Sam Malinski

He was the star of the show in Game 1 as he recorded the game-winning goal in overtime and two assists for a three-point night in a game where the Avalanche scored…three times. Pretty good ratio for a kid trying to use this experience as a showcase for why he belongs as a serious contender for the NHL roster sooner than later.

It was an all-around encouraging performance for Malinski. The only pockmark I can think of is that he quarterbacked what was a really brutal power play for most of the game but even that unit eventually found paydirt on its sixth attempt off a play started by Malinski after a won faceoff.

His skating and and aggressive attack mentality were fully displayed in this game but the details were just as impressive. Wearing the ‘C’ on his chest, Malinski was frequently talking through things with teammates before faceoffs as it was obvious he garnered immediate respect from the guys on the ice with him. That’s the kind of thing that organizations love to see.

His head-to-head work against star Arizona prospect Logan Cooley was fun to watch as each player made their case for why they should be in the NHL this upcoming season. Cooley definitely will be and Malinski holding his own should bolster his case, too.

Trent Miner

Normally goalies are completely hung out to dry in these things because the teams in front of them aren’t playing to any kind of systems and are regularly disjointed messes who score mostly on broken plays because guys don’t have a feel for where their teammates are going to be in important situations. That bore fruit today except Trent Miner…rose above it and put a sparkling performance on the ice.

This is probably a bigger deal for Miner than it should be but the reality is that he has not an abundance of opportunity at even the AHL level so far in his career. He’s entering the final season of his entry-level contract and that means he needs to start putting some tape out there, for the Avs or another club.

Tonight was a great start. When the Avs were getting swarmed in the first period, Miner stood tall despite the two Josh Doan goals getting by him. From there, he locked it down and when the Coyotes had chances to put the dagger in or outright end the game, he didn’t budge. A great game from Miner and I expect it is the last we see of him at this event.

Jason Polin

This was a very impressive showing from Polin. When you’re competing for depth jobs and you don’t play center, you have to find avenues other than scoring to impact games. Boy, was that mission accomplished for Polin.

He played with the kind of maturity you’d expect from a 24-year-old who is among the older players at this event (and still younger than Malinski, who is 25). His polish and strong two-way game really popped as he was making smart plays with the puck but also playing with a notable physicality as he registered the games two biggest hits that drew the ire of the Coyotes and the “oohs” from the crowd.

While he didn’t score, he had some quality chances that he got with aggressive decision-making and an ability to outplay the opposition. All in all, I walked out of this believing that was the best version I’ve personally seen of Polin and hoping he keeps it up.

His positional versatility makes a path to making the team very narrow, but boy did I love his overall game tonight.


Oskar Olausson

This isn’t a traditional “dud” in that I usually save this space for a player who I think didn’t play very well. That’s not the case here with Olausson as I liked some of what he did but he also left me wanting just a bit, so here he is.

What I liked is that his skill level continues to jump off the ice. When the puck is on his stick, his game comes alive. He looks transformed when he’s trying to make plays with the puck. He was aggressive in finding shooting lanes and I thought he used his size well, which is one of my larger complaints with his overall game.

The areas I didn’t like are familiar foes for Olausson’s development. He’s too soft on the puck for a player his size as he tried multiple times to utilize his impressive size and skating combination to beat defenders wide and his skating is so good he could get the corner but he consistently failed to keep the puck on his stick when he took any kind of contact. That’s a problem for a player under 5’10”, not one for a player listed at 6’2″ and 190 pounds.

The other aspect of Olausson’s game that I struggle with is his play away from the puck. If he looked as alive without the puck as he does with it, I believe he’d be a full-time NHL player right now. That isn’t the case, however, as he seems to gear down his intensity and disengage mentally at times. He’s still awfully young but when guys get into multiple AHL seasons, it gets late really early.

Unsung Hero

Maros Jedlicka

This kid was a total unknown coming into this game and this was a dandy first impression. He notched an assist on the game-tying goal as it was his shot that created the rebound that got put home but it was the rest of his game that was so encouraging.

The number one thing you saw from Jedlicka in this game was a high motor. He played hard every shift and put pressure on Coyotes puck carriers with an almost reckless abandon. It was the aggression that drew the penalty that led to the game-tying goal, in fact.

Jedlicka turns 21 in October so he doesn’t have the kind of physical maturity that guys such as Polin and Malinski do but he arguably accomplished more with his physical play than either of the other guys. That’s saying something because Polin’s greatest impact came with his physicality, but I thought Jedlicka was consistently more effective in that area.

Work ethic is an easy thing to fall in love with at these events because some guys won’t gear it up all the way, but those are also usually guys who don’t go on to have lengthy careers in pro hockey. Jedlicka’s willingness to lay it on the line in this setting makes him easy to root for and I am excited to see more from him.

The area I’d like to see more is his play with the puck. He was hit and miss in that tonight and I’d love to continue getting a better feel for what I think his strengths and weaknesses are. He’s an interesting evaluation and I love that he didn’t feel he was too good to make the trek from Slovakia to show what he could do here.


A.J. Haefele was born in Aurora, Colorado, raised in Katy, Texas and is the Colorado Avalanche beat reporter for DNVR. AJ helped launch the network back in 2015 and has filled roles as a team leader and Editor-In- Chief, along with co-hosting the DNVR draft podcasts along with his other duties. You can hear him every weekday on the DNVR Avalanche podcast. Follow AJ on Twitter - @returnofaj

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