and needs to add some upper body strength as he can be beaten by bigger forwards on the cycle game. However his good hockey sense, excellent positioning and quick stick work help to make him an effective defender. His quick passing ability starts the offence and helps to avoid his team relieve pressure in the offensive zone.
Given the NHL experience that Elliott was able to get under his belt last season, it would surprise few observers if he started next season in Colorado.
#2 Prospect Duncan Siemens, Defence
Born Sep 7 1993 — Sherwood Park, ALTA
Height 6.03 — Weight 192 — Shoots Left
Selected by the Colorado Avalanche round 1 #11 overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Siemens is a rugged defender who had a bit of a disappointing season in 2011-12. After an impressive 2010-11 season that saw Siemens rocket up draft boards and be selected 11th overall by the Avalanche, his numbers regressed in 2011-12. The significant time Siemens missed this year after suffering a concussion was a cause for the down season. Siemens returned and finished the season playing very well on a depleted Saskatoon blue line.
At over 6’3 and nearly 200lbs, Siemens has an impressive frame. He could however stand to pack on a few additional pounds of muscle onto that frame. At the WHL level Siemens is a rough and tumble customer feared around the league best known for his ability to throw a devastating hit, and to drop the gloves when necessary. Siemens is an excellent defender who is capable of playing physical, winning battles along the boards, clearing the front of the net, blocking shots, making a good first pass to start the transition game.
Siemens is a very good skater, especially for a player his size. His smooth stride, excellent pivots, and good agility and balance help him to be rarely out of position. He has shown the ability to stick with forwards in his own zone and is very difficult to beat off the rush. He also has shown some ability to make good decisions and solid passing skills at the WHL level, however it remains to be seen if this offence can translate to the AHL and NHL level.
Siemens wast Stefan Elliott’s defence partner in Saskatoon in the 2010-11 season (Siemens’ draft year). The Avalanche obviously liked what they saw taking him with the 11th overall pick in the draft. Siemens tough, gritty style made him the perfect complement to Elliott in junior, and the Avalanche certainly hope he will one day become the ying to Stefan’s yang at the NHL level. For now though one should expect Siemens to start the season back in Saskatoon in the WHL. With Saskatoon hosting the Memorial Cup this season, Siemens is looking to lead the host team to junior hockey’s biggest prize.
Super Sleeper, Brad Malone, Centre
Born May 20 1989 — Miramichi, NB
Height 6.01 — Weight 207 — Shoots Left
Selected by the Colorado Avalanche round 4 #105 overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft
Malone is a rugged NHL forward who played in 9 games for the Avalanche last season recording the first two assists of his NHL career. He is a hard working, agitating type of player. He is hard on the forecheck and the backcheck and can often be found right in the middle of many scrums in front of the Avs or the opponents net.
Malone has a never say die mentality. He continues to work hard at both ends of the ice on every given shift no matter what the score or situation. He had a great NCAA career and North Dakota, and has played solidly for Lake Erie in the AHL. However given his lack of high end scoring instincts and soft hands it is doubtful that he’ll ever be an impact player in an NHL top 6 role. He does possess good defensive awareness and his non-stop work ethic could mean he makes major contributions on the Avalanche’s bottom two lines. He quite simply is willing to do whatever it takes to win, whether that be block shots, or drop the gloves to stick up for teammates. Malone is a decent sized player and one who uses that size to his throw his body around at both ends of the ice. It should also be noted that Malone is the cousin of current NHLer and member of Tampa Bay Lightning Ryan Malone.
The Avalanche have spent a number of years rebuilding their club after the glory years of the late 90s and early 00s ended. Gone are legends like Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, and Rob Blake. In recent years a new crew of young stars has emerged and taken over as the faces of the Avalanche franchise. The club now features a very young team that is learning and growing together. Colorado has built a nice prospect system, and have a lot of depth in the pipeline, especially on defence where we can add players like Cameron Gaunce and Tyson Barrie to those already reviewed. It might appear right now that they currently lack high end prospects. Sure, Stefan Elliot, and Duncan Siemens are talented defenceme but its true they do not really compare to some of the top prospects of many other NHL teams. This is not a criticism though, as the lack of a top-end blue chip prospect is easily explained when we look at all the young talent that has graduated to the NHL and is currently on the Avalanche roster. Colorado has a young high end core of NHL talent in players like Calder Trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Semyon Varlamov, Erik Johnson, and Ryan O’Reilly already on their big league squad. The challenge for GM Greg Sherman will be adding a piece or two to complete this core and then continuing to surround it with quality depth.
One really intriguing player to watch for the Avalanche going forward is centre Joey Hishon. The 2010 first round pick is a talented centre who helped lead the Owen Sound Attack to the 2011 OHL Championship and qualification for the Memorial Cup. Unfortunately he suffered a devastating concussion on a dirty hit in the first game of the tournament and has not played since, missing all of last season. Hishon has apparently been cleared to resume full time training and if he can fully recover the undersized but extremely gifted forward could certainly make an NHL impact in the Avalanche’s top 6 (either at centre or with a shift to wing).
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