Welcome to Today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2013 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will go team by team through the NHL bringing you a look at each Teams Top Prospects. I will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2013 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 2013-14 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 wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 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 (especially due to the fact that the latest NHL season was only 48 games).
The Colorado Avalanche finished the 2013 season with the second worst record in the NHL. The failures have brought change at the top as the team has reached back into their past, hiring Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy to right the ship, and attempt to bring Colorado back to the glory days of the late 90s and early 2000s when they were leading the team on the ice. Getting the first overall pick via the draft lottery will certainly help. And there is some depth in the prospect system to surround Nathan MacKinnon with.
#1 Prospect: Tyson Barrie, Defense
Born Jul 26 1991 — Victoria, BC
Height 5.10 — Weight 190 — Shoots R
Selected by Colorado Avalanche round 3 #64 overall 2009 NHL Entry Draft
A strong start in Lake Erie during the lockout made Barrie an easy choice as a potential call up for the Avalanche this year. After playing 32 games this season and 10 in 2011-12, Tyson Barrie has started to show his worth as an NHL defenceman, and just barely made the cut off for what we consider to be a prospect vs graduated like fellow defender Stefan Elliot.
Barrie might be undersized on the blue line, but he makes up for it with his ability to control the puck and the game from the back end. A great passer who keeps his head up and really views the ice well to control the play on the powerplay, or in making a good first pass on the breakout. Barrie also has a smooth and powerful skating stride which makes him very mobile on the back end. His stickhandling and ability to protect the puck are superb, and he has a hard and low slapshot from the point that can create rebounds and tip ins. He looks to be a natural on the Colorado powerplay and really played strong back there this season.
Defensively there is still some work to do. Barrie has really improved his tendency to take too many risks and make bad giveaways, and while he’s getting there, he can relapse at times, and there is still work to be done in being safer with the puck. Barrie will also need to spend the summer working on his strength as he can get overpowered along the boards and in front of the net. This will likely always be somewhat of a problem, just due to his size, and he will need to be paired with a physical defensive defenceman. While it will never be perfect, he can improve though by adding some upper body mass. Overall Barrie is Colorado’s number 1 prospect, and I’d expect to see him make the team out of camp next year.
#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 hasn’t played up to his draft position, but is still a decent prospect. 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 overall point totals were better this past season, but he played 13 more games and again saw regression in the points per game department. Siemens had a rough year in Saskatoon as the Memorial Cup hosts were expected to be amongst the best WHL teams. A slow start for the team, saw Siemens stripped of the captaincy. Over the course of the season, Darren Dietz (a 5th rounder from 2011) passed him as Saskatoon’s most important defenceman. Overall the team didn’t do as well as hoped, and was bounced in a first round sweep in the WHL playoffs, and quickly in the Memorial Cup.
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. It is concerning that he’s regressed offensively each year, especially as the team around him has actually gotten stronger. Expect Siemens to start next season in the AHL, he needs some more time and the Avalanche will hope to get him back on the right track. It is very important to Colorado’s future that Siemens develops into that rugged, physical defender, as they really need to add that dimension in the prospect pool. While the Avalanche have some very good defence prospects, he brings the dual threat of both playing physically and having some offensive skill that no one else in their pool possesses.
Super Sleeper Prospect, Michael Sgarbossa, Centre
Born Feb 25 1992 — Campbellville, ONT
Height 5.11 — Weight 180 — Shoots Right
Undrafted, Acquired in a Trade with the San Jose Sharks
Undrafted in the 2010 NHL draft, Sgarbossa attended the San Jose Sharks camp signed an Entry Level Deal with the Club prior to the 2010-11 season. Since then he has taken off like a rocket. Scoring 82 points in a season split between Saginaw and Sudbury in 2010-11. Then scoring 102 points and winning the OHL scoring title in 2011-12, and finally capping it all off with an impressive rookie campaign and an all-star appearance in the AHL, and making his NHL debut.
Sgarbossa has been overlooked over the years due to his below average size, and merely average skating ability. He doesn’t have the explosive stride that seems to be common place amongst those forwards who succeed despite a lack of size, but at the same time he’s not a poor skater either. What Sgarbossa has that sets him apart is great offensive skills. He has great hockey sense and always seems to be in the right spot and to find the opening in the defense. He also possesses great stickhandling, and an ability to protect the puck and slow the game down while attempting to make a play. This has made him especially useful on the powerplay. Sgarbossa can be equally effective as both a playmaker and a shooter. He has great vision and passing ability, but also has a strong and accurate shot with a quick release. His ability to always make the right decisions in the offensive end is a big asset. Sgarbossa will likely start the year in the AHL, but it wouldn’t take much, just a little more development, and a couple of injuries, and he could find himself on the Avalanche roster as a regular before the year is out.
One player who we haven’t assessed is 2010 first round pick Joey Hishon. Hishon had a great junior career but that all came crashing down due to a serious concussion suffered in the 2011 Memorial Cup. After sitting out nearly 2 full years, he was finally cleared to play this year and was able to play 9 games for Lake Erie last season. I think most of the hockey world hopes to see Hishon back full-time in 2013-14 and if he can regain the form he showed prior to his injury he would add another great playmaker to the Avalanche forward group.
For a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2008, and only made the playoffs twice since the lockout, you’d expect that the Avalanche would have amassed a better prospect pool than they have. This years draft was a big boost to them of course with Nathan MacKinnon being a gem, and Bigras, Martin, Geertsen all having solid potential. However the fact that there is only a few real high end talents in the system outside of the 2013 draftees should be concerning. Why is this happening? Well its pretty simple really, look at the young NHL team in Colorado. Guys like Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, and Ryan O’Reilly are already major contributors and were all drafted in 2009 or later. This is an example where a prospect system may look weak, but its an illusion because of the high quality young talent that has already been graduated to the NHL team. As far as the forwards are concerned, the future is bright in Colorado. Its now a matter of shoring up the backend, but even there, in Elliott, Barrie, Siemens, and Bigras, they have a good head start on the blueline.
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