Welcome to the 2021 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2021 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. 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 2021 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2021 Colorado Avalanche Prospects.
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 2021-22 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.
2021 Colorado Avalanche Prospects
Avalanche Season and Off-Season
The Avalanche won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best team in the regular season. Led by their big line and an outstanding group of defenders, the Avalanche put up 82 points in 56 games. They continued that momentum into the first round of the playoffs, quickly dispatching the St. Louis Blues in a four-game sweep. The Avs also won Game 1 of the Second round 7-1, and took a 2-0 series lead over the Vegas Golden Knights with an overtime win in Game 2 of the series. However, the Knights would win the next four games in what was a disappointing end to the year for Colorado.
The off-season saw Joonas Donskai leave in the expansion draft. The Avalanche also lost goaltender Philipp Grubauer go to Seattle via free agency. Other notable losses include Brandon Saad, Ryan Graves, Conor Timmins, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Patrick Nemeth, Matt Calvert, and Carl Soderberg. General manager Joe Sakic acquired a new starting goalie in Darcy Kuemper. He also added Kurtis MacDermid, Darren Helm, Dylan Sikura, and Ryan Murray. The biggest moves of the off-season were getting cornerstones Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog signed to long-term contract extensions.
2021 NHL Draft Picks (C): Oskar Olausson, Sean Behrens, Andrei Buyalsky, Taylor Makar
Graduations: Conor Timmins (trade)
2021 Top Colorado Avalanche Prospect: Bowen Byram
Defence — shoots Left
Born June 13th, 2001 — Cranbrook, British Columbia
Height 6’1″ — Weight 192 lbs [183 cm / 79 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1st Round, #4 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Byram started the season with Team Canada at the World Juniors. He put up one goal and five points in seven tournament games and helped Team Canada to a silver medal. He then joined the Avalanche for the NHL season. Byram’s season was cut short after just 19 games due to a concussion. He put up two assists before being hurt.
Byram is an excellent skater in both directions and this becomes the basis of a strong two-way game. He is able to join the rush, or pinch in at the blue line and still get back to his defensive position. His strong backwards skating allows him to maintain strong gap control and makes him tough to beat on the rush. Byram has outstanding speed and excellent acceleration. He also adds excellent pivots, edgework, and agility. This allows Byram to cover all areas of the ice. Byram is strong on his skates and has excellent balance. He wins battles in front of the net and along the boards. He is also strong at protecting the puck.
Byram has a very good shot from the blueline and the vision and passing skills to quarterback the power play. He understands how to get his shot on the net through traffic, using his lateral agility to open up shooting lanes. He is able to score in a variety of ways and can sneak down from the point to use his wrist shot or snapshot. Both feature a quick release. They can also be effective weapons on the rush. Byram also has an excellent slap shot.
Byram is a strong puck-mover, willing to make plays through the neutral zone and to push forward to create offence as well. He is not afraid to lead the rush or join it as a trailer. Byram has excellent vision and passing skills. He can make a strong first pass to start the transition game as well as quarterback things from the point. His offensive game is at a very high level. Byram is able to carry the puck through the neutral zone, using his skating and stickhandling skills to generate efficient zone entries. He is able to make plays while moving at top speed.
Byram is willing to play a physical game and forwards have to be aware of coming down his side of the ice with their heads down. He is smart and disciplined, not getting himself out of position to make those hits. He is strong along the boards and in front of the net. However, Byram will need to add some muscle to his frame before he can do this at the pro level. Byram can skate the puck out of danger and makes a strong first pass to start the transition game. His outstanding skating ability allows Byram to maintain excellent gap control and makes him very difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. Byram played huge minutes on the Vancouver Giants and was counted on in all situations. He can grow into a similar role in the NHL.
Byram has the skills to be a number one defenseman in the NHL. In Colorado, he won’t have to take such a role right away. In Cale Makar, Samuel Girard, and Devon Toews the Avalanche have three outstanding defencemen who can all carry the load and play top minutes. This will allow them to ease Byram into the lineup with sheltered minutes and easier head-to-head matchups. However, it is just a matter of time before the Avalanche’s big three become a big four.
#2 Prospect: Alex Newhook
Centre — shoots Left
Born January 28th, 2001 — St.John’s, Newfoundland
Height 5’11” — Weight 190 lbs [180 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1st Round, #16 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Newhook looked good in his sophomore season at Boston College putting up seven goals and 16 points in 12 games. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors scoring three goals and six points in six games and winning a silver medal. Newhook turned pro after the college season. He split time between the AHL and NHL. In eight AHL games, Newhwook had five goals and nine points. He also added three assists in six NHL regular-season games, as well as a goal and assist in eight playoff games.
