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Ranking The Top Five Colorado Avalanche Prospects



Oskar Olausson nhl trade avalanche

With all the moves the Colorado Avalanche have made to strengthen their NHL team the last few years, the prospect pool has taken a hit.

A big hit.

The Avalanche, over the last year, have pretty consistently been selected as the NHL team with the worst prospect pool. That’s what happens when you don’t draft until round six in the most recent draft, and have traded away some of your best prospects for immediate help. I’m not sure the Avalanche care all that much right now though, because they got a Stanley Cup out of it.

At some point, however, you need to start building that prospect pool back up. Does that start in this upcoming NHL Draft? They only have one draft pick before the fifth round, but that pick comes at 27th overall. One would have to imagine that draft pick, assuming they make it, immediately enters the top five ranking.

But as of right now, Colorado’s prospect pool is pretty thin. There are some players that certainly project as NHL players, but no sure things, and certainly no high-end prospects. Everyone has a different top five ranking when looking at the prospect pool, but here’s mine.

1. D Sean Behrens

Of all their prospects, Behrens feels like the best combination of “safe” while also having the skill to potentially become a top four defenseman in the future. The 20 year looks to be headed back for his Junior year at Denver University, where he will be one of the leaders on the team. His offensive production took a slight step back in his Sophomore season, but he was a key cog during January’s World Junior Championships for Team USA, as he was one of their most consistent defensemen.

Behrens has all the tools to be an everyday NHL defenseman. He’s smart, he can skate really well, is efficient moving the puck, and defends well. The biggest question mark around him is his size, and if he can still defend the same way consistently at the pro level. Other smaller defensemen like Jared Spurgeon have shown it’s possible, but that’s something he’ll have to prove when he takes that leap to professional hockey.

2. F Jean-Luc Foudy

It seems like Foudy has been around forever, but he just turned 21. The reason why it seems like he’s been around for a long time is because he started playing in the AHL as an 18 year old. His first two seasons were solid, but this year, he really took off. He really hit his stride offensively, and had a dynamite first half for the Colorado Eagles. While he didn’t make the team initially, he replaced Brad Hunt as the Eagles lone representative at the AHL All-Star game in February. His strong start led to him getting a taste of NHL action, and he continued to play his game at the next level. He showed off his incredible skating and solid playmaking, but did not register a point with the Avalanche.

That stint also showed some areas of his game that still need work. He will need to improve defensively a fair bit to gain trust at the next level, and while it improved this season, his shot still needs work. The second half of his season was unfortunately marred by injury, as he was only able to dress in 10 games after the All-Star break. He missed all of the playoff games for the Eagles. Outside of Ben Meyers, who spent a large chunk of the season in the NHL anyway, he is probably the closest player on the Eagles to making the leap to the NHL. Projects as more of a winger than center at the next level.

3. W Oskar Olausson

Another player who entered the AHL at a young age was Olausson. After coming over and playing in the OHL after being drafted out of Sweden, the Avalanche had him turn pro as a 19 year old. I’ve spoken to some CHL scouts who believe another season in the OHL might have been best for him, but not much can be done about that right now. It was an inconsistent season for Olausson, and after the All-Star break, his production dipped. He picked up just 3 points in the final 22 games of the season, and was a scratch a fair bit down the stretch. It was never confirmed if it was due to an injury or if he was a healthy scratch, but in six playoff games, he registered three points. A young player fading in their first pro season isn’t a huge surprise, and if anything, Foudy’s development path should give hope that he can figure things out.

Olausson has a wicked shot, and the confidence to hold onto the puck in tight spaces. In terms of pure skill, he’s probably at the top of the list for Avalanche prospects, but there are holes in his game that need work. There are a lot of tools in his toolbox, but whether or not everything comes together is in question. I’m not as high on him as others, but if he develops, he could be that secondary player who provides offense out of nothing just due to his talent and shot, much like Andre Burakovsky.

4. W Nikolai Kovalenko

Exploded in the KHL this season, but as we dug into recently, it might be best to temper expectations on how much of that can translate to the NHL level.

What you love about Kovalenko is his motor. He’s a hard worker, plays in all situations, and is not afraid to get his nose dirty. That also leads to him taking his fair share of big hits. He’s also the oldest prospect on this list, as he is already 23 years old. By the time he comes over, he’ll be at least 24. And yes, based off everything I’ve heard (which is subject to change), I do expect him to come over once this next KHL season finishes and immediately burn his ELC.

The hope is that Kovalenko becomes a similar player to Lehkonen, although that may be best-case scenario. I think he’s a safe bet to be an NHL player in a bottom six role, and as a former sixth round pick, that would be huge for the Avalanche.

5. G Justus Annunen

The last NHL goaltender the Avalanche developed was Peter Budaj in 2001. They got close with Calvin Pickard, but once NHL shooters figured him out, he was never the same. Coincidentally, Budaj is Annunen’s AHL coach, and watched the Finnish goaltender take a big leap from year one to year two in North America. His save percentage jumped from .893 to .916, while his record wasn’t actually all that different. His playoffs didn’t go so great, and his two-game stint in the NHL was about as up and down as you can get, but there’s a lot of promise there.

At the end of the season, GM Chris MacFarland mentioned Annunen as someone they could see earning an NHL job. That’s a little difficult with Pavel Francouz to jump, so I’d expect him to spend another year in the AHL.

Honorable Mentions: D Sam Malinski, F Colby Ambrosio, G Ivan Zhigalov

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