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July 11, 2013
Top 10 Prospects 2013
Colorado Avalanche

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Colorado Avalanche Top 10 Prospects

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Center
2. Michael Sgarbossa, Center
3. Chris Bigras, Defense
4. Duncan Siemens, Defense
5. Joey Hishon, Center
6. Garret Meurs, Center
7. Will Butcher, Defense
8.Calvin Pickard, Goaltender
9.Nate Condon, Left Wing
10.Mitchell Heard, Center

Organizational Ranking: 17th

System Overview: Nathan MacKinnon is the obvious shining jewel of the Colorado system, but while the Avs have a decent system, it is mostly top heavy. Sgarbossa is a skilled forward, and Bigras and Siemens are quality defensemen, but there are a lot of low-upside or questionable prospects after them. Colorado only has one goaltender in their top 15, but has some depth at that position, with players like Sami Aittokallio, Kent Patterson, Kieran Millan, and Spencer Martin in the pipeline.

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1. Nathan MacKinnon, Center
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 09/01/1995
Age: 17
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 182
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 44 GP, 32 G, 75 P (Halifax, QMJHL)
Acquired: First round, first overall in 2013 by Colorado

Year in Review: MacKinnon was a dominant player in the QMJHL, and he elevated his game in the postseason.

The Good: MacKinnon is one of the best skaters to ever emerge from the NHL Entry Draft, an elite and arguably a generational player in that area. He accompanies that with a high level of skill, vision, finishing ability, and grit. He plays with a high level of competitiveness, be it driving the net, or trying to win battles.

The Bad: MacKinnon does not have a glaring weakness, other than just needing to improve his defense a tad. Overall, his needed areas of improvement amount to fine, minute details in his game.

Projection: He could be one of the NHL's elite centers.

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2. Michael Sgarbossa, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 07/25/1992
Age:
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 57 GP, 19 G, 44 P (Lake Erie, AHL)
Acquired: Trade from San Jose, undrafted

Year in Review: Sgarbossa was Lake Erie's top offensive threat in his rookie AHL season, and he earned a brief NHL call up.

The Good: Sgarbossa had a very good first professional season, displaying his offensive potential. His best trait is his hockey sense, which is high end. Sgarbossa is described by scouts as a player who makes his linemates better due to his great vision and offensive feel for the game. Sgarbossa has a fine work ethic, and overall, he has the intangibles needed to play a big role at the top level, despite his size. He has decent-to-solid speed as well.

The Bad: Sgarbossa's size is his main weakness, as he needs to continue to gain strength so he can handle the physical rigors of the NHL. He works hard, and he has some defensive value, but he could continue to work on the defensive portion of his game.

Projection: He could be a good top-six forward.

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3. Chris Bigras, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 02/22/1995
Age: 18
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 186
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 68 GP, 8 G, 38 P (Owen Sound, OHL)
Acquired: Second round, 32nd overall in 2013 by Colorado

Year in Review: Bigras was a top player for one of the OHL's best teams, contributing significantly at both ends.

The Good: Bigras is an advanced defenseman who has significant value on both offense and defense. He defends very well for an 18-year-old, positioning himself effectively, stick checking well, making quick reads, and closing his gaps. He skates well, be it backwards to stay with his checks, or forwards, to jump into the rush. He has an average-to-slightly-above-average amount of skill, and he can make plays with the puck.

The Bad: Bigras is not an overly aggressive offensive player, and he sometimes defers to making simple plays. His shot could use work. He is also not a particularly gritty player, and he needs to gain strength.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defenseman.

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4. Duncan Siemens, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 09/11/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 209
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 70 GP, 3 G, 32 P (Saskatoon, WHL)
Acquired: First round, 11th overall in 2011 by Colorado

Year in Review: Siemens was one of Saskatoon's top players this season, providing very significant defensive value.

The Good: Siemens is a high-end skater who moves at a tremendous level for a 6'4" defenseman. He has a technically sound stride, good four-way movements, and a powerful burst. His physical gifts are obvious, with his speed and size; he is a tough, physical defenseman who utilizes his frame to shutdown opponents. He is a very hard worker, and he grinds out every battle. Siemens projects as an above-average defensive player due to that element of his game, along with the fine reads he makes in his own end. His decision making has improved, and he does not hurt himself as often as he used to.

The Bad: Siemens lacks offensive upside. He does not project as much of a puck mover, as he keeps his game simple with his outlets and first passes. He can flash some ability in the offensive area, particularly with his feet, but that is not his game.

Projection: He could be a second pairing defenseman.

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5. Joey Hishon, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 07/26/1991
Age: 21
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 175
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 9 GP, 1 G, 6 P (Lake Erie, AHL)
Acquired: First round, 17th overall in 2010 by Colorado

Year in Review: After missing nearly two full seasons due to concussion issues, Hishon returned for a brief amount of time.

The Good: Hishon has very desirable puck possession ability, between his high-end puck skills, his great creativity with the puck, and his above-average vision. He can make difficult plays with consistency, and he is able to be a primary starting point for offense. He is a shifty and agile player. Hishon has a good work ethic, and he plays with energy at both ends.

The Bad: He has been out for two years with a concussion, and he can sometimes force bad plays. His top gear could be better, considering his size.

Projection: He could be an average second line forward.

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6. Garret Meurs, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 10th
Date of birth: 01/12/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 175
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 67 GP, 32 G, 65 P (Plymouth, OHL)
Acquired: Fifth round, 123rd overall in 2011 by Colorado

Year in Review: Meurs took a step forward, contributing as a good all-around player for one of the CHL's best teams.