Newhook has game-breaking talent. His speed is amongst the best in the class, and he has the acceleration, edgework, and agility to go with it. Newhook makes skating look effortless, almost as if he’s gliding above the ice. He is deadly off the rush, as he can beat defenders in a multitude of ways. His speed makes him a threat to blow by a defender to the outside and cut to the net. He can also make a quick change of direction and cut to the inside of the ice. Newhook can also slow down to open up a shooting lane and use a defender as a screen. He is strong on his skates and has good balance for his age. This can improve with more muscle going forward.
Newhook combines his sublime skating with his hands to make plays at top speed. He also has the smarts to seemingly always make a smart play with the puck. He has the ability to beat defenders with his finesse, and the power game to play in the dirty areas of the ice. Newhook sees the ice well and can find teammates to create a scoring chance. He has passing skills through tight areas on both his forehand and backhand. Newhook is a playmaker both working the cycle game and off the rush. He is able to weave through defenders in the neutral zone, gaining the zone effectively and allowing his team to set up.
A multi-faceted offensive threat, Newhook also has a great shot and a quick release. His one-timer is a real weapon in the faceoff circles. He is not afraid to battle on the boards and to fight for position in front of the net. He is also willing to get to the dirty areas of the ice and take a hit to make a play. Newhook goes hard to the net and is able to finish when he gets there. He can tip in a teammates’ shot, pounce on a rebound, or one-time a quick pass into the back of the net. His soft hands also allow him to deke goalies in tight and put the puck into small openings. Newhook has everything that a scout could want in a top centre.
Newhook has also shown the effort and instincts to be strong in his own end of the ice. He reads the play well and uses his strong positioning to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers. Newhook anticipates well and this helps him to be an effective penalty killer. He is also strong on face-offs. Newhook shows strength for his age and the ability to contain the play down low. He will get better at these aspects as he continues to grow.
Newhook should also make the Avalanche out of training camp. The youngster has the ability to bring a strong secondary scoring threat to the team and provide reliable two-way play in their middle-six right now. The only question is if he will start out at centre or on the wing. His long-term future is down the middle though.
#3 Prospect: Justin Barron
Right Defence — shoots Right
Born November 15th, 2001 — Halifax, Nova Scotia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 195 lbs [188 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1st Round, #25 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
Barron also played for the silver-medal Team Canada squad at the World Juniors, picking up two assists in seven games. He was dominant at the QMJHL level, scoring eight goals and 31 points in 33 games. Following the season, he joined the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. Barron put up a goal and four points in seven regular-season games as well as a goal and two assists in two playoff games.
Barron is an outstanding skater, and this helps him to play a strong two-way game. He gets around the ice quickly and can join the rush or pinch in at the blue line and still get back defensively. Barron has a long smooth stride. He generates high-end top speed and excellent acceleration in both directions. Smooth pivots allow Barron to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He also has excellent edgework and agility. Barron is strong on his skates for his age. He can battle through checks and can also clear the front of the net and battle along the boards. Barron can be even better at this as he continues to mature and get stronger.
Barron can make a smart first pass to start the transition. He also uses his strong skating ability and good stickhandling to skate the puck out of danger and start the rush himself. He doesn’t lead the rush often, instead choosing to head-man the puck and join in as a trailer. Barron makes smart decisions on when to join in and doesn’t take undue risk. He sees the ice well and makes good decisions with the puck. This continues into the offensive zone where he has the vision and playmaking ability to play at the point. He is not overly creative though, preferring to make the safe and smart play.
Barron also has a good point shot. He can fire the puck on the net, keeping it low and allowing his teammates to deflect pucks or pounce on rebounds. Barron does a good job of moving laterally to open up shooting lanes and getting his shot through to the net. He can also sneak down to the faceoff circles and let go of his wrist shot, which is hard and features a quick release. Barron opens up shooting and passing lanes due to his ability to walk the line and create chances.
Barron plays a disciplined defensive game and his skating helps him defend one-on-one situations. His excellent agility and edgework allow him to maintain good gap control. He is very hard to beat in one-on-one situations. Barron always keeps himself between his opponent and the net, forcing them to the outside and into bad shooting angles. He is not a huge hitter, instead preferring to play a disciplined positional game. However, Barron can also play physically, handling his man along the boards and fighting for position in front of the net. He has a long, active stick that cuts down passing and shooting lanes. Barron is also willing to sacrifice and put his body on the line to block shots. He shows his high-end hockey IQ in his ability to read the play, anticipate passes and create turnovers.
