Pat yourselves on the back, Colorado Avalanche fans. You’ve done it.
You’ve made it through another off-season.
This one, in particular, felt extremely long after the Avalanche bowed out in the first round to the Kraken. On Thursday, however, hockey officially returns, as the prospects will hit the ice at Family Sports before flying to Las Vegas for the Rookie Faceoff tournament.
The Avalanche don’t really have a ton of big name prospects, but there will be some interesting players present at the camp to keep an eye on. A great tournament and camp doesn’t always mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but it does help build momentum heading into the main NHL camp, which starts on September 21. This tournament is a good way to make an impression on the coaches and management in the organization, and these are just a few of the players I’ll be keeping my eye on come Thursday.
Drafted 27th overall this past June, the big question regarding Ritchie will be whether or not he’s even going to play.
Ritchie had shoulder surgery after last season was over, and didn’t skate at Development Camp. At the time, he hoped to be back on the ice for this tournament, but we probably won’t know for a few days whether or not he’ll be suiting up.
Injuries were a big reason why his draft year was a little underwhelming, so it’ll be fascinating to see what he looks like at 100%, even if we aren’t able to see that later this week.
Why is the most recent 7th round pick for the Avalanche on this list? Well, it’s pretty simple – for most people, including myself, he’s a complete unknown.
Jedlicka didn’t make his way over for Development Camp this past summer, and plays in Slovakia, so very few people have actually gotten their eyes on this guy. At 20, he’s older than most recent draft picks, but he’s got pro experience in Europe, so he should look a little more “polished” than some of the teenagers. He might be the player I’m most excited to see play, simply because of the “mystery” around him and his game.
At this point, all signs point to the 20 year old Jeremy Hanzel returning to the WHL for another season.
Do I agree with it? Not really, but I think I’d prefer that to the alternative of him signing a pro contract and then having little to no opportunity in the AHL and even ECHL with the Avalanche. The organization simply has too many defensemen signed to NHL contracts for this season, so Hanzel could get lost in the shuffle.
I expect Hanzel to look pro-ready at this tournament, as he’s an intelligent player who can really skate, but given the reasons mentioned above, the WHL might be a better place for him to develop next season. Another year in Seattle might be overkill, but at least you know he’ll be relied on heavily there.
The former first round pick for the Avalanche needs a big camp, and the reality is, he should stand out from the rest, from a talent perspective.
Olausson’s didn’t exactly light the world on fire in his first year as a pro, but he’s still just 20 years old. There’s plenty of time to turn it around. However, he’s got to show improvements, not just offensively, but with his overall game. This won’t be the first time he’ll have taken part in this tournament, so he knows what the expectations are.
On a roster lacking some high-end talent, he should get plenty of ice-time and opportunities to produce.
The College UFA’s
It might just be easier to lump all three of these players together, and the reality is, they should look better (and more polished) than most players in the tournament.
Why? Because they’re all older.
Sam Malinski is already 25 years old. There’s a very real chance he’ll be the oldest player in the tournament. Jason Polin is 24, and Ondrej Pavel is 23. Not only have they all played a lot of NCAA hockey, but they all got a taste of pro hockey at the end of last season. Expectations should be a little higher for these three players heading into the tournament, as all three of them could legitimately play NHL games for the Avalanche this season.