The Good: Meurs has a lot of desirable elements to his game. He is a solid skater, with good two-way hockey sense, which is especially evident in his playmaking skills. He is also a tough, competitive player who attacks the high percentage areas, while not shying away from the rough stuff. He has a fair amount of puck skill as well.

The Bad: Meurs does not have a major issue, but he is the type of bland prospect who is good, but not great, at any one thing. He is a little small, and he could use some more bulk, but his stature is not a real concern.

Projection: He could be an average second line forward.

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7. Will Butcher, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 02/22/1995
Age: 18
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 191
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 67 GP, 11 G, 37 P (USA Under-18, USHL)
Acquired: Fifth round, 123rd overall in 2013 by Colorado

Year in Review: Butcher was up-and-down after coming into the year touted as one of the USNTDP's top defensemen, but he had a good second half, topped off with an excellent World Under-18 tournament.

The Good: Butcher is a very good skater with quick bursts in every direction. He possesses nice agility and good speed in joining the rush. He has plus hockey sense, which is evident through his ability as a puck distributor, and also in his game-processing speed and creativity. Butcher also defends at an effective level for a smaller defenseman.

The Bad: His size is his most notable issue, as it is always tough for smaller defensemen to make it at the top level. He also can be a tad too risky in his decision making.

Projection: He could be a second pairing defenseman.

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8. Calvin Pickard, Goaltender
2011-12 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 04/15/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 208
Catches: Left
Statistics: 47 GP .918 SV% (Lake Erie, AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 49th overall in 2010 by Colorado

Year in Review: Pickard had a decent first professional season. He was the top goaltender in a deep minor league system for that position.

The Good: Pickard had a successful rookie season in the AHL, and he has a lot of interesting qualities to his game. He is an athletic goaltender who moves well in the crease and he showed the ability to make more difficult stops than he did in the WHL. He reads the play effectively, knowing how to adjust his angles, while anticipating lateral plays. He is a very competitive goalie who makes the second and third efforts.

The Bad: Pickard does not have a glaring weakness, though his reflexes are not top end. His upside is not very high.

Projection: He could be a below-average starting goaltender.

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9. Nate Condon, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 14th
Date of birth: 05/29/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 198
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 40 GP, 12 G, 31 P (Univ. of Minnesota, WCHA)
Acquired: Seventh round, 200th overall in 2010 by Colorado

Year in Review: Condon took on a variety of roles for the Golden Gophers, having a solid junior campaign, where he was always finding ways to contribute.

The Good: Condon is a good, if not a very good skater, and he can change gears well. He is a hard-working forward whose energy and speed make him a presence on the ice. He has solid offensive hockey sense, with the ability to make above-average passes and create chances with the puck. He has some defensive value as well.

The Bad: Condon does not stand out in any one area. While he has offensive upside and defensive value, at the moment, he looks like a "tweener," as it is uncertain where exactly he would fit at the NHL. He is a tad undersized, too.

Projection: He could be a third line winger.

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10. Mitchell Heard, Center
2011-12 Ranking: 15th
Date of birth: 03/12/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 23 GP, 1 G, 4 P (Lake Erie, AHL); 32 GP, 17 G, 36 P (Plymouth, OHL)
Acquired: Second round, 41st overall in 2012 by Colorado

Year in Review: Heard started his overage season in the AHL but he was sent back to the Whalers after the New Year due to struggles at the pro level. He then became a solid piece on a top CHL team.

The Good: Heard is a good skater, certainly above average, and he can flash plus skill in that department. He has a quality first few steps, good edgework, and an impressive top speed. He is a tough, hard-working player who gets involved in the rough stuff, as he can win battles well. Heard has solid defensive value, and a fine shot as well.

The Bad: He has decent offensive hockey sense, and while his numbers are not sterling, there is a little projection in that area. His overall skill level is certainly below average. Heard needs to continue to gain strength and get more acclimated to a faster-paced game.

Projection: He could be a bottom-six forward.

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The Next Five

11. Colin Smith, Center: Smith is an intriguing prospect who put up a lot of points this season. He has great offensive instincts and competes well.

12. Wilhelm Westlund, Defense: Westlund is not a spectacular player but is a smart two-way defenseman who skates well.

13. Troy Bourke, Left Wing: Bourke is a skilled, gritty forward who skates fine. His numbers have not been great in the WHL, but he has not had a lot of support.

14. Brad Malone, Center: Malone is a solid defensive forward who is physical, and he can make a few plays. Skating remains a concern for him.

15. Paul Carey, Left Wing: Carey is a fast player who has a nice, gritty element to go along with average skill.

The Sleeper: Markus Lauridsen, Defense

The 22-year-old Lauridsen was undrafted, but is intriguing due to his size, skill, and mobility. He could have a big 2013-14.

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Colorado Avalanche Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Matt Duchene, Center
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Center
3. Gabriel Landeskog, Left Wing
4.Ryan O'Reilly, Center
5. Tyson Barrie, Defense
6.Michael Sgarbossa, Center
7. Stefan Elliott, Defense
8. Chris Bigras, Defense
9. Duncan Siemens, Defense
10. Joey Hishon, Center

Duchene took significant strides forward and looked the part of a true star number one center. His skill level is excellent, and he should be a top player in the NHL for many years. Landeskog had concussion issues this year, but still looked like a quality player. If he is 100% next year, he could have a huge season. Ryan O'Reilly missed time due to contract negotiations, but when he got back, he looked like a legit number one center, with great two-way ability. Barrie is one of the game's best up-and-coming young defenseman. He has a lot of skill, hockey sense, and skating ability. Elliott struggled in the first half, but he was better in the second part of the season. He skates very well and he has a big shot, but his game still needs rounding out.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/09)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/09)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/22)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/22)

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