Barron’s combination of size, smarts, and skating make him an intriguing prospect. If he is healthy and properly develops, Barron has the potential to be a top-pairing defender playing big minutes. He may never be an elite offensive defenceman but projects as a second unit power play player. Barron’s game still needs time to develop and with Colorado’s strong defence corps, they can give him that time. Expect to see him in the AHL this season.
#4 Prospect: Martin Kaut
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born October 2nd, 1999 — Brno, Czech Republic
Height 6’2″ — Weight 176 lbs [187 cm / 80 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1st round, #16 Overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Kaut started his season in Europe. He put up one goal in four games for Dynamo Pardubice in the Czech League. He also put up three goals and five points in eight games for MoDo in the Allsvenskan. When the North American season finally got started, Kaut joined the Colorado Eagles. He scored six goals and 16 points in 20 AHL games, as well as one assist in two playoff games. Kaut also played five games for the Avalanche but was kept off the score sheet.
Kaut has very good top-end speed. However, his first step and his acceleration can be improved. This makes him dangerous in transition, however, in short bursts he can be beaten to loose pucks or open space. He has a powerful stride that allows him to fight through checks and get to the front of the net. Kaut also has excellent balance and is tough to knock off the puck. This can improve even more as he adds lower-body strength. He also has good edgework and agility, allowing him to fool defenders with quick turns and cuts.
Kaut is a pure goal scorer. His powerful skating ability allows him to drive the net. When he gets there, he has the quick hands to make moves in tight. He can also score by pouncing on rebounds or tipping in shots. Kaut has a very good wrist shot. It is accurate and powerful. He can fool goaltenders from further out with a quick release. Kaut’s snapshot is also above average. He can work on his one-timer though. A smart player, Kaut finds the soft spots in the defence to be open for these shots.
Kaut is also a talented playmaker. He anticipates plays well and makes strong passes to teammates. He works well in the cycle and can make tape-to-tape passes if a teammate finds open space in a scoring area. Kaut does a very good job working off the half-board on the powerplay and can control the game from there. He has very good vision and finds the open man. His lateral movement and quick hands allow Kaut to make a quick move to open up a passing lane.
Kaut is strong positionally and works on the back check. However, he doesn’t do well with physical play. While he is not afraid to take a hit to make a play, he isn’t one to impose his will on opponents along the boards or working down low. He is good at cutting down passing and shooting lanes. Kaut uses his stick to intercept passes. He is not afraid to put his body on the line to block shots.
Kaut likely has another year with the Eagles in his future. He could get another taste of NHL action if the Avalanche run into injury issues and need a winger to play a few games. However, he looks more likely to make a push towards the NHL team in 2022-23.
#5 Prospect: Oskar Olausson
The Avalanche drafted Olausson with the 28th overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Prior to the draft, we took an in-depth look at Olausson. As there has not been a significant sample size of games played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#6 Prospect: Drew Helleson
Right Defence — shoots Right
Born March 26th, 2001 — Farmington, Minnesota
Height 6’3″ — Weight 194 lbs [191 cm/88 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2nd Round, #47 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Helleson played for Team USA at the World Juniors. He put up two goals and four points in seven games and won a gold medal. He also played his sophomore season for Boston College. Helleson put up four goals and 15 points in 22 games.
Helleson has very good speed in both directions. He reaches that top speed quickly with a good first step and very good acceleration. This helps him to join the rush or pinch in at the blueline while still being able to get back defensively and protect his own end. Helleson is strong for his age. This core strength helps him to be strong on the puck and gives him good balance. He battles well along the boards and in clearing the front of the net. Helleson could stand to work on his agility and edgework though. He can sometimes have issues with forwards who force him to move side to side quickly.
Helleson did not put up big stats this year. He did not get much power-play time, due to the quality of other defencemen on the NTDP squad. This lead to somewhat reduced offensive numbers. He has more offensive skill than they seem to suggest though. Helleson is a very good passer. He starts the transition game out of his own zone, making a smart breakout pass to the open man. Helleson also has the ability to make the long breakaway pass if a forward can get behind the opponent’s defence. Helleson handles the puck well. He is poised at the blue line and can pick out a smart pass to a teammate through a small seam.
