Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we 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 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We 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 we pick as our dark horse 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 (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Colorado Avalanche Prospects
After a disastrous 2016-17 season, the Colorado Avalanche became one of the surprises of the season last year. An early season trade of Matt Duchene seemed to spark the team. Nathan MacKinnon was a Hart Trophy candidate. Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Barrie took leaps forward in their development. These performances were key to the Avalanche’s return to the playoffs.
The off-season has seen the Avs make some additions to strengthen the squad. They traded for Philipp Grubauer from the Washington Capitals. The team also added Ian Cole and Matt Calvert in the free agent market. Overall the moves strengthen the squad, while they wait for their prospects to help the team take the next step.
2018 NHL Draft Picks: Martin Kaut, Justus Annunen, Sampo Ranta, Tyler Weiss, Brandon Saigeon, Danila Zhuravlyov, Nikolai Kovalenko, Shamil Shmakov
Graduations: Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher, Samuel Girard, Anton Lindholm, Alexander Kerfoot,
Top Prospect: Cale Makar
Defence — shoots Right
Born October 30th, 1998 — Calgary, Alberta
Height 5’11” — Weight 190 lbs [180 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1st round, #4 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Makar had a solid freshman campaign for a weak UMass-Amherst team with five goals and 21 points in 34 games. He was named the New England NCAA Rookie of the Year and to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and Third All-Star Team. Makar was also a star at the World Juniors, scoring three goals and five assists for eight points in seven games. He was part of the tournament all-star team and led all defencemen in the tournament in scoring.
Makar is a little undersized but has impressed with outstanding skating ability. He is quick in both directions. He has very good speed and acceleration. However, it is in his agility and edgework where he really shines. Makar has excellent lateral mobility and can cover a ton of ice. His pivots are crisp and clean, allowing him to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice-versa. He can pinch deep or join the rush, and also get back defensively. While Makar may not be able to take quite as many chances at higher levels of hockey, his skating skill should continue to be a big advantage in his game. Makar also has very good core strength and balance, making him tough to knock off the puck.
Makar can be an offensive force. He has a very good wrist shot, as well as a strong slap shot. A bit more strength on his frame could make that slap shot an even bigger weapon in his arsenal. Makar’s skating and lateral agility allow him to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. He understands how to get his shot through traffic, as well as how to keep it low and on the net. This helps his teammates to set up screens, capitalize on rebounds, and make deflections. He also has excellent stickhandling abilities and can rush the puck from end-to-end. Makar can also join the rush as a trailer, picking good opportunities to add offence from the back end.
Makar is a very intelligent player. He shows high hockey IQ and makes smart plays both with and without the puck. Add in strong passing skills and excellent vision and Makar is a threat to generate a scoring chance nearly every time he touches the puck.
Makar is strong positionally, and effective in gap control. He takes away opponents time and space and angles them well to the outside. He also has a quick stick, allowing him to poke check opponents and to create turnovers. Once he has the puck, he transitions it quickly out of his zone and starts the attack. Makar isn’t the most physical defenceman though. He could stand to add some muscle to his frame, in order to compete against the bigger, stronger players he will face at higher levels.
Makar returns to the NCAA where he will be captain at UMass. Talent wise, he is NHL ready. However, he still needs to add some more muscle. A season of college hockey, with its less rigorous schedule, gives him the opportunity to make that happen. Expect the Avs to sign Makar after his college campaign and he could even see NHL time at the end of the season.
#2 Prospect: Conor Timmins
Defence — shoots Right
Born September 18th, 1998 — Thorold, Ontario
Height 6’1″ — Weight 185 lbs [185 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2nd round, #32 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Conor Timmins was a huge part of a dominant Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds team last year. They were the best team in the CHL in the regular season and he was their top defenceman, though he missed some time due to injury. Timmins scored eight goals and 41 points in 36 games. He also scored five goals and 18 points in 23 playoff games but the Greyhounds fell to the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL Final. Timmins also won a gold medal at the World Juniors, scoring one goal and five points in seven games.
Timmins is a very good skater. He has a strong first step and accelerates smoothly and quickly. His top end speed is good in both directions, and solid edge work and pivots allow him to cover a lot of ice. Timmins has good lateral agility, allowing him to walk the line, and open up passing lanes and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. He is also strong on his skates, helping him to battle for position in the corners and in front of the net.
