Rookies report to the Colorado Avalanche this week. While 29 players will be showcasing their skills, the forward competition should reveal a few key players to watch.
The Avalanche rookies will have one day at the practice facility in Denver before heading to Las Vegas for the 2018 Vegas Rookie Faceoff. While six teams will be participating in the tournament, the Avalanche will only play against three, with a single matchup each against the Vegas Golden Knights (Saturday, Sept. 8, 8 P.M. MST), the Anaheim Ducks (Sunday, Sept. 9, 6 P.M. MST) and finishing against the San Jose Sharks (Tuesday, Sept. 11, 3:30 P.M. MST).
3 Key Avalanche Rookie Forwards
The three key forwards to watch share some commonalities. All three are already under contract to the Avalanche. All three also face similar questions – how high is their ceiling? Are they destined for the AHL or the NHL? And all three have the potential to be impact players with the Avalanche – eventually. Answering the question of whether they will show that ability in camp makes them worth watching.
Russian Vladislav Kamenev joined the Avalanche as part of the Matt Duchene trade and looked ready to test the NHL waters last year. Unfortunately, Brooks Orpik had other ideas as he smashed Kamenev four minutes into his Avalanche debut, knocking the promising forward out for a large chunk of the season with a broken forearm.
Kamenev plays a solid two-way game as a center, and uses his size to open up the ice. He needs to prove he has fully recovered from his injury and is ready to make the jump to a full-time spot on the club’s NHL roster. At 22 years old, he should be prepared to run with the big boys.
This year’s first-round draft pick, Martin Kaut, will be making his debut on American ice during rookie camp. The 18-year-old Czech has already been gearing up for the season’s start with informal practices at the Avalanche’s practice rink. He is recovering from a “minor” heart surgery so keep an eye on his conditioning and his ability to participate in all the drills. He attended summer development camp but missed a couple of the exercises. He’s likely heading to the Colorado Eagles to make his AHL debut. But he could be a key addition to the big club down the road as the Avalanche could use a scoring wing.
Igor Shvyrev could very well be the surprise star at rookie camp. The 20-year-old Russian center weighs in at 200 pounds on a 6-foot-1 frame. He also brings some needed skillsets, such as an ability to win face-offs and be a playmaker for his line-mates. He played center in the KHL for 36 games as a 19-year-old last year, a rarity for a teenager. The year before, he logged 70 points over 40 games in the MHL, averaging 1.75 points per game at the Russian junior level.
— Eurolanche (@Eurolanche) January 10, 2018
He also participated in Colorado’s summer development camp this year despite missing the first day when the airline delayed his equipment. Shvyrev comes with a couple of key questions which makes him worth watching during the rookie camp/tourney. How well does his game translate to North American ice and what is his ceiling? He could very well be either the sleeper star at camp or a disappointment. Shvyrev is likely looking at a spot on the Colorado Eagles to start the season.
Potential Surprises for the Avalanche
A couple of other forwards could very well be surprise assets for the Avalanche. Colorado Eagles star Michael Joly signed an AHL contract this summer after he notched 29 points in 24 games during the Eagles Kelly Cup run. He also was the ECHL scoring leader during the regular season with 41 goals and 26 assists over the 52-game regular season, earning him a slot on the ECHL’s First All-Star Team. There’s a big difference between the ECHL and NHL but he definitely earned his shot at moving up. And who doesn’t want a feel-good underdog story during training camp?
ICYMI: The @ColoradoEagles signed forward Michael Joly to an AHL contract for the 2018-19 season.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) July 15, 2018
Logan O’Connor represents another dark horse candidate for the rookie feel-good story. The former captain of the DU Pioneers left college a year early to sign with the Avalanche. His summer development camp appearance was a mixed bag yet earned him an entry-level contract. Hopefully, rookie camp offers an opportunity for everyone else to see what the front office valued.
For the forward corps, rookie camp offers an opportunity for key players to set themselves apart from the avalanche of competitors and open up doors to their NHL dream. The Colorado Avalanche will reap the harvest from the competition and get a glimpse into the organization’s depth, making this an important rookie camp for all involved.
J.D. has followed the Colorado Avalanche since the days of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Blessed to cover the team for nearly 5 seasons, 3 of those at other venues, J.D. enjoys working with the Hockey Writers. Proud parent of three humans and two dogs, you can follow all the escapades @JDKpirate.