Helleson could stand to work on his slap shot. The power is merely average and he could do a better job of looking for a shooting lane to get it on the net. Instead, he uses his wrist shot. He makes good use of the wrister when joining the rush as a trailer. He also likes to sneak down to the faceoff circles when his teammates generate long stretches of possession in the offensive zone. Helleson’s wrist shot is very accurate and he has a decent release.
Helleson uses his strong skating ability to play a good defensive game. He forces attackers to the outside and protects the middle of the ice. While he is not a big hitter, he uses his big body effectively to put attackers in bad positions. He is willing to battle opponents on the boards or in front of the net. Helleson uses his stick effectively. He poke-checks opponents, stealing the puck and transitioning it quickly up the ice. He also does a very good job of cutting down passing lanes. Helleson reads the play well. This helps him to anticipate where the next pass is going and get in the way.
Helleson may never become a huge scorer, but projects as a steady two-way defender going forward. With his size, skating and hockey IQ, there is the potential to be a top-four rearguard. However, he will need to continue to work on his agility and edgework to take his game to the next level. He is likely headed back to Boston College for his junior season. He could sign in the spring and should start his career in the AHL. The Avalanche can be patient with his development.
#7 Prospect: Justus Annunen
Goaltender — shoots Left — catches Left
Born March 11th, 2000 — Kempele, Finland
Height 6’3″ — Weight 207 lbs [191 cm / 94 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 3rd round, #64 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Annunen spent last season with Karpat in the SM Liiga. An undisclosed injury delayed the start of his season. In 24 games he put up a 7-9-7 record with a 2.43 goals-against-average, a .884 save percentage, and one shutout. He also played two playoff games going 0-2. After the Finnish season, Annunen joined the Colorado Eagles, getting in two regular-season games and one AHL playoff game.
Skating And Talent Analysis
At 6-foot-4 Annunen has the size that teams are looking for in a modern NHL goalie prospect. He uses all of that size as he stays deep in his crease, not really getting out to cut down angles. While this gives shooters a little more net to shoot at, it also means that he is much quicker at getting across his crease if the puck is passed across the ice. Annunen tracks the puck well. He reads plays and anticipates where the next shot is coming from. He has a good push-off. Annunen can use some work in his technique in getting up and down in his butterfly more quickly. He also needs to close his five-hole a bit quicker. However, his long legs do a good job of taking away the bottom of the net.
His size means that Annunen can still take away the top of the net even when on his knees. He has a good blocker and glove to take away those areas. Like many young goalies, Annunen could use some work on his rebound control. However, he is very athletic and is quick to recover and square up to the puck even when he does give up a rebound. That athleticism means that he can recover to make some highlight-reel saves even when it looks like he is out of position on the play.
Annunen does not get out of his net to play the puck very often. He is very conservative and allows his defencemen to make the plays. This is probably for the best as things can be a bit of an adventure when he does handle the puck outside his crease.
Annunen does a good job of staying calm and cool in the net. He face a lot of shots and plenty of traffic with Karpat last season. Despite this, he was rarely rattled and remained a pillar of strength that his teammates could lean on. When he gives up a bad goal, Annunen recovers quickly and is ready for the next shot. He does not allow things to spiral out of control. He reads the play well and knows when his team is in need of a line change, looking to cover up and get a faceoff.
Annunen comes over to North America full-time this season. He will likely play for the Colorado Eagles as he adjusts to the North American-sized ice surface and continues to refine his goalies. Many young goalies are long-term projects and Annunen is no different. He likely needs two or three years before he is ready to make an impact in the NHL.
#8 Prospect: Sampo Ranta
Right Wing / Left Wing — shoots Left
Born May 31st, 2000 — Naantali, Finland
Height 6’2″ — Weight 195 lbs [188 cm / 89 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 3rd Round, #78 Overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Ranta had a strong third season with the University of Minnesota. He put up 19 goals and 31 points in 31 games, helping the Gophers to a Big 10 Title. He was named a Big 10 All-Star, an All-American (West), and 2nd Team all USCHO. After the season he signed with the Avalanche and joined the Eagles in the AHL. Ranta scored four goals and seven points in 14 regular-season games as well as a goal and two points in two playoff games. He also got his first taste of NHL action, playing two games for the Avalanche in the playoffs.
