Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and 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 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today we look at the 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 2019-20 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.
Colorado Avalanche Prospects
Led by their number one line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche took the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Once in the playoffs, the Avalanche looked overmatched, losing Game 1 of their first-round series to the top-seeded Calgary Flames by a score of 4-0. Things quickly turned though. The Avalanche dominated the rest of the series and won in five games. The team then gave the San Jose Sharks everything they could handle, losing in the second round in seven games. The team seems to be growing at a quick pace.
In the off-season, Joe Sakic moved quickly to address the team’s need for secondary scoring. He traded for Andrei Burakovsky, as well as Nazem Kadri, and signed Joonas Donskoi to give the team a whole new second line. Other notable additions include Calle Rosen, Pierre-Edouard Bellemere, and Kevin Connaughton. Those leaving the organization are Semyon Varlamov, Alex Kerfoot, Tyson Barrie, Carl Soderberg, Patrick Nemeth, Gabriel Bourque, and Derick Brassard. The Avalanche have an outstanding prospect group though, and it is their growth that holds the key to franchise taking the next step in the coming years.
Top Prospect: Cale Makar
Defence — shoots Right
Born October 30th, 1998 — Calgary, Alberta
Height 5’11” — Weight 190 lbs [180 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 1st round, #4 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Makar did it all in the NCAA this season. He put up 16 goals and 49 points in 41 games for UMass Amherst, helping his team all the way to the Frozen Four Final. Makar also won a number of prestigious individual awards, including the Hobey Baker for the top player in all of college hockey. When the college season was done, he signed with the Avs, making an instant impact in the playoffs with a goal and six points in 10 games.
Makar is a little undersized but has impressed with outstanding skating ability. He is quick in both directions. He has very good speed and acceleration. However, it is in his agility and edgework where he really shines. Makar has excellent lateral mobility and can cover a ton of ice. His pivots are crisp and clean, allowing him to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice-versa. He can pinch deep or join the rush, and also get back defensively. While Makar may not be able to take quite as many chances at higher levels of hockey, his skating skill should continue to be a big advantage in his game. Makar also has very good core strength and balance, making him tough to knock off the puck.
Makar can be an offensive force. He has a very good wrist shot, as well as a strong slap shot. A bit more strength on his frame could make that slap shot an even bigger weapon in his arsenal. Makar’s skating and lateral agility allow him to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. He understands how to get his shot through traffic, as well as how to keep it low and on the net. This helps his teammates to set up screens, capitalize on rebounds, and make deflections. He also has excellent stickhandling abilities and can rush the puck from end-to-end. Makar can also join the rush as a trailer, picking good opportunities to add offence from the back end.
Makar is a very intelligent player. He shows high hockey IQ and makes smart plays both with and without the puck. Add in strong passing skills and excellent vision and Makar is a threat to generate a scoring chance nearly every time he touches the puck. He uses his stickhandling ability to change angles and to create passing lanes to set up a scoring chance for a teammate.
Makar is strong positionally and effective in gap control. He takes away opponents time and space and angles them well to the outside. He also has a quick stick, allowing him to poke check opponents and to create turnovers. Once he has the puck, he transitions it quickly out of his zone and starts the attack. Makar isn’t the most physical defenceman though. He continues to get stronger each year, which will help him to compete against the bigger, stronger players he will face in the NHL level. There is still some room to grow here though.
One of the reasons the Avalanche felt comfortable trading Tyson Barrie was the fact that they had Makar ready to play in the NHL. Of course, it would be a stretch to expect a 20-year-old rookie defenceman to score 59 points and fully replace Barrie. That said he will be expected to pick up a big part of that slack. Makar was immediately comfortable in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and given that performance, many are looking at Makar as a potential Calder Trophy contender.
#2 Prospect: Bowen Byram
The Avalanche drafted Byram with the 4th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Byram. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#3 Prospect: Alex Newhook
The Avalanche drafted Newhook with the 16th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Newhook. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#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 in the 2018 NHL Draft
In his first season in North America, Kaut put up 12 goals and 26 points in 63 games for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. The numbers may not be overwhelming but it is important to understand that Kaut was one of the youngest forwards in the league. He also added four points in five games at the World Juniors, where he was also named one of the top three players on the Czech team.
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.
Kaut is strong positionally and works on the backcheck. 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 his first 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 2020.
#5 Prospect: Conor Timmins
Defence — shoots Right
Born September 18th, 1998 — Thorold, Ontario
Height 6’2″ — Weight 185 lbs [188 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2nd round, #32 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
After a huge 2017-18 season with Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Timmins was supposed to make his pro debut last season. However, a concussion suffered in Game 5 of the 2018 OHL Final cost him the entire 2018-19 season. Such a serious head injury is obviously concerning for Timmins’ future, but it is expected that he will be ready to go for the Avs 2019 Training Camp.