Timmins has the stickhandling ability to beat forecheckers and move the puck quickly up the ice. He is comfortable both leading the rush and joining in as a trailer. His skating skill allows him to do this, as well as pinch in at the blue line, and still get back defensively. Timmins is an outstanding playmaker. He is very smart, seeing plays develop and reacting to the movements of teammates and defenders. His vision is good and he sees plays that others don’t. Timmins passing skills are also very good. He can fit pucks through tight openings. He has the skills to make saucer passes to teammates, landing the puck flat on the tape.
Timmins has a good shot from the point. His slap shot is accurate and has good power. He keeps his shot low and manages to get it on the net and through traffic. His low shot allows teammates to get to the front of the net, screening goalkeepers, and getting tips and deflections. He also has a good wrist shot which he can use to get the puck on net when pressured at the point. He has a quick release which also makes his shot effect on the rush.
Timmins is very physical in his own end of the rink. Forwards have to keep their head up on his side of the ice, as he is always looking to make an impact with a big hit. He maintains good gap control and uses an explosive lower body to just explode into the hit. Timmins is also physical in the corners and in front of the net. He must continue to get stronger in order to continue to play this style at higher levels against bigger, stronger forwards. His positioning is pretty good but could continue to be improved with more experience. Timmins can transition the puck quickly out of his own zone when he gets the opportunity.
Timmins leaves junior hockey behind and heads to the AHL to play for the Colorado Eagles. He will look to round out his game and adjust to bigger and faster opponents at the pro level. Timmins might get a call-up if injuries hit the big club. He is close and could be ready for a full-time NHL job in 2019.
#3 Prospect: Martin Kaut
The Avalanche drafted Kaut with the 16th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Kaut. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#4 Prospect: Nicolas Meloche
Defense — shoots Right
Born July 18th, 1997 — Mosemere, Quebec
Height 6’3″ — Weight 205 lbs [191 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2nd round, #40 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Meloche had his first season of professional hockey last year. He put up five goals and 17 points in 58 games with the San Antonio Rampage. He also played in five regular season games and 24 playoff games for the Colorado Eagles in the ECHL, helping the team to the Kelly Cup. Meloche had one goal and six points in the playoffs.
Meloche’s skating is the biggest weakness in his game. His start-up and stride are choppy and awkward which take away from his speed and acceleration. He has improved a bit over the last couple of years but still needs more. He could spend some time in the off-season working with a quality skating coach and working on his footwork. Once Meloche gets going, his stride gets better and so does his speed, but the first couple of steps are a concern.
His pivots and edgework are not bad though, and he’s able to avoid getting beat with speed due to that, as well as his excellent positioning and gap control. He also shows the ability to poke check the puck away from attackers. Meloche has good power and strength on his skates though. He is tough to knock off the puck, and wins his board battles and clears the crease effectively due to this strength and balance.
Meloche can play on the power play. He has a very hard and accurate slap shot. He understands the importance of getting it through shooting lanes, and keeping it low and on net as he is able to give his teammates the opportunity for tip-ins and rebounds. Meloche makes a strong first pass, helping to start the transition game. He can make the long pass to spring an odd-man rush. He has decent poise controlling the puck and making plays in the offensive zone, but he’s more of the trigger man on the power play than a true power play quarterback. Meloche is willing to pinch down the wall to keep a puck in and keep plays alive, but is smart in doing so, and does not get caught deep very often.
Meloche has excellent size and he’s certainly not afraid to use it. He plays a gritty game in the corners battling for pucks and in front of the net as he works to clear the crease. He also is willing to throw big hits when he gets the opportunity but avoids getting himself out of position looking for those checks. Meloche has outstanding positioning and defensive awareness for a player his age, reading and anticipating plays well, and almost always keeping good control and defensive posture. He is not afraid to block shots and does a great job using a long stick to cut down passing lanes. Meloche is also willing to drop the gloves if necessary to come to the aid of a teammate.
Meloche is close to NHL ready. He could make the Avalanche with a very good training camp but it is more likely that he starts in the AHL. He could be an injury call-up with a full-time position later in the season.