Ranta is a very good skater. He has exceptionally quick acceleration, reaching top speed in just a few strides. That speed allows him to earn separation from defenders and create breakaways and odd-man rushes. His top-end speed is also very good. Ranta can take a man wide and drop his shoulder, and head to the net. Ranta is also agile. He has good edgework and can change directions quickly, or avoid a defender with a quick move. Ranta could stand to work on his strength, to be better on the boards and in front of the net going forward.
A highly skilled player, Ranta is a natural goal scorer. He has an outstanding wrist shot and a lightning-quick release. The same can be said about his snapshot. He also has an absolute bomb of a slap shot. Ranta can score from the slot and the top of the circles. If he gets a break on the defence, he also has the quick hands to beat a goaltender in tight to the net. While best known for his goal-scoring, Raanta can also play the role of playmaker. He has good vision and passing skills. His assist totals would be higher if his teammates were strong enough offensively to finish more plays he makes.
As Ranta has matured, he has added muscle to his frame and this has taken his game to the next level. He used to shy away from physical situations but is now willing to get to the front of the net to make a play. He is also willing to battle for loose pucks on the boards. While he will likely never be known as a power forward, this increased intensity has made a huge difference. There are still times he can return to old habits and start to play a perimeter game but these are becoming fewer and farther between.
Ranta’s defensive game is still a work in progress at this point in his career but has also improved with his increased muscle mass. He is still a bit inconsistent though. At his best, he gets involved in supporting the defence down low and battling on the boards. He also poke-checks opponents or uses an active stick to create turnovers. There are other times he seems uninterested in playing in his own zone, watching the puck and just waiting for an opportunity to get back on the attack. He needs to show a lot more consistent intensity in supporting the play in the defensive end. Ranta is also seen to fly the zone at times, looking to create offence before even finishing his defensive responsibilities.
Ranta is the type of player who will drive pro coaches crazy. There is clearly a ton of offensive skill here. However, he will need to work on his compete level to excel at the next level. It has improved a lot as he’s matured but Ranta must work to be more consistent and willing to battle in the dirty areas of the ice going forward. This includes both the defensive and offensive zone. If he brings that consistency every night, Ranta is skilled enough to play in the NHL. He is looking to make the Avalanche in this year’s camp but is more likely to end up in the AHL and be a call-up when injuries occur.
#9 Prospect: Sean Behrens
The Avalanche drafted Behrens with the 61st overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Prior to the draft, we took an in-depth look at Behrens. As there has not been a significant sample size of games played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#10 Prospect: Jean-Luc Foudy
Centre/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born May 13th, 2002 — Scarborough, Ontario
Height 5’11” — Weight 177 lbs [180 cm/80 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 3rd Round, #75 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
With the start of North American hockey seasons delayed, Foudy started his season in the third division of Swedish hockey, the HockeyEttan. He put up two goals and three points in ten games. He then joined the Colorado Eagles, scoring three goals and 14 points in 34 games. Foudy also added one assist in two playoff games.
Foudy is amongst the fastest players in the OHL, with his stride generating outstanding speed. He also has a very quick first step and excellent acceleration, allowing him to reach that speed in just a few strides. Foudy can generate breakaways by getting behind the defence on the breakout and taking a long pass from a teammate. He also has outstanding edgework and agility. Foudy is an absolute nightmare for a defender on the rush. He can beat them in a variety of ways. Foudy can work on adding more core strength though. By becoming stronger, he will have better balance and tougher to knock off the puck. This is something that may come as he becomes more mature physically.
Foudy will need to work on improving his hands and his shooting to pair with that skating ability and become a truly dynamic offensive threat. Foudy is an effective playmaker with good vision and passing skills. Foudy makes quick cuts and changes speed very well. This opens passing lanes and changes angles. With good vision and passing skills, he is able to set up teammates for high-quality chances. He reads the play well and can anticipate where teammates are going to be and make a pass to them.
Foudy scores most of his goals in tight to the net. He has the speed to generate breakaways, and the soft hands to beat goaltenders in that situation. He could stand to get to the net more without the puck though. While he is willing to take the puck to the net, he needs to be willing to get there without the puck and take the physical pounding to create offence. He can also work to improve his wrist shot. As he gains strength, this may come.
Foudy has games where he is dominant. He can be dangerous on every shift, and look like the best player on the ice. He also has games where he is near invisible and does not create much. Foudy could work on being more consistent game-in and game-out.
Foudy is also well-advanced defensively for an 18-year-old. His speed helps him in the defensive end. He can create turnovers and quickly transition to offence. Foudy is strong positionally and reads the play well. He provides effective backpressure against the transition game. He needs to work on being more physical though when he is supporting the defence down low on the backcheck. Foudy is willing to be involved but can be overpowered by bigger, stronger opponents. He also needs to work on his faceoffs if he is going to play centre at the next level.
