Like any other team, the Colorado Avalanche have had a surplus of players make their way in and out of the organization over the past seven years. Do you ever find yourself scrolling through social media or watching old highlights when you see a player that makes you say “hey, what happened to this guy?” Between call-ups, trades, signings, and everything in between, we as hockey fans watch hundreds and hundreds of different players. This seems impossible to keep track of, but oddly enough, we usually remember these guys when we see the name.
The Colorado Avalanche have been through a lot since the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season. After selecting Nathan MacKinnon first overall in that year’s draft, the Avs have made the playoffs four out of seven times and they’re only getting better with the influx of young talent like Cale Makar. With that being said, I figured we would dial it back to the 2013 season and have a look at where the players from that team are now. The last team without MacKinnon. The team that finished last in their division and won the draft lottery. Let’s take a look.
Sami Aittokalio (4th Round, 107th overall in 2010)
Aittokalio isn’t going to have much of a blurb given the fact that he only appeared in one game for the Avalanche in 2013. He was in the organization from 2012 until 2015, primarily with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters. He had one quick stop in the ECHL with the Fort Wayne Komets before he went back to Europe. Since then, he’s bounced around the SM-Liiga with one season in the Czech league as well. He’s currently in his second season with Assat Pori.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Signed as Free Agent in 2011)
Everybody knows Giguere for his time with the Anaheim Ducks. After losing his starting job to Jonas Hiller, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He spent two seasons with the team before he signed a contract with the Avalanche prior to the 2011-12 season.
He primarily served as a mentor to Semyon Varlamov, but put together a couple of really solid seasons, with his best being his debut campaign with the Avalanche. That year, he put up a save percentage (SV%) of .918 and a goals against average (GAA) of 2.28. He retired following the 2013-14 season, marking the last of active players who had played for the Hartford Whalers.
Semyon Varlamov (Acquired From WSH in 2011)
After the emergence of goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby in Washington, Varlamov was traded to Colorado in exchange for a first-round pick. Varlamov was given a chance to start with the Avalanche, and his tenure in Colorado was inconsistent, if you will.
His career year was undoubtedly the 2013-14 season where he put up a record of 41-14-6 with a 2.41 GAA and a .927 save percentage. But he had his fair share of lows as well, such as the 2016-17 season where he put up a record of 6-17-0 in 24 games and ended up undergoing hip surgery. He signed a five-year contract with the New York Islanders following the 2019-20 season after Philipp Grubauer impressed in the starter’s role. His first season with the Islanders was solid, posting a record of 19-14-6 with a save percentage of .914 and a GAA of 2.62.
Tyson Barrie (3rd Round, 64th Overall in 2009)
Tyson Barrie was a member of the Avalanche’s very successful draft class in 2009. Drafting Matt Duchene third overall and then Ryan O’Reilly in the second round, Barrie would take a few more years to get to the NHL, but once he got there he embraced his role as a top-four offensive defenseman early on.
He would spend seven full seasons in the burgundy and blue, putting up a career-high 59 points in 2018-19. He was then traded along with Alex Kerfoot to Toronto in exchange for Nazem Kadri, and recently signed a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers.
Stefan Elliott (2nd Round, 49th Overall in 2009)
Elliott was drafted in 2009 along with Duchene, O’Reilly, and Barrie, but one of these things is not like the other. It wouldn’t be entirely fair to call Elliott a total bust since he was taken in the second round. But there were certainly some expectations for him as a higher draft pick that he didn’t meet.
He appeared in a total of 63 games for the Avalanche, posting a total of 18 points. He then spent time with a number of NHL organizations including the Arizona Coyotes, Nashville Predators, and Ottawa Senators. He’s currently playing for Frolunda HC of the SHL where he has a total of six points in 13 games.
Jan Hejda (Signed as Free Agent in 2011)
Hejda spent four years with the Columbus Blue Jackets and emerged as a bona fide stay-at-home defenseman, which earned him a four-year contract with the Avalanche in 2011-12. He spent four years with the team before becoming a free agent following the 2014-15 season.
He signed an AHL contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets midway through the following season and announced his retirement after it ended. He’s currently living in Colorado and has a role as Director of Player Development for Edge Sports Management.