Timmins is a very good skater. He has a strong first step and accelerates smoothly and quickly. His top-end speed is good in both directions, and solid edgework and pivots allow him to cover a lot of ice. Timmins has good lateral agility, allowing him to walk the line, and open up passing lanes and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. He is also strong on his skates, helping him to battle for position in the corners and in front of the net.
Timmins has the stickhandling ability to beat forecheckers and move the puck quickly up the ice. He is comfortable both leading the rush and joining in as a trailer. His skating skill allows him to do this, as well as pinch in at the blue line, and still get back defensively. Timmins is an outstanding playmaker. He is very smart, seeing plays develop and reacting to the movements of teammates and defenders. His vision is good and he sees plays that others don’t. Timmins passing skills are also very good. He can fit pucks through tight openings. He has the skills to make saucer passes to teammates, landing the puck flat on the tape.
Timmins has a good shot from the point. His slap shot is accurate and has good power. He keeps his shot low and manages to get it on the net and through traffic. His low shot allows teammates to get to the front of the net, screening goalkeepers, and getting tips and deflections. He also has a good wrist shot which he can use to get the puck on net when pressured at the point. He has a quick release which also makes his shot effect on the rush.
Timmins is very physical in his own end of the rink. Forwards have to keep their head up on his side of the ice, as he is always looking to make an impact with a big hit. He maintains good gap control and uses an explosive lower body to just explode into the hit. Timmins is also physical in the corners and in front of the net. He must continue to get stronger in order to continue to play this style at higher levels against bigger, stronger forwards. His positioning is pretty good but could continue to be improved with more experience. Timmins can transition the puck quickly out of his own zone when he gets the opportunity.
After a year without playing any games, Timmins will need to work off the rust and regain the confidence to play his game. He should start the year with the Eagles. If he can show progression in his game, he could be an option for a call-up if injuries hit as well as earn a full-time role in 2020. The concussion history adds a new wrinkle and concern here though, as he needs to stay healthy, not just for his hockey career but his long-term future off the ice as well.
#6 Prospect: Ryan Graves
Defence — shoots Left
Born May 21st, 1995 — Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Height 6’5″ — Weight 226 lbs [196 cm / 103 kg]
Drafted by New York Rangers in the 4th round, #110 overall at the 2013 NHL Draft
Traded to the Colorado Avalanche in February 2018
Graves split time between the NHL and AHL last season. In 26 games for the Avalanche, he picked up three goals and five points. In 32 games with the Eagles, he picked up two goals and nine points.
Graves is a solid skater for his size; with decent speed in both directions. He also has good edgework and strong pivots. This allows him to cover a lot of ice, and play a strong two-way game. He will never be considered a speedster but gets around the ice quite well for a 6-foot-5-inch player. He is also solid on his skates, with good lower body strength and power. Graves wins his battles for loose pucks along the boards and does a good job of clearing the front of the net.
Offensively, there is not a lot there. Graves uses a good breakout pass and his hard shot to put up solid numbers in the AHL. Most importantly though, he has shown some ability to stickhandle and to have poise with the puck. By taking the time to look for a smart pass, or make a play on the breakout or at the offensive blue line, Graves proved to be much more of a threat and gave defences issues. That part of his game hasn’t really translated to the NHL yet but could come with a bit more experience. While he will never be asked to quarterback the power play or be a top puck mover, he could surprise with some secondary scoring from time-to-time.
Blessed with tremendous size, Ryan Graves is a strong defensive defenceman. He is very mobile, and uses his skating to get himself into good positions to block shots, and cut down passing lanes in the defensive zone. Graves will throw a big hit if someone tries to come down his end of the ice with his head down. He’s also been willing to fight when necessary and has done well in this department. One would like to see a bit more of a mean streak along the boards and a few more big hits from him though given that size.
Given his age, there is not really much more room to grow his game in the AHL. Graves could use more NHL experience and could make the Avalanche as a sixth or seventh defenceman this season.
#7 Prospect: Nicolas Meloche
Defence — shoots Right
Born July 18th, 1997 — Mosemere, Quebec
Height 6’3″ — Weight 205 lbs [191 cm / 93 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2nd round, #40 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Meloche improved in his second season of professional hockey. He put up six goals and 21 points in 55 games with the Colorado Eagles. He also played in four playoff games picking up a pair of assists.
Meloche’s skating is the biggest weakness in his game. His start-up and stride are choppy and awkward which take away from his speed and acceleration. He has improved a bit over the last couple of years but still needs more. He could spend some time in the off-season working with a quality skating coach and working on his footwork. Once Meloche gets going, his stride gets better and so does his speed, but the first couple of steps are a concern.