Projection and Comparison
Foudy has played both centre and wing but has been better when used on the wing. He has the speed and passing skills to be a top-six forward at the next level but must improve his goal-scoring ability. Foudy also needs to improve his shot. He is a bit of a project, but the elite skating and strong puckhandling skills make him a risk worth taking. Next season will be huge for Foudy. With the 20 game rule, he could play in the AHL, however, that league looked a step too far for him right now. Another year in the OHL would be best as Foudy will look to play big minutes and all situations for Windsor.
Sleeper Prospect: Colby Ambrosio
Centre — shoots Right
Born August 7th, 2002 — Welland, Ontario
Height 5’9″ — Weight 169 lbs [175 cm/77 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 4th Round, #118 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
In his freshman season with Boston College, Ambrosio scored seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 24 games. He helped the Eagles to the Hockey East Regular Season Title.
While Ambrosio is undersized, he makes up for it with his elite skating ability. His first type is explosive and he reaches top-speed very quickly with excellent acceleration. Ambrosio has very good top-end speed. He is a threat to beat a defender wide and cut to the front of the net as well get behind the defence for a breakaway. Ambrosio also has excellent edgework and agility. He can accelerate out of turns with strong crossovers. His ability to change directions on a dime can also be used as a weapon, as he can get by defenders both with and without the puck. Ambrosio’s lower body is strong and he has good balance. He can fight through checks and is stronger on the puck than one would expect from a 5-foot-9 forward. His low centre of gravity helps Ambrosio in battles on the boards and in front of the net.
Ambrosio pairs his strong skating with good hands. He can make moves while skating at top speed. This helps him to control the puck through the neutral zone and generate successful zone entries. He is also dangerous on the rush. When the puck is in the offensive zone, he can slow down the play or speed it up as necessary. With good vision and playmaking skills, he controls the play along the half-boards on the power play. He can quarterback things from this spot, setting up teammates for scoring opportunities. His good lateral movement and quick hands can make moves on opponents to open up passing lanes. One criticism though is that he plays too much on the perimeter, not taking the puck to dangerous areas.
Ambrosio also has a good arsenal of shots. His wrist shot and snapshot are powerful and accurate. They also feature a quick release. He likes to set up in the faceoff circle and let go of a one-timer. Ambrosio is confident and not afraid to shoot from anywhere. He scores goals by taking a high volume of shots on the net. When he doesn’t have the puck, Ambrosio is willing to play a gritty game. He is involved in battles along the boards and getting in on the forecheck. When there is a scrum, he is often in the middle of it.
Ambrosio is also relentless in puck pursuit in his own end of the ice. He is willing to support the defence against the cycle game and work down low. He also brings back pressure against the rush. However, his lack of size and strength becomes an issue here. Ambrosio can be overpowered and beaten by bigger, stronger opponents. He has good positioning and works to cut down passing lanes, but again size is an issue as he lacks a long stick to cut down those passes.
Projection and Comparison
Ambrosio has the offensive skills necessary to make an impact but he is still a risk due to the lack of size. While he’s been good, his offensive ability is not overwhelming opponents at the NCAA or USHL levels, so there is a question if it is high-end enough to overcome his lack of size at the next level. If he develops, he could become a top-nine centre but may need sheltered minutes and careful match-ups to not face the best players on an opponent. Expect to see Ambrosio back in the NCAA this season.
Other 2021 Colorado Avalanche Prospects
Joe Sakic has done a very good job of rebuilding the Avalanche and they have one of the best teams in hockey. They also have both high-end prospects and plenty of depth in the system. The team’s goalie prospects also include Trent Miner and Shamil Shmakov. On the blue line, the Avalanche have Daniil Zhuravlyov, Nick Leivermann, Keaton Middleton, Dennis Gilbert, and Nathan Clurman in the system. They are long shots but are worth keeping an eye on. Forward prospects to watch include Mikhail Maltsev, Nikolai Kovalenko, Shane Bowers, Andreas Wingerli, Alex Beaucage, Nick Henry, Matthew Steinburg, and Tyler Weiss.
2021 Colorado Avalanche Prospects Main Photo:
TAHOE, NV – FEBRUARY 20: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram (4) skates during the Bridgestone NHL Outdoor game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, February, 20, 2021 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Lake Tahoe, Nev. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)