Matt Hunwick (Acquired From BOS in 2010)
Hunwick realistically spent three seasons with the Avs, and you knew what you were getting with him. A journeyman depth defenseman with a good work ethic.
He was reassigned to the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters at the start of the 2013-14 season and he signed a one-year contract with the New York Rangers heading into the 2014-15 season. He jumped between a few teams after that, seeing stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo Sabres. He last played for the Sabres in 2018-19 and is currently an unrestricted free agent.
Erik Johnson (Acquired From STL in 2011)
The former first-overall pick was acquired from the St. Louis Blues in a blockbuster trade that saw Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart head the other way. He’s also the first member of this list who’s still with the Avalanche.
He became the first defenseman from the 2006 Draft to hit 300 points in February, and whenever the 2020-21 season gets underway he will be entering his 11th season with the Avalanche.
Shane O’Brien (Signed as Free Agent in 2011)
O’Brien wasn’t really anything more than a journeyman during his NHL career, but he had a little bit of success with the Avalanche. He had a good training camp leading up to the 2011-12 season and ended up becoming a staple on the young D-core. He was traded to the Calgary Flames prior to the 2013-14 season in exchange for Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich. After jumping between a few different teams, he finished his pro career in Austria during the 2017-18 season. He would retire following the season.
Ryan O’Byrne (Acquired From MTL in 2010)
O’Byrne is yet another example of your typical journeyman depth defenseman. He was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens shortly into the start of the 2010-11 season. He then spent a little over two seasons in Colorado before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2013 Trade Deadline. His last NHL game was the infamous Game 7 collapse at the hands of the Boston Bruins. He would spend three seasons abroad before retiring and returning to study at Kellogg School of Management. He currently works in marketing for Gatorade.
Ryan Wilson (Acquired From CGY in 2009)
Wilson was acquired in a deal that sent defenseman Jordan Leopold to the Flames at the 2009 Trade Deadline. He spent six seasons with the team before missing nearly the entirety of the 2014-15 season due to a shoulder injury. He then went to the KHL and stopped for a season in Switzerland before signing a contract with KalPa of the Finnish league. He’s currently entering his fourth season with KalPa.
Greg Zanon (Signed as Free Agent in 2012)
There isn’t much to say about Zanon’s time in Colorado. He made a name for himself in the NHL as an elite shot-blocker. He spent the shortened 2012-13 season with the Avalanche and then spent two seasons in the AHL with the Florida Panthers’ organization. Zanon retired following the 2014-15 season.
Patrick Bordeleau (Signed as Free Agent in 2011)
Bordeleau was always known as the guy who’s job was to punch. That’s it. You could throw him into the same category as guys like Colton Orr and Brian McGrattan. With the NHL adapting towards a skill and speed-based style of game, the need for enforcers has diminished over the years, thus costing Bordeleau his job following the 2014-15 season. He got two full NHL seasons under his belt but unfortunately missed the entirety of his last NHL season due to back surgery and then a fractured kneecap in his first game back. He currently plays for the Laval North Petroliers of the LNAH, a low-level Quebec-based hockey league.
Steve Downie (Acquired From TB in 2012)
Downie’s career in the NHL was polarizing to say the least. He was a solid offensive contributor from time to time, but often found himself on the hot seat for questionable hits. More recently, he found himself in hot water for his involvement in the OHL hazing incident with then-rookie Akim Aliu.
He missed almost the entire 2012-13 season when he injured his knee trying to throw a hit. He posted seven points through the first 11 games of the 2013-14 season before he was traded to Philadelphia for Max Talbot. He retired following the 2015-16 season.
Matt Duchene (1st Round, 3rd Overall in 2009)
Duchene came to Colorado with the expectation of being their number one centre for years to come. And for the most part, he met that expectation. For most of his tenure in Colorado, you could chalk him up for anywhere between 55 and 70 points per season. But as of now, it looks like the Avalanche got the most value out of Duchene when they traded him to Ottawa for a package that included a top-five pick.
That pick turned into Bowen Byram. Apart from that pick, they also acquired Sam Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, prospect Shane Bowers, and two more draft picks. Safe to say Joe Sakic was left looking like Albert Einstein after that move. Duchene spent time with the Senators and briefly with the Blue Jackets before signing a seven-year contract with the Predators in 2019.