#5 Prospect: Vladislav Kamenev
Centre — shoots Left
Born August 12th, 1996 — Orsk, Russia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 194 lbs [188 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 2nd round, #42 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
Traded to the Colorado Avalanche in November 2017.
Kamenev had a frustrating season, injuring his forearm in his first game with the Avalanche and missing a ton of time. He played 17 games in the AHL with three goals and 16 points. He also played three NHL games but is still looking for his first NHL point.
Kamenev is a good skater, with above average top-end speed and the acceleration to reach that speed quickly. He also has strong edgework and good agility which allows him to weave through traffic both with and without the puck. Kamenev has good size and excellent balance which allows him to protect the puck and to win board battles down low.
Vladislav Kamenev is an extremely fundamentally sound player given his age. His game shows very few weaknesses, and while he may not have the absolute high-end skill of some other prospects, he has very few weaknesses. He is a player that just does everything well.
Kamenev can play both centre and wing. He is more of a playmaker than a scorer, with very good vision and passing skills. Kamenev makes linemates better by extending plays on the cycle and then finding them in good spots. He has strong stickhandling skills, further helping him to protect the puck and slow the game down in the offensive zone. Kamenev has very good hockey IQ and almost always seems to make the smart play with the puck on his stick. Kamenev likes to hit and is very good on the forecheck. Even though he is more of a playmaker, he can score by getting to the front of the net, or with an accurate wrist shot that features a good release.
Kamenev’s defensive game is strong. He is good at face-offs. He plays a gritty and aggressive game in all three zones and supports his defence well on the backcheck. Kamenev is also positionally sound. He reads the play extremely well, leading to him being able to cut down on passing and shooting lanes. Kamenev is a strong penalty killer.
Kamenev heads to camp looking to win a full-time job in the Avalanche top nine. It will be a battle for an opening with a number of good prospects in the system. With a good camp, he can take a spot and not look back.
#6 Prospect: Shane Bowers
Centre — shoots Left
Born July 30th, 1999 — Halifax, Nova Scotia
Height 6’0″ — Weight 178 lbs [183 cm / 81 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 1st Round, #28 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Traded to the Colorado Avalanche in November 2017
Bowers had a strong season for Boston University scoring 17 goals and 32 points in 40 games as a freshman. He helped the Terriers to the Hockey East title and was a part of the Hockey East all-rookie team.
Bowers is a very good skater. His top end speed and acceleration are very good, and this is his main weapon in one-on-one situations. Once he gets a half-step on a defender, he can drive to the net. His lateral agility and edgework are also strong, though his game is really based on playing straight ahead, and not on creativity. This edgework and agility helps him to make small openings to make a play.
He also has good balance and a powerful lower body that make him extremely tough to knock off the puck. This should only get better as he adds more muscle to his frame. Bowers is good in controlling the puck on the boards, as well as establishing leverage and fighting for loose pucks.
Bowers is strong down low. He can control play below the hash marks, protecting the puck in the cycle game and making good passes to open teammates. Bowers puts his body between the opponent and the puck when working the cycle. He has good vision and finds open teammates. His playmaking ability is good, as he can make passes through tight spaces, as well as open up passing lanes with his lateral movement. Bowers has a high hockey IQ and makes smart plays with the puck. He is also willing to take the puck to the net, and able to take the physical punishment and fight through checks to make plays.
Bowers can score in tight to the net with quick hands and also has a good wrist shot from further out. His shot is heavy and has good accuracy. His release is also quick and effective helping him to fool goaltenders. Bowers soft hands and good hand-eye coordination allow him to score deflections and pounce on rebounds. His game is very straightforward and north-south based.
Defensively, he is responsible in his own end of the ice. Bowers battles for position and loose pucks, supporting the defence down low. He brings good back pressure and is aggressive in the physical game. Bowers cuts down passing and shooting lanes, and is effective on the penalty kill. He can be used against other teams top lines and plays a responsible two-way game. He is also already well-advanced in the face-off circle.
Bowers heads back to Boston University for his sophomore campaign this fall. He will look to have another big season and get a contract with the Avs and an NHL opportunity in the spring. However, he is likely a year or two away from the NHL.
