Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Colorado Avalanche Community!

Colorado Avalanche Top 10 Prospects

AJ Haefele Avatar
June 29, 2015


With the NHL Entry Draft completed this past weekend, there’s been an infusion of youth and talent into the Colorado Avalanche organization. The trade of Ryan O’Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres also helped the Avalanche remake their prospect pool, previously one of the NHL’s weakest, in the span of just two days.

The BSN Avalanche staff got together and voted on the order of Colorado’s top prospects. The only stipulations on the list were that newly-acquired Nikita Zadorov was not considered a prospect anymore but Joey Hishon, Stefan Elliott, and Mikhail Grigorenko are. The following list is the result of that voting.

#1 Mikko Rantanen, Right Wing

The 10th overall selection in the draft last Friday, Rantanen was the slam dunk number one player on the list. With his special blend of size, skating, and skill Rantanen has a chance to make the Avalanche roster right out of the gate. As a right wing, he plays the position where Colorado is weakest in the organization and is the best winger drafted by the Avs since captain Gabriel Landeskog in 2011.

The Finnish star carried his lackluster TPS squad in Liiga, Finland’s highest professional league, scoring 28 points in 56 games as an 18-year old. He was ranked as the number one European skater by all the major scouting services. His drop to the 10th selection on draft day was a mild surprise for many as he is projected to be a big-time difference maker in the NHL.

#2 Chris Bigras, Defense

The cerebral Bigras has an exceptional season for the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL, finishing with 71 points in 62 games before making his jump to the AHL where he notched 4 points in 7 games for the Lake Erie Monsters. Bigras’ dominance in the OHL was so highly thought of that he finished second in Western Confence Best Offensive Defenseman, Best Defensive Defenseman, and Smartest Player voting. He also made the OHL’s First All-Star Team.

An exceptionally smart two-way defenseman, Bigras is the best all-around defensive prospect the Avalanche have developed in years. He is expected to begin the season in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage but he will be in the NHL full-time sooner rather than later.

#3 Calvin Pickard, Goalie

What a difference a year makes, eh? This time last year, Pickard was involved in a heated goaltending battle with Sami Aittokallio that had been going on for years in the AHL. This past season, Pickard finally separated himself from the pack, putting up excellent numbers in the AHL before multiple call-ups to the NHL resulted in an outstanding .934 save percentage, putting him on the map as one of the best goalies in hockey not playing in the NHL full-time.

Still just 23-years old, Pickard will enter training camp in the fall as the top goalie for the Rampage but should he outperform incumbent backup Reto Berra, he will start the year in Colorado as the team’s full-time backup. Even if that doesn’t come to fruition, Pickard is the long-term solution as the backup behind starter Semyon Varlamov and could be a darkhorse to be the future starter depending on things go in the next couple of years.

#4 Mikhail Grigorenko, Center

Where to begin with this guy? Drafted 12th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, Grigorenko was expected to be a game-changing center for the Buffalo Sabres. Instead, a coach and GM desperately trying to save their jobs rushed him to the NHL, played him 4th line minutes with bad players and then punished him when he struggled to succeed in that situation by constantly shuffling him back and forth between juniors, the AHL, and NHL.

With a new regime in Buffalo last year, he was finally allowed to go down to the AHL to develop some without having to be “the man” and his game took off as he rattled off 36 points in 43 games, showing the explosive offensive ability that made him the 3rd-best NA skater in his draft year. In Colorado, it’s unclear where he will begin because his waiver status complicates matters but the team will definitely find a place for him.

Being re-united with his junior head coach Patrick Roy could just be the magical elixir needed to get the best out of the uber-talented Grigorenko, who scored 85 goals in 115 games under Roy’s tutelage in juniors.

#5 Joey Hishon, Center

Another player whose 2014-15 re-ignited the flame on him as a prospect. His story of missing two years due to concussions is well-known so we won’t re-hash it all here. All that matters is that Hishon finally broke through for the Monsters last year, scoring 36 points in 53 games and playing a strong enough two-way game to earn a call-up to the Avalanche.

Once in Colorado, Hishon was woefully underused by Patrick Roy as he wanted to see his young center prove himself capable on both ends of the ice. Hishon acclimated well to the limited minutes, driving possession and creating scoring chances from the fourth line before earning bigger minutes in the end. He provided maybe the highlight of the year when he scored the eventual game-winning goal against the Nashville Predators, showcasing all of the skills that made him a first round selection in 2010.