Milan Hejduk (4th Round, 87th Overall in 1994)
Hejduk without a doubt holds the most storied career of anyone on this roster. No one would have guessed that a fourth-round pick from the Czech Republic would end up having played the most games in franchise history after Sakic, but here we are.
A Stanley Cup and a Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy later, “The Duke” finished out his career during the 2012-13 season where he posted 11 points in 29 games. He retired shortly after the start of the 2013-14 season, and the Avalanche retired his No. 23 in 2018.
David Jones (9th Round, 288th Overall in 2003)
The only player on this list drafted in the ninth round, Jones had a successful tenure as a middle-six power forward for the Avalanche. The Guelph native’s most successful season came in 2010-11 when he scored 27 goals and put up 45 points in 77 games. He had a rough campaign in 2012-13 that saw him post only nine points in 33 games. He was traded to the Flames following the lockout season and spent north of two seasons there before he was traded to Minnesota at the trade deadline in 2015-16. He signed a tryout contract with the Anaheim Ducks prior to the 2016-17 season but didn’t make the team, and retired soon after.
Chuck Kobasew (Signed as Free Agent in 2011)
Kobasew spent time with the Flames, Bruins, and Minnesota Wild before signing a two-year contract with the Avalanche in 2011. He was never really more than a reliable bottom-six forward during his time in Colorado, putting up a combined total of 23 points in 95 games. He spent his final NHL season with the Penguins in 2013-14 before heading overseas to play in Switzerland with SC Bern. He suffered a concussion early on in the 2015-16 season that prompted his retirement afterwards.
Gabriel Landeskog (1st Round, 2nd Overall in 2011)
I think we all know where Landeskog is right now. Ever since the Avalanche drafted him in 2011, the team knew he would be a pivotal member of their core for years to come. He was named team captain following his rookie season, making him the youngest team captain in NHL history at 19 years and 286 days old. That’s 11 days younger than Sidney Crosby was when the Penguins named him captain.
Ever since he was drafted, he’s been a consistent contributor up front with his only down year coming in 2016-17, finishing with 33 points in 72 games. Aside from that, he’s a leader who’s been good for a near point-per-game pace when healthy, and it’s hard to imagine him playing out his NHL career anywhere besides Colorado.
Brad Malone (4th Round, 105th Overall in 2007)
Malone’s tenure in Colorado was mostly spent yo-yoing between the AHL and the NHL. He played the majority of the 2012-13 season in the AHL, but he did get a look in the NHL with a 13-game stint. He would remain in Colorado as a depth option for the following season before signing a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s currently under contract with the Edmonton Oilers, mainly playing for the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL.
Jamie McGinn (Acquired From SJ in 2012)
McGinn’s NHL career was spent as a third-line journeyman. He spent time with six different teams but easily had the most offensive success during his time in Colorado. Following the trade from San Jose, he closed out the 2011-12 season with eight goals and 13 points in 17 games, and put up a career high of 38 points in 79 games during the 2013-14 season. He played only 19 games in 2014-15 due to a recurring back injury, and following the season he was traded to the Sabres along with Ryan O’Reilly in a blockbuster deal. McGinn’s last taste of pro hockey came in 2019-20 when he was signed to a professional try-out with the St. Louis Blues, but was released only nine days later. He’s currently an unrestricted free agent.
Cody McLeod (Signed as Undrafted Free Agent in 2005)
McLeod spent 10 years with the Avalanche and maintained the same role as a fourth-line grinder the entire time he was there. Adding physicality and veteran presence, there was always a spot for him on the roster. But as the league slowly started getting quicker and more reliant on speed, his minutes started to decrease. He was traded to the Predators in 2017 and he’s currently under contract with the Wild, playing exclusively for the AHL’s Iowa Wild.
John Mitchell (Signed As Free Agent in 2012)
Mitchell spent most of his career between the Avalanche and the Toronto Maple Leafs, with a quick stop with the New York Rangers in 2011-12. He made an impact immediately, scoring his first goal in the Avalanche’s season debut against the Wild in 2012-13. His gritty play style and ability to chip in offensively earned him a three-year contract extension in 2014. He remained with the team until after the 2016-17 in which he posted a career low of only seven points. He spent two years overseas in Germany and retired following the 2018-19 season.