His pivots and edgework are not bad though, and he’s able to avoid getting beat with speed due to that, as well as his excellent positioning and gap control. He also shows the ability to poke check the puck away from attackers. Meloche has good power and strength on his skates though. He is tough to knock off the puck, and wins his board battles and clears the crease effectively due to this strength and balance.
Meloche can play on the power play. He has a very hard and accurate slap shot. He understands the importance of getting it through shooting lanes, and keeping it low and on net as he is able to give his teammates the opportunity for tip-ins and rebounds. Meloche makes a strong first pass, helping to start the transition game. He can make the long pass to spring an odd-man rush. He has decent poise controlling the puck and making plays in the offensive zone, but he’s more of the trigger man on the power play than a true power-play quarterback. Meloche is willing to pinch down the wall to keep a puck in and keep plays alive, but is smart in doing so, and does not get caught deep very often.
Meloche has excellent size and he’s certainly not afraid to use it. He plays a gritty game in the corners battling for pucks and in front of the net as he works to clear the crease. He also is willing to throw big hits when he gets the opportunity but avoids getting himself out of position looking for those checks. Meloche has outstanding positioning and defensive awareness for a player his age, reading and anticipating plays well, and almost always keeping good control and defensive posture. He is not afraid to block shots and does a great job using a long stick to cut down passing lanes. Meloche is also willing to drop the gloves if necessary to come to the aid of a teammate.
Meloche is close to NHL ready. He could make the Avalanche with a very good training camp but it is more likely that he starts in the AHL. He could be an injury call-up with a full-time position later in the season.
#8 Prospect: Vladislav Kamenev
Centre — shoots Left
Born August 12th, 1996 — Orsk, Russia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 194 lbs [188 cm / 88 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 2nd round, #42 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
Traded to the Colorado Avalanche in November 2017.
Kamenev had another frustrating season. A shoulder injury and surgery cost him the majority of the campaign. He played in just 23 games with the Avalanche putting up five points. He also got two games with the Eagles. This comes off the 2017-18 season where he injured his forearm and was limited to just three NHL games and 17 AHL contests.
Kamenev is a good skater, with above-average top-end speed and the acceleration to reach that speed quickly. He also has strong edgework and good agility which allows him to weave through traffic both with and without the puck. Kamenev has good size and excellent balance which allows him to protect the puck and to win board battles down low.
Vladislav Kamenev is an extremely fundamentally sound player given his age. His game shows very few weaknesses, and while he may not have the absolute high-end skill of some other prospects, he has very few weaknesses. He is a player that just does everything well.
Kamenev can play both centre and wing. He is more of a playmaker than a scorer, with very good vision and passing skills. Kamenev makes linemates better by extending plays on the cycle and then finding them in good spots. He has strong stickhandling skills, further helping him to protect the puck and slow the game down in the offensive zone. Kamenev has a very good hockey IQ and almost always seems to make the smart play with the puck on his stick. Kamenev likes to hit and is very good on the forecheck. Even though he is more of a playmaker, he can score by getting to the front of the net, or with an accurate wrist shot that features a good release.
Kamenev’s defensive game is strong. He is good at face-offs. He plays a gritty and aggressive game in all three zones and supports his defence well on the backcheck. Kamenev is also positionally sound. He reads the play extremely well, leading to him being able to cut down on passing and shooting lanes. Kamenev is a strong penalty killer.
Kamenev heads to camp looking to win a full-time job in the Avalanche top nine. It will be a battle for an opening with a number of good prospects in the system. With a good camp, he can take a spot and not look back. Staying healthy will be extremely important though, as Kamenev is in danger of being labelled injury-prone. All the time off the ice is preventing him from becoming comfortable on the ice and improving his game.
#9 Prospect: Drew Helleson
The Avalanche drafted Helleson with the 47th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Helleson. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#10 Prospect: Shane Bowers
Centre — shoots Left
Born July 30th, 1999 — Halifax, Nova Scotia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 187 lbs [189 cm / 85 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 1st Round, #28 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Traded to the Colorado Avalanche in November 2017.
Bowers second season with Boston University was not as successful as his first. He scored 11 goals and 21 points in 37 games, down six goals and 11 points from his freshman campaign. He signed with Colorado following the season and played for the Eagles in four regular-season and four playoff games picking up one assist. Bowers also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors, scoring two assists in five games.
Bowers is a very good skater. His top-end speed and acceleration are very good, and this is his main weapon in one-on-one situations. Once he gets a half-step on a defender, he can drive to the net. His lateral agility and edgework are also strong, though his game is really based on playing straight ahead, and not on creativity. This edgework and agility help him to make small openings to make a play.
