Sunday, July 22, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche are up:

Michael Sgarbossa - Sudbury Wolves
Acquired by the Avs as part of the McGinn/Winnik trade, Sgarbossa had a massive breakout season this year that saw him become one of the OHL's premier scoring forwards. The biggest reason for this breakout, IMO, was added strength. He's not the biggest guy, and in previous seasons he's been a little easy to separate from the puck. This year, he was so hard to contain in the offensive zone because that added strength made his puck protection ability a force to be reckoned with. He's especially dangerous coming off the wall, towards the net with the puck where his good acceleration also comes in handy. His shot also greatly improved this year, another piece of evidence of a great dedication to offseason strength training. He loves to fly down the wing and fire off wristers, and is great at using defenseman as screens. He's not a perimeter player either, and loves to get his nose dirty in the corners. It'll be interesting to see how his first professional season goes this coming year in Lake Erie. Moving forward, I think he's probably better suited to the wing where his shot, puck carrying ability, and speed can really make him dangerous. His defensive game will need some work, so a move to the wing would help lessen that learning curve. At times, he can hang on to the puck too long and become a little selfish, something that a move to the wing might curtail too. He has a ton of skill and hopefully he puts it on display in the AHL this year.

Garrett Meurs - Plymouth Whalers
It was a good year for Meurs, who was definitely able to figure out what type of player he wants to be moving forward. That mean streak we started to see towards the tail end of his draft year came out even more this season. He's transformed himself from a relatively perimeter based offensive forward, to a hard nosed, tenacious potential two-way threat. He's done well to eliminate some of the costly turnovers that plagued his first two seasons in the league and has really simplified his approach in the offensive end. He's working harder on the cycle and going hard to the net for loose pucks. He's got great hands in close and definitely has the potential to put up even bigger offensive numbers than he did this year. Next season the Whalers will be returning a lot of their key forwards, so it'll be interesting to see if he's able to improve his offensive numbers yet again, without a lot of added responsibility. He could definitely see more powerplay time this year though, replacing Bathgate and Devane on the 2nd unit. I'd expect and hope he can inch closer to the point per game mark this season.

Mitchell Heard - Plymouth Whalers
It'll be interesting to see what the Avs do with Heard after taking the '92 born forward in the 2nd round. They've got some time to get him signed and could have him play in either the AHL or the OHL this season. He continued to improve his offensive numbers this past year with increased responsibility, especially on the powerplay. He's cut from the same cloth as a guy like Andrew Shaw, who's had great success for the Hawks since being drafted. Personally, I'd send him back for his overage season in the OHL to help the Whalers possibly take home the OHL title (they've got the roster for it). He could continue to take charge offensively and try to improve his numbers yet again. It'd also give him another season to get faster and stronger. On the other hand, the intangibles he brings to the ice (such as his faceoff ability) could already make him a valuable pro player. I'm interested to see where he plays.

Michael Clarke - Windsor Spitfires
Clarke had a very inconsistent first season in the OHL. He started off red hot, cooled considerably, then found his game again closer to the playoffs. Now that he's experienced a full year in the league, I'd expect him to come back strong this year after an offseason filled with intense training and his first NHL training camp experience. He's going to have to really knock some socks off in Windsor too, because they've got a lot of young talent and he could quickly find himself as trade bait should he not perform. But with Khokhlachev leaving, he'll have a great shot at the first line center spot (along with Brady Vail and rookie Josh Ho-Sang, although Ho-Sang says he's playing wing to start). That's some tough competition though, so I'm hoping he's up for it. I'd expect him to at least hit the 50 point plateau this year, regardless of where and what role he's playing.

Joseph Blandisi - Owen Sound Attack
The Attack will be returning nearly every major forward save Mike Halmo, so it's not likely the hard working Blandisi will see a huge role increase. But he will be coming into his 2nd OHL season, so hopefully he's worked hard this offseason, knowing exactly what's in store for him (similar to Clarke). The fact that he's so versatile and can play any forward position will help him out. With a new coach in Owen Sound, he does have a shot to earn some trust and more special teams time. The Attack should have a solid team next year, so even if he doesn't put up a huge increase in production, he could still be a key component to a potential Conference winning squad.

*of note, the Avs held the rights to Belleville defenseman Steve Silas, but chose not to sign him and relinquished his rights.


Joaquim Baeta said...

Excellent look at some of the Avs' prospects. There are some rumblings of Heard making an impact with the big club sooner rather than later, but I'm not sure how grounded in reality they are.

Ethan said...

Yes Sgarbossa is obviously a good player but you really needed to look at his playoff performance this year. Brampton completely shut him down with their defensive style and gave him no room whatsoever. I was high on sgarbossa before the series started but in watching every game it was easy to see how a team can keep him off the scoreboard without much difficulty