Colorado Avalanche Win One of Three in Vegas Rookie Faceoff

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Martin Kaut
BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 02: Martin Kaut #16 of Czech Republic during the third period of play against Finland in the IIHF World Junior Championships Quarterfinal game at the KeyBank Center on January 2, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images)

Over the weekend starting on September 8th, Vegas hosted a six-team rookie tournament called the Vegas Rookie Faceoff. It allowed teams wrapping up their rookie camps to get their guys some game experience, an extra opportunity to impress their teams and also wear game jerseys with NHL logos on them. Participants included the Vegas Golden Knights, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Colorado Avalanche.

Avalanche Go 1-2 in Vegas Rookie Faceoff

Each team played three games over the weekend, and fans attending saw a large pool of the league’s future players. The Avalanche finished with one victory over the Sharks, but two losses to the Knights and Ducks. They scored 14 goals in that span while giving up 15.

Below is a quick snapshot recap of each game the Avs played in the Vegas Rookie Faceoff.

Game 1: 7-6 Loss to Vegas Golden Knights

By the end of the first period, this game appeared to be destined for an awful blowout.

Vegas potted five goals in the first period, taking a 5-0 lead with them to the locker room. Three of those came on the power play for the Knights, who finished the night 4-for-6 with the man advantage. The Avs got it to 6-2 by the end of the second and then pulled to within one with still ten minutes to go in the third. However, the comeback fell short there, finishing with a 7-6 loss.

Starting goaltender Petr Kvaca finished with 15 saves on 21 shots; he swapped at the halfway point with Justus Annunen, who stopped seven of the eight shots he faced. Colorado outshot the Knights 35-29 overall, but their poor first period (where they were outshot 15-10) simply turned out to be too much to overcome.

Game 2: 5-2 Loss to Anaheim Ducks

After a scoreless first period, Colorado got their first lead of the tournament in the second. They went up 2-1 but found themselves trailing 3-2 before the period ended. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find a way to score again and gave up three more in the third (one being an empty netter). The Avs dropped their second game of the weekend by a 5-2 final score.

Annunen played the entire game, recording 31 saves on 36 shots. Colorado trailed in shots by a 37-29 total.

Game 3: 6-3 Victory over San Jose Sharks

Colorado took a 2-1 lead in the first period, which held up for most of the night. The Sharks drew it to a 2-2 tie, but at the halfway point in the third the Avs really took over. Colorado posted four goals in the final 12 minutes of play, holding on to win by a final score of 6-3.

Like Annunen in game two, Kvaca received the full length of the game between the pipes against San Jose. He impressed too, stopping 33 of 36 shots in route to the win. Considering the Avs only posted 28 shots of their own, Kvaca truly performed well holding his team in the game all the way to the victory.

Colorado’s Top Performers

In a weekend like the Vegas Rookie Faceoff, players are desperate to separate themselves from the pack. Colorado had a few players there who had just recently signed entry-level contracts with the club. Plenty of these guys aimed to receive a main camp invitation after the weekend, and a few did everything they could to make that a reality.

Many players found their way onto the scoresheet at least once, but a few did so continually. Rookie Brandon Saigeon recorded five goals across three games for the Avs, recording at least one goal every night. He stood out as the team’s hottest scorer. Forward Logan O’Connor, who just signed with the Avs after his senior year at Denver University (NCAA Div I) logged two goals and an assist as well. Lastly, Matthew Boucher was the only other player besides Saigeon to score in more than one game, finishing with two goals.

After a rough first game, Kvaca stole the show in the Avs victory over San Jose. Wrapping up the Vegas Rookie Faceoff with a win felt great for the bunch, and Kvaca’s stellar performance made that possible. Colorado had no shortage of offense, but they gave up a lot of goals themselves. That last game was the only time they received the goaltending and defensive play necessary to close out a win.

Avalanche Main Camp Underway, Rookies Too

Of the 29 players on the Avs roster for the Vegas Rookie Faceoff, 17 received invitations to Training Camp. This included 11 of the 17 forwards, six of ten defensemen, and neither of the two goalies.

Considered a lock from the beginning, Vladislav Kamenev is the only guy who attended both the Vegas Rookie Faceoff and main camp with NHL game experience already under his belt. First-round pick Martin Kaut also made the cut, as well as 2017 second rounder Conor Timmins.

After strong tournament performances, Saigeon and O’Connor are attending the main camp too. While O’Connor was expected after his contract offer this summer, Saigeon comes as a major surprise; he just recently got drafted by the team in the fifth round at the 2018 draft. Passed over in the NHL draft twice, the 20-year-old is eligible to play in the AHL this season. The only other 2018 pick attending camp is first-round selection Kaut. In fact, only three selections from 2017 are there.

Wrapping it Up

Despite two losses in three games, the Avs can be pleased with the results of the Vegas Rookie Faceoff. The purpose was not to rack up victories but to see how players are developing. Considering the fact that 17 players from the tournament are now in the main camp, Colorado appears to be pleased with the majority of their prospects. A few of them, such as O’Connor and Kamenev, will be fighting in hopes for a roster spot out of camp and into the season. A few surprises leave the team happy too, paving the way for some healthy competition going forward.

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