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Avalanche Prospect Portfolio: Kovalenko and Gulyayev start right

Nathan Rudolph Avatar
October 17, 2023

It’s mid-October and once more every major hockey league around the world is up and running. The Avs prospect pool this year is predictably thin as any team would be smack dab in the middle of a cup window, but they still hold a handful of intriguing pieces that could go a long way in providing cheap options in the near future.


The Eagles kicked off the season with a pair of losses to the Grand Rapids Griffins, with Justus Annunen up with the Avs it was a bit of a squirrely start in net but there are still a few intriguing skaters for Colorado.

Caleb Jones – D

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
2 0 1 1 2 -1

Just to be clear, Caleb Jones is not in any way a prospect. He is however someone who is very likely to see NHL action this season. It’s certainly safe to say the Avs have a type when it comes to blueliners. Watch Jones read, pinch, and dish on this play to set up Peter Holland.



Maros Jedlicka – C (HKM Zvolen) round 7, pick 219, 2023

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-

After an encouraging rookie faceoff, training camp, and preseason Jedlicka unfortunately got hurt in his final preseason game. It’s not exactly clear how long he will be out for and before the injury there were rumors of him sticking around in North America but as of now, he is listed on his Slovakian as we await his return.

Sampo Ranta – LW (MODO) round 3, pick 78, 2018

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
8 1 3 4 0 -7

I’m not really sure where Ranta’s status is with Colorado, leaving the AHL and opting out of signing his QO with the Avs to go play in Sweden. For what it’s worth he is producing pretty well in the early days of his SHL career and the Avs have his NHL rights for the next four years. We’ll see if Ranta wants to come back ever.


Cal Ritchie – C (Oshawa Generals) round 1, pick 27, 2023

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-

Ritchie is the Avs’ first selection from the 2023 draft and after playing the majority of his draft year with a shoulder injury he elected for offseason surgery. The return timeline on his recovery has become a bit murky after expectations of him being ready to go at the start of the season have now been pushed back, with reports that he is unlikely to play before November. The Avs’ track record of drafting injured players is less than stellar but they haven’t committed to one as high as the first round in recent memory. Hopefully, a healthy Ritchie can shine this season once he returns.


Colby Ambrosio – C (Boston College) round 4, pick 118, 2020

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
2 0 1 1 0 1

Ambrosio is entering his final year of College and as Avs property. Despite some tantalizing ability, his first three NCAA seasons have left you wanting more. A big season is probably necessary for him to be in the conversation for an NHL contract and if he does that he may well end up signing elsewhere.

Sean Behrens – D (Denver) round 2, pick 61, 2021

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
2 0 3 3 0 2

Behrens almost certainly has a contract waiting for him at the end of this season if he wants it. With little left to prove at the NCAA level, you would love to see him polish up all the details of his game and hit the AHL skating ready for pro hockey. A three-assist night on opening weekend helps too.

Andrei Buyalsky – C (Vermont) round 3, pick 92, 2021

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
2 0 1 1 0 0

Buyalsky is now a 23-year-old junior at Vermont, anything less than dominance is probably not going to be good enough for him to take that next step into pro hockey and if I’m being honest I’m not sure he has it in him, but hey I’m wrong all the time.

Taylor Makar – C (UMASS) round 7, pick 220, 2021

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
3 0 2 2 4 1

Makar continues his quest to become a bonafide NHL prospect and not just a pick to make his brother happy. UMASS is not the beast they were a few years ago and there should be plenty of opportunity for the younger Makar to make hay. The clear question is offensive upside, let’s see what type of numbers he can put up this season.


Mikhail Gulyayev – D (Avangard Omsk) round 1, pick 31, 2023

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
17 2 3 5 0 5

Cards on the table, I love this kid. Take my bias for what it is but Gulyayev checks a whole lot of boxes as a modern NHL defenseman. Particularly for the Avs, he can fly, has great vision, and isn’t afraid to send it. There are going to be question marks on his ability to play actual defense but that is not an unusual hurdle for Russian defensemen. He just signed a three-year extension with Omsk so it is going to be a bit until he even has the option to come to North America. Carving out a KHL role as an 18-year-old is no small feat. Plus he’s already making beautiful plays like this.

Nikita Ishimnikov – D (Auto Yekaterinburg) round 5, pick 155, 2023

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
6 0 1 1 8 -4

Ishimnikov…exists? I don’t know, he’s a young D playing in Russian juniors. Ask again in a couple of years to see where his progress is at and if he has any interest in coming over.

Nikolai Kovalenko – RW (Nizhny Novogorod Torpedo) round 6, pick 171, 2018

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
11 4 9 13 12 3

Signed to a contract and simply waiting for the end of the KHL season to get his chance in North America, Kovalenko is spending his final season in Russia dominating…and then getting injured. While Kovalenko has missed seven games, the injury doesn’t seem too serious. Assuming health, the only question left when it comes to Kovalenko is, is it March yet?


Chris Romaine – D (Green Bay Gamblers) round 6, pick 193, 2022

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
8 0 2 2 2 -1

Romaine continues on the extremely long path towards pro hockey (a la Nate Clurman) as a 2nd-year USHL player at age 19 before heading off to Providence College next year. An NHL contract is probably still four years away if it ever comes but the aforementioned Clurman has turned himself into a solid AHL defenseman, that should be Romaine’s goal.

Ivan Zhigalov – G (Tri-City Storm) round 7, pick 225, 2022

Games Played Wins Losses OTW OTL Save % GAA
2 0 2 0 0 .889 3.59

After a bunch of uncertainty on where he was going to play this offseason Zhigalov ended up in the USHL with Tri-City and got off to a less than ideal start. At this point, it looks like there are probably too many hurdles in front of him to really push for an NHL contract.


Jeremy Hanzel – D (Seattle Thunderbirds) round 6, pick 187, 2023

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM +/-
3 1 3 4 0 3

As an overager, it sure seemed to me like the best course of action was to find room for Hanzel in the AHL this season but with the addition of Caleb Jones, it became extremely obvious there wasn’t any room. Back in the WHL the expectation for Hanzel should be to dominate, and a three-point game this weekend has helped start him off right. The Avs have a pretty poor track record of getting even effective AHL players out of overage Canadian Junior draft picks but hopefully Hanzel can buck that trend.


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