#7 Prospect: Igor Shvyryov
Centre — Shoots Left
Born July 10th, 1998 — Magnitogorsk, Russia
Height 6’1″ — Weight 191 lbs [185 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 5th round, #125 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Shvyryov has been dominating the MHL or Russian Junior League with 70 points in 40 games in 2016-17 and 17 points in 10 games last year. However, he did not see the same success in the KHL as he scored just one goal in 32 games with limited ice time in the KHL.
Shvyryov is a decent skater. His top end speed is above average, but not elite. He is more quick than fast though. He has an excellent first step and very good acceleration. This allows Shvyryov to win races to loose pucks. He also uses his ability to change speeds as a weapon to fool defenders. Shvyryov has good edgwork and agility which allows him to make subtle plays to open up passing and shooting lanes. He could stand to add lower body strength which would allow him to be harder on the puck and fight through checks.
Shvyryov is an excellent playmaker. He has good stickhandling ability and can slow the play down or speed it up as required to create a chance. He also sees the ice extremely well, finding open teammates. Shvyryov can make a tape-to-tape pass through tight spaces or make a saucer pass to a teammate. He is particularly effective on the power play, where he controls the puck on the half boards and makes plays.
Shvyryov is much more of a playmaker than a goalscorer. His wrist shot is accurate but it lacks power. He could stand to bulk up to add a bit more on that shot. He also could work on having a bit quicker of a release. Shvyryov has the soft hands to score in tight to the net but he plays a perimeter game and is not going to find himself in those areas that often.
Shvyryov has a decent defensive game for his age. He reads the play well and uses his body and stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. When a turnover is created, Shvyryov is able to quickly transition to offence. He is a willing back-checker but does not really get physically involved. Shvyryov is also very good in the face-off circle.
Shvyryov signed his entry-level contract with the Avalanche this year. He is set to head to North America and will likely begin with the Colorado Eagles in the AHL. While it is clear that Shvyryov is a highly skilled prospect, it is also clear that he needs to continue to work on his game at the professional level before being NHL ready.
#8 Prospect: Sampo Ranta
The Avalanche drafted Ranta with the 78th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Ranta. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#9 Prospect: A.J. Greer
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born December 14th, 1996 — Joliette, Quebec
Height 6’3″ — Weight 204 lbs [191 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2nd round, #39 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Greer got in 17 games with the Avalanche last year, putting up three assists. He also played 35 games for the San Antonio Rampage scoring eight goals and 13 points in 35 games.
Greer is a strong skater. He has excellent speed and the acceleration to reach that speed in just a few strides. Greer has a powerful stride. He has good lower-body strength and can fight through checks and get to the net. He also wins battles along the boards and establishes his position in front of the net. Greer has decent agility and edgework as well.
Greer plays a power game. He is quick to get in on the forecheck and punishes opposing defenders. By putting the pressure on, he forces opponents into mistakes. He also controls the puck on the cycle game, using his body to protect it. Greer is willing to go to the front of the net and causes havoc when he gets there. The questions remain about his ultimate upside. He struggles to finish in close against NHL level goalies, whether it be pouncing on rebounds or deflecting shots.
Greer has good power on his wrist shot but his release is a bit slow. This allows goaltenders to get set for the shot before he lets it go. He is very much a north-south player. There is not a lot of creativity and playmaking skill though he does keep the puck moving with safe passes in the cycle game.
Greer works hard in the defensive end. He brings his tenacity and hard work in all three zones. Greer supports the defence down low and works to help contain the cycle. He is not afraid to put his body on the line to block shots. He also cuts down passing lanes effectively.
Greer’s upside is limited, as he probably tops out as a bottom-six forward. However, he is very close to NHL ready as he has already seen plenty of time at that level. Expect Greer to come to training camp looking for a spot with the big club. It could be another season bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL.
#10 Prospect: Cam Morrison
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born August 27th, 1998 — Aurora, Ontario
Height 6’3″ — Weight 212 lbs [191 cm / 96 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2nd round, #40 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Morrison scored just eight goals and 23 points in 40 games in his sophomore season with Notre Dame. While it was not the type of offensive production that one would hope for from a second round pick, he did help the team to a lot of success. The Irish won the Big-10 regular season and tournament titles and went all the way to the National Championship Game. Unfortunately, they lost a hard-fought game to Minnesota-Duluth.
