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Future Watch – Colorado Avalanche: Deep, soon deeper

Adept drafting and free-agent signings have created a bounty of prospects. And the best may be yet to come.
Nicholas Monaghan/Colorado Eagles

Nicholas Monaghan/Colorado Eagles

B / 13th overall

The Avalanche havetheir best cast of prospects in the six-year tenure of GM Joe Sakic – and it’s only going to improve by having two first-round draft picks in 2019 and five picks in the first three rounds. Colorado owns Ottawa’s first- and third-round selections as the final pieces of the Matt Duchene trade from 2017. There is immediate excitement about three 2017 draftees (one via Ottawa) – each chosen within the first 32 picks – plus 2018 first-rounder Martin Kaut and fellow Czech native Pavel Francouz. Also, the Avs can now keep closer tabs on their prospects with their AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles, just 50 miles north of Denver.

COL_Trend

1. Cale Makar (1st overall)
D, 20, 6-0, 192 – Massachusetts (HE)
33–13–27–40–25
2017 draft, 4th overall
Avs fans should be salivating. Makar, a smooth-skating playmaker, is having a sensational sophomore season as UMass captain with his ability to dominate at both ends. His college career is bound to end when the Minutemen’s season concludes. It’s likely he’ll sign with the Avalanche and make his NHL debut in the final week of the season. Look for Makar to make Tyson Barrie expendable, with the youngster stepping in to run Colorado’s No. 1 power-play unit next season.
FW18| No. 1 – NHL | 2019-20

2. Martin Kaut (56th overall)
RW, 19, 6-2, 180 – Colorado (AHL)
49–10–11–21–30
2018 draft, 16th overall
Kaut chose the AHL route over major junior or his Czech pro league and has posted modest stats, but he’s the Eagles’ youngest player and nobody is concerned about his development. He has not been among the seven call-up forwards, but he continues to play big minutes against men in the AHL. The Avs want to be patient with Kaut and re-evaluate his NHL credentials through the summer and into camp. He has a lean frame, so part of his development is physical growth.
FW18| n/a – NHL | 2020-21

3. Conor Timmins (59th overall)
D, 20, 6-2, 184 – Colorado (AHL)
has not played
2017 draft, 32nd overall
Timmins signed last summer and was expected to play a full-time NHL role before concussion-like symptoms kept him out of development camp, training camp and any games through February. He’s on the mend and has practised with the Avs and Eagles in what is nearing a one-year injury stint. The team wanted Timmins and Makar to join the big club at different times, but the similar-style defensemen might end up learning the NHL ropes as rookie teammates next season.
FW18| No. 2 – NHL | 2019-20

4. Shane Bowers
C, 19, 6-2, 188 – Boston University (HE)
32–11–9–20–10
Trade (Ott), Nov. 5, 2017
Bowers is a sophomore at struggling BU and ranks among the team’s leading scorers while playing a top-six role. Colorado liked how he performed in his first development camp in the summer. All signs point towards Bowers returning to Boston for his junior year as the Avs continue to monitor his development. The Terriers are a young team, with just one senior among their top 10 scorers, so Bowers figures to grow along with the team. He has the potential to become the power forward the Avalanche envision.
FW18| No. 5 – NHL | 2021-22

5. Logan O’Connor
RW, 22, 6-0, 175 – Colorado (AHL)
51–14–18–32–20
Free agent, July 23, 2018
O’Connor gave up his captaincy at Denver University to sign a free-agent deal with the Avs after attending the club’s development camp in July. He’s among the Eagles’ top scorers and is playing in all situations. In three years at DU, he never scored more than seven goals, usually on the third line and killing penalties, but, as the Avalanche predicted, he has become a quality scorer as a pro. Look for O’Connor to stick with the Avs to begin next season. He’s an elite skater with exceptional penalty-killing instincts.
FW18| nr – NHL | 2019-20

6. A.J. Greer
LW, 22, 6-3, 205 – Colorado (AHL)
40–15–19–34–50
2015 draft, 39th overall
The Eagles’ second-leading scorer had an NHL stint as a fourth-line grinder.

7. Pavel Francouz
G, 28, 6-0, 180 – Colorado (AHL)
21–13–1, 2.68, .918
Free agent, May 2, 2018
Right-catching stopper named to AHL All-Star Game in first North American season.

8. Sampo Ranta
LW, 18, 6-2, 205 – Minnesota (Big Ten)
33–5–9–14–27
2018 draft, 78th overall
The Finn decommitted to Wisconsin to take his raw skill set to the rival Gophers.

9. Nicolas Meloche
D, 21, 6-3, 205 – Colorado (AHL)
46–6–14–20–43
2015 draft, 40th overall
He’s a mainstay AHL blueliner with plenty of promise for the big club.

10. Nikolai Kovalenko
RW, 19, 5-10, 175 – Yaroslavl (KHL)
33–5–1–6–14
2018 draft, 171st overall
Youngster struggling to produce offensively in his first full KHL season.

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