He also has good balance and a powerful lower body that makes him extremely tough to knock off the puck. This should only get better as he adds more muscle to his frame. Bowers is good at controlling the puck on the boards, as well as establishing leverage and fighting for loose pucks.
Bowers is strong down low. He can control play below the hash marks, protecting the puck in the cycle game and making good passes to open teammates. Bowers puts his body between the opponent and the puck when working the cycle. He has decent vision and finds open teammates. His playmaking ability is good, as he can make passes through tight spaces, as well as open up passing lanes with his lateral movement. Bowers has a high hockey IQ and makes smart plays with the puck. He is also willing to take the puck to the net, and able to take the physical punishment and fight through checks to make plays.
Bowers can score in tight to the net with quick hands and also has a good wrist shot from further out. His shot is heavy and has good accuracy. His release is also quick and effective helping him to fool goaltenders. Bowers soft hands and good hand-eye coordination allow him to score deflections and pounce on rebounds. His game is very straightforward and north-south based. He must show more consistency night in and night out though, as there are games where he just does not produce a lot of offensive opportunities.
Defensively, he is responsible in his own end of the ice. Bowers battles for position and fights for loose pucks, supporting the defence down low. He brings good back-pressure and is aggressive in the physical game. Bowers cuts down passing and shooting lanes, and is effective on the penalty kill. He can be used against other team’s top lines and plays a responsible two-way game. He is also already well-advanced in the face-off circle.
Bowers heads back to the Eagles where he will play his first pro season. He will look to improve his offensive game and earn an NHL opportunity if injuries hit. However, he is likely a year or two away from the NHL.
Sleeper Prospect: Igor Shvyryov
Centre — Shoots Left
Born July 10th, 1998 — Magnitogorsk, Russia
Height 6’1″ — Weight 191 lbs [185 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 5th round, #125 overall at the 2017 NHL Draft
Shvyryov struggled while adjusting to his first season in North American. He put up just six goals and 13 points with the Eagles. 20-year-old AHL rookies often struggle though. Add in an adjustment to a smaller ice surface, a new country, a foreign language, and an unfamiliar culture and it is easy to see why Shvyryov needed some time to adjust to the league.
Shvyryov is a decent skater. His top-end speed is above average, but not elite. He is more quick than fast though. He has an excellent first step and very good acceleration. This allows Shvyryov to win races to loose pucks. He also uses his ability to change speeds as a weapon to fool defenders. Shvyryov has good edgework and agility which allows him to make subtle plays to open up passing and shooting lanes. He could stand to add lower body strength which would allow him to be harder on the puck and fight through checks.
At his best, Shvyryov is a good playmaker. He has above-average stickhandling ability and can slow down the play or speed it up as required to create a chance. He also sees the ice extremely well, finding open teammates. Shvyryov can make a tape-to-tape pass through tight spaces or make a saucer pass to a teammate. He is particularly effective on the power play, where he controls the puck on the half boards and makes plays.
Shvyryov is much more of a playmaker than a goalscorer. His wrist shot is accurate but it lacks power. He could stand to bulk up to add a bit more on that shot. He also could work on having a bit quicker of a release. Shvyryov has the soft hands to score in tight to the net but he plays a perimeter game and is not going to find himself in those areas that often.
Shvyryov has a decent defensive game for his age. He reads the play well and uses his body and stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. When a turnover is created, Shvyryov is able to quickly transition to offence. He is a willing back-checker but does not really get physically involved. Shvyryov is also very good in the face-off circle.
Shvyryov heads back to the Eagles, looking to improve his offensive production in his second AHL season. While it is clear that Shvyryov is a highly skilled prospect, it is also clear that he needs to continue to work on his game at the professional level before being NHL ready.
With six of the Avalanche’s top 10 prospects being defencemen, there is plenty of depth on the blueline. Further down the system, the team has Danila Zhuravlyov, Nathan Clurman, and Nick Leivermann. Behind them, the team has Justus Annunen, Adam Werner, Trent Miner, and Shamil Shmakov as goalie prospects to keep an eye on. Forwards worth monitoring include Nikolai Kovalenko, A.J. Greer, Sampo Ranta, Alex Beaucage, Matthew Stienburg, Nick Henry, Sasha Mutala, Luka Burzan, Ty Lewis, Logan O’Connor, Cam Morrison, Brandon Saigeon, and Tyler Weiss.
Colorado Avalanche Prospects Main Photo:
DENVER, COLORADO – MAY 06: Cale Makar #8 of the Colorado Avalanche looks for an opening against the San Jose Sharks in the second period during Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on May 6, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)