#6 Conner Bleackley, Center

The 2014 first round draft pick, Bleackley suddenly finds himself behind a collection of talent that either wasn’t there last year or made a major leap in their development to pass him up even though he did nothing but have another very good year in the WHL for the Red Deer Rebels. Before an injury ended his season prematurely, Bleackley hummed along as the engine of the Red Deer offense, scoring 49 points (on 27 goals!) in just 51 games played.

Going into next season, Bleackley is looking at one more year in the WHL before jumping to professional hockey for good. While there’s still some uncertainty at his position in the future, whether it be center or right wing, Bleackley is the kind of smart, hard-working player who can excel in any position he’s placed in. Look for him to have a big season this year for the Rebels.

#7 Stefan Elliott, Defense

The first of two straight polarizing prospects, Stefan Elliott is also the last player to have appeared on every single top 10 list. An AHL All-Star and 19-goal scorer, the electric offensive game of Elliott hasn’t been enough to convince Avalanche brass that he’s worth giving a legitimate NHL shot to. Given a 5-game cup of coffee, Elliott produced shots at a ridiculous clip and drove offense better than anyone outside of Tyson Barrie and it still wasn’t enough to be kept around.

Stagnant development of his defensive game has led to Elliott likely being an odd-man out on the blue line in Colorado’s future and would be an excellent buy-low option for another team looking for a quality young player who needs NHL ice time. Despite being a talented and productive player, it appears his future in Colorado is no more than an AHL player, a confusing waste of development time and legitimate NHL-caliber talent.

#8 Duncan Siemens, Defense

Like Elliott, the Duncan Siemens development track has been closely watched by Avalanche observers and at times it hasn’t made much sense. After taking a little longer to get to pro hockey than most first round picks, Siemens has been slow to develop in the AHL as injuries have held him to just 100 games played in two seasons.

A defensive-defenseman to through and through, the physically imposing Siemens was given one NHL game last year, on the season’s final day, to show what he was made of. While there were plenty of the expected bumps in the road, Siemens certainly did himself no disservice as he played a positionally sound game and threw his weight around at will. His future remains a bit murky with the Avs suddenly looking at a glut of NHL contracts on the blue line but his time as a top call-up option should be this season.

#9 Nicolas Meloche, Defense

Drafted 40th overall last Saturday, Meloche has already won over some of our voters as he appeared as high as 5th on one ballot. An extremely smart and physical player, Meloche also has enough of an offensive game to contribute on a second power play unit and he has an impressive frame with plenty of room to fill out.

#10 A.J. Greer, Left Wing

The 39th draft pick last weekend, the big power forward was drafted a bit earlier than most expected, although we here at BSN have been all over Greer since the end of the season when we began our prospect scouting process. A raw but wildly talented forward, Greer is a player to keep an eye on as he plays at one of the NCAA’s powerhouse programs in Boston University.

Honorable Mentions

Mason Geertsen, Defense

The big defenseman from the Vancouver Giants had another exceptional year even though his team did not qualify for the postseason. He has been a big-time riser in the system and is a player to keep an eye in San Antonio next year.

Kyle Wood, Defense

Like Geertsen, this is another big-bodied defenseman drafted in the middle rounds as a raw player who could develop and like Geertsen, develop he has. A big-time offensive year from Wood has him leaping up prospect rankings and look for him to continue opening eyes along North Bay’s blue line next season.

J.T. Compher, Left Wing

A high-energy forward for the University of Michigan, Compher’s addition to the Ryan O’Reilly trade was a sneaky one that could pay huge dividends for the Avalanche down the road. For now, the BSN staff is intrigued but wants to see more of him before jumping him into the top 10.

Andrew Aggozino, Left Wing

After a 30-goal season in the AHL last year, you’d think Aggozino could get more love from the panel of voters than this but he appeared on only two ballots with a high rank of 9th. His diminutive size and the team’s reluctance to promote him is likely holding him back on this list but another productive season from him and he could be a player that shoots up this board.

Other players who received votes: Spencer Martin, Borna Rendulic, Jean-Christophe Beaudin, Will Butcher, and Freddie Hamilton.


Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?