With the NHL still locked out, fans all over the continent are looking for something positive when it comes to the sport of hockey. For the Colorado Avalanche, that bright spot can be found in the crease for the Lake Erie Monsters and Denver Cutthroats. The Avalanche signed all four of their young goaltending prospects to entry-level contracts towards the end of last season which quickly made people wonder what the team was going to do with them.
The Avalanche ended up assigning college prospects Kent Patterson and Kieran Millan to their brand new CHL affiliate, the Denver Cutthroats. The two more promising prospects, Calvin Pickard and Sami Aittokallio, were assigned to the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters.
It is now closing in on about one month for each team’s season and the results for the goalies have been very promising. Sami Aittokallio got the season off to a bang, shutting down an Oklahoma City Barons team that had been given a shot in the arm with the presence of players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins. Aittokallio’s overall numbers are somewhat average to this point with a goals-against average of 2.97 and a save percentage just beneath the .900 mark, but he is getting the job done with three wins and just a single loss.
Calvin Pickard, on the other hand, has flourished during his early work with the Monsters. Pickard has started six games for the Monsters and has won four of them. The manner in which Pickard has won these games is what is truly impressive. Two of these four wins have been shutout victories, and not the type of shutout resulting from a complete amount of team dominance where the opposition doesn’t manage to even come close to 30 shots. Pickard stopped 40 shots in a victory against the Toronto Marlies, and added another 37 saves to his list in a shutout victory over the Texas Stars. Pickard’s overall numbers are enough to turn heads. His goals-against average is 1.82 and his .944 save percentage is impressive for any goalie in the league, forget about the fact that this is his first season in the pros.
Kent Patterson has been the top goalie for the Denver Cutthroats and while his numbers haven’t been as impressive, that is to be expected for a team that is so early in its existence. Patterson’s goals-against is 3.52 and has a .879 save percentage, but a lot of this can be attributed to the fact that the team in front of him is still finding a way to gel in front of him. Once the Cutthroats all get on the same page and mature a bit as a team, Patterson’s numbers will likely begin to improve as well. Nonetheless, he’s finding ways to keep his team in games and as long as your goalie is giving you a chance to win games, that is really all you can ask.
Kieran Millan has had the most struggles of the Avalanche goaltending prospects, and is the only of the young goalies in the system that has yet to earn a win. He’s only played in two games to this point, however, so it’s not very possible to give him an accurate assessment just yet.
As a whole, Avalanche fans should be very pleased with the young goalies in the system and optimistic about the future. The big question that remains for the team as a whole is whether or not the Avalanche will actually be able to develop these young prospects; because one of the biggest issues that the Avalanche have had as an organization is their inability to develop goaltending talent from within.
The Avalanche had Patrick Roy for so many years and have still been looking for a suitable replacement since he left. The Avalanche have gone through David Aebischer, Phillipe Sauve, Jose Thedore, Peter Budaj, Craig Anderson, Brian Elliott and are currently working with Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Semyon Varlamov. It remains stunning to me that the Avalanche don’t invest in a full-time coach for their goaltenders as players like Patrick Roy don’t come along very often. The future will tell, but the present potential of the Avalanche goaltenders is off the charts.
I’m a Denver native who has been a fan of the Avalanche since they came to town and a fan of the game before that. I started writing my own blog a couple years ago before moving to Bleacher Report and becoming a Featured Columnist there. You can also find me the Burgundy Brigade Podcast