Morrison has very good speed and acceleration. He gets around the ice quickly, and his good first step helps him to get to loose pucks. He gets in quickly on the forecheck and can punish opposing defenders and create turnovers. He also has good power in his stride and good balance that allows him to be strong on the puck. One area that could use some improvement is his edgework and agility. He makes wide turns and could stand to be better in changing directions.
Morrison is developing a solid two-way, power game. Morrison has a good array of shots. His wrist shot and snapshot are both hard and accurate and feature a quick release. He is willing to use his size to drive the net and has the hands to pounce on rebounds and get deflections when he is there. He is able to find soft spots in the opposition defence and get himself in open positions to get that shot off.
Morrison is not a particularly creative passer, but he does create for his teammates through chasing down loose pucks, winning battles in the corners and then getting pucks to the front of the net. While he does not make a lot of fancy plays, he does make a lot of smart ones. At 6-foot-3, and 212 pounds, Morrison already has a good amount of muscle on his frame. He takes advantage of this in battles along the boards and in front of the net, as well as in maintaining possession in the cycle game.
Morrison is also effective in the defensive zone, often being used to match up against other teams lines, as well as playing a role as a key penalty killer. He continues to show his hockey IQ in the defensive zone, reading the play and creating turnovers and transition offence. Morrison is also good in supporting the defence down low and helping to contain opponents in the cycle game.
Morrison heads back to Notre Dame for his junior season. The Avalanche hope that his offensive skills will translate into production for the Irish. If he can finally take that next step he could become an effective NHLer. However, with his current level of offence, he’s looking at bottom line potential.
Sleeper Prospect: Ty Lewis
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born March 5th, 1998 — Brandon, MAN
Height 5.11 — Weight 188 [180 cm/85 kg]
Signed by the Avalanche as an undrafted free agent, October 2017.
Lewis set career highs with 44 goals and 100 points in 70 WHL games. He also put up six goals and 13 points in the AHL playoffs.
Lewis’ game really took off when he became more confident in his wrist shot. He always had a good shot and quick release but just didn’t use it often enough. As Lewis has become more confident, it keeps the defender off-balance and does not let him overplay the pass. Lewis is still a good playmaker. he sees the ice well and can open up passing lanes for teammates with a quick move.
Lewis uses his speed and acceleration to take on defenders one-on-one. He can beat a defender wide and cut to the net. If they back off to respect his speed, he uses the time and space taking advantage of the passing or shooting lane created. He is also good on the power play where he controls things off the Lewis also uses his speed to be in quick on the forecheck and create turnovers. However, he could stand to be a bit more physical.
Lewis works hard in the defensive end, supporting the defence down low and applying good back-pressure against the rush. He could stand to be a bit more physical in his own end though. This may come as he gains weight and improves his upper-body strength.
Lewis heads to the AHL where he will play with the Eagles. He needs to show that his offensive game will translate at the pro level. Lewis is likely a couple of years away from being NHL ready. He is a potential undrafted free agent find.
A strong pair of drafts in 2017 and 2018, along with an excellent return in the Matt Duchene trade has really increased the Avalanche Prospect depth. Where they were once amongst the NHL’s worst farm systems, that is no longer the case. If they get a top pick (via the Ottawa Senators 2019 first round pick) the group could get even deeper.
The Avalanche drafted Justus Annunen in the 2018 NHL Draft to add to their goaltending stable. They also have Spencer Martin who has spent time in the AHL.
On the blueline, the Avs are very well stocked on the right side with Makar, Timmins and Meloche. However, the team needs to add a bit more to the left side of the ice. Danila Zhuravlyov, Mason Geertsen, Josh Anderson, and Nick Leivermann remain long shots.
A strong group of forwards is further boosted by a pair of strong 2017 late round picks. Brandon Saigeon could play in the AHL this year. Nikolai Kovalenko is highly skilled but is signed for three more years in the KHL. Nick Henry, Denis Smirnov, J.C. Beaudin, and Josh Dickinson add depth.
Embed from Getty Images