Mark Olver (5th Round, 140th Overall in 2008)
Olver’s career has been all over the map. Literally. He spent most of his time in the Avalanche organization jumping up and down between the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters and the NHL. However, he did see nearly a full NHL season in 2012-13 where he posted six points in 32 games. That would be his last taste of NHL action, as he spent the following year entirely in the AHL before splitting the following two years between the KHL, the Swiss league, and the German league. He signed an AHL contract with the Arizona Coyotes in 2016-17 before going back to Germany the following year. He’s currently in his fifth season with Eisbaren Berlin of the DEL.
Ryan O’Reilly (2nd Round, 33rd Overall in 2009)
O’Reilly made headlines when he became the first non-first-round pick to make his NHL debut in his first post-draft season since Patrice Bergeron in 2003-04. He took a few years to develop his offensive game, but his stellar defensive play kept him in the NHL.
He was a consistent 55-65 point guy for the Avalanche until he was traded to the Sabres in time for the 2015-16 season. The deal was a blockbuster that brought back Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and a draft pick. He spent three seasons with the Sabres before being traded in another blockbuster to the Blues, where he was a key member of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2018-19. He’s currently entering his third season with the Blues.
Aaron Palushaj (Claimed on Waivers in 2013)
Palushaj’s story in Colorado doesn’t consist of much. After being claimed on waivers from the Canadiens, he played 25 games for the Avalanche in 2012-13 where he put up nine points in 25 games. He signed a one-year deal with the Hurricanes following the shortened season, and has since played for a surplus of European clubs. He’s currently in his second season with HC Davos of the Swiss National League.
P.A. Parenteau (Signed as Free Agent in 2012)
Parenteau played for eight different teams over the course of his NHL career, and apart from his stint with the Islanders, arguably had the most success in Colorado. He put up 43 points in 48 games over the lockout season and dropped another 33 in 55 games the following year. The Avalanche traded him to Montreal in exchange for Daniel Briere in 2014, and he spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, and Predators before playing out his final pro season in the KHL. He retired following the 2017-18 season.
Michael Sgarbossa (Acquired From SJ in 2012)
Like many others on this list, there isn’t much to say about Sgarbossa’s time in Colorado. He played in a whopping grand total of nine games with the Avalanche, six of which came in the 2012-13 season. He’s been an AHL journeyman since then, currently under contract with the Washington Capitals and playing for the Hershey Bears.
Paul Stastny (2nd round, 44th Overall in 2005)
The Stastnys are a household name in the Nordiques/Avalanche organization. After his father Peter spent many successful seasons with the Nordiques throughout the mid-1980s, Paul was drafted in 2005 and was one of their top contributors offensively from 2006-07 all the way until the 2013-14 season.
Stastny signed a four-year contract with the Blues in 2014-15 and spent time with the Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights before being re-acquired by the Jets for the 2020-21 season.
David Van Der Gulik (Signed as Free Agent in 2010)
There isn’t much to write home about Van Der Gulik’s time in the NHL, but he spent most of it with the Avalanche organization. One of the many players on this list who were used as depth options during the 2012-13 season, Van Der Gulik remained with the Avs until 2014-15 when he signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings. He then signed with Dusseldorfer EG of the DEL for the 2015-16 campaign and retired following the season.
Tomas Vincour (Acquired From DAL in 2013)
The highlights of Vincour’s NHL career came with the Dallas Stars, and after he was traded to Colorado in exchange for defenseman Cameron Gaunce, he didn’t really contribute much to the Avalanche. He was a top contributor in the AHL, but only appeared in a total of 16 NHL games. After a few KHL stints and a brief return to the Avs organization in 2015-16, he signed in his native Czech Republic where he’s currently entering his sixth season.
STILL WITH COLORADO: 2
STILL IN THE NHL: 7
STILL PLAYING PRO HOCKEY: 16
The fact that there are still 16 players active of the 31 on this list is pretty impressive, seeing that the 2012-13 season was seven years ago. Johnson and Landeskog are the only two players from that team who are still with the Avalanche. Meanwhile, Duchene, Barrie, Stastny, Varlamov, and O’Reilly make up the list of players who are still NHL regulars. Either way, it was interesting to take a trip down memory lane and see where the guys that made up the pre-Nathan MacKinnon era Avalanche are up to nowadays.
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2005 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Maple Leafs Lounge Podcast, presented by THW. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.