Observations From Avalanche Development Camp

Colorado Hockey Now

Development Camp for the Colorado Avalanche has come to an end, and it’s now time for all of the prospects to disperse to their respective hometowns, where they’ll train for their upcoming seasons.

Well, not all of them, as Calum Ritchie is sticking around a little longer to work with the Avalanche, but more on that in the coming days.

I kind of kept quiet on what was happening at development camp all week long for a reason. This week is for these young men to get an introduction into what life is like at the professional level, and for the staff to get a baseline of where they’re all at in person. From there, they all head back with a plan to prepare for next season. There’s only so much people like us can take from the drills they’re doing, and certainly not enough to form a full opinion on any of the players. Friday night’s scrimmage was pretty entertaining, though.

For now, here are just the general observations on the week that was and what went down in the scrimmage.

  • The star of the week was Calum Ritchie, but that was to be expected, right? The reality is that a lot of the players in camp won’t play in the NHL at any point, whereas Ritchie seems like a lock. You’d hope that he looks better than everyone else, and he did. I spoke to him on Thursday and will have more on him this weekend. During Thursday’s practice, Jared Bednar pulled him aside and had a pretty long chat with him. He talked to me about that discussion he had with the bench boss of the Avalanche, so I’ll include that in the story. His skill level is far above everyone else that was in camp, and he’s put on some muscle already. He’s got a sneaky release where he can change the angle of his shot at the last second, which makes life difficult for the goalies. Do I think he will play full-time in the NHL this year? I doubt it, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get a test run to start the year.
  • Sean Behrens looked a lot more polished than the rest of the defensemen in camp, but struggled during Friday’s scrimmage. Quite a few poor reads that led to odd-man rushes, and some mistakes with the puck. Not a big deal overall.
  • The star of the scrimmage was Jake Fisher, who the Avalanche drafted in the fourth round last weekend. He’ll head to DU this Fall, and seems to have quite a few tools. His skating needs a lot of work, and that might be what holds him back. DU Coach David Carle was in the crowd watching with his kids, which makes sense when it felt like half the development camp roster had DU ties.
  • Marek Hejduk is the striking image of his father on the ice, at least in terms of how he skates, how he moves, and even the giant visor. He scored a shootout goal that would make you think you were watching a 25 year old Milan again. He hasn’t produced much at Harvard, but looked good in camp.
  • Christian Humpreys has a ton of skill, but will need to rein it in quite a bit. He tried to stickhandle through everyone multiple times during the scrimmage, which led to turnovers and odd-man rushes the other way. Another guy who needs to work on his skating. He’s headed to Michigan in the Fall and was told he’ll get time on both special teams units. That’s always subject to change, though.
  • Chase Bradley signed an ELC this week and is a strong skater. Not sure there’s much in terms of NHL ability there, but they think he can help in the AHL.
  • Last summer, Taylor Makar was a standout. That wasn’t the case this summer. It was a tough year for him at UMass, but he has since transferred to Maine, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does in a new environment. He’s a really strong skater for his size, though.
  • Colby Ambrosia might have been the most electric player out there, which is why it’s very confusing to see his pedestrian numbers at the NCAA level. He’s another guy who has transferred and will spend a 5th year in college, this time playing at Miami of Ohio.
  • Maybe the biggest surprise on defense is the guy with the coolest name in camp, Boston Buckberger. Yes, another DU player. He stood out in the scrimmage on Friday and scored a nice backhand goal jumping into the play. Someone I’m sure the Avalanche will keep tabs on.
  • 5th Round pick Max Curran didn’t participate, and we didn’t get an official reason as to why. I know he missed a large chunk of his season with injury, so I have to assume that’s what kept him off the ice. 3rd rounder Will Zellers also didn’t participate due to injury.
  • Oskar Olausson was at camp in a non-contact jersey, as he’s recovering from shoulder surgery. Willsie said he’ll be ready for training camp.
  • I asked Willsie about Mikhail Gulyayev, who didn’t participate in this year’s camp. He’s coming off an impressive season in the KHL at just 18.
    • “That’s huge. That’s a tough league to play in as a young guy,” Willsie said. “We watched him closely. We obviously have scouts over there watching him, but with video now, we can watch all his games and his shifts. It’s not easy, and they don’t give opportunities out freely over there to young guys. That’s the way they do it. For him to get the minutes that he had and the opportunity was a great experience. Real good development year and we’ll watch him closely again.”

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