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The Avs Nation is just one short weekend away from getting to see some Colorado Avalanche hockey. Granted, it’s in the form of rookie prospects, but it’s the prelude to the season ahead.
Rookie training camp, as well as regular training camp, is open to the public to the watch — Mile High Sticking will be covering both live. However, with all those unfamiliar faces out there in the rookie camp, Avalanche fans might appreciate a heads up on whom to watch. Borna Rendulić is one of those.
Borna Rendulić is a right wing out of Zagreb, Croatia — that’s right, Croatia has ice rinks, same as northern neighbor Slovenia. Rendulić is a fair-sized boy at 6-foot-3, 194 pounds.
On May 19, 2014, the Colorado Avalanche signed the 22-year-old Rendulić to a two-year, entry-level contract. He still needs to fight his way onto the team — and it’s not going to be easy. However, Rendulić attended the prospect camp in July — and made quite a name for himself.
According to Croatian newspaper Večerni List, Rendulić said,
"“After numerous conditioning tests, the Colorado trainer told me that I was in range with NHL players.” [translation mine]"
The Colorado Avalanche apparently put the prospects through some intense paces. According to Rendulić, one day they even worked out with the U.S. Army (the base is just an hour south of Denver, after all.) He said of the experience:
"“On that day, we first went to the range with various barriers and ropes, and when we passed, we thought we were finished. However, we did two more hours of training.” [translation mine]"
Rendulić added that after that came the hellish part:
"“They sent us to climb the Rocky Mountains, and the two kilometers of steps. You stand at the top, and you can’t see the bottom. We reached the top in 39 minutes, and still you must go down running.” [translation mine]"
(Note — I’m not sure, but I think he’s talking about Seven Falls.)
Rendulić, of course, is distinguished as being the first Croatian-born, Croatian-trained hockey player to sign with an NHL team. Rendulić started playing for the Zagreb-based club KHL Medveščak, the most successful Croatian hockey team, when he was 15. He later moved to the Finland-based club HPK.
Of course, Avs fans are no stranger to rooting for Croats — does Joe Sakic, or Šakić, ring a bell? Sakic’s parents came from the Croatian town of Imotski.
Now Rendulić is getting his big shot with the Avalanche. Večerni List reported that he meant to return to Colorado mid-August in order to acclimate to the altitude.
Naturally, he will almost certainly see time with the AHL Lake Erie Monsters. Rendulić is prepared for that:
"“I have to play well [in Lake Erie], and if someone gets injured, then I am, as they call it, the first ‘call up’.” [translation mine]"
Nonetheless, Rendulić could certainly see some NHL time after conditioning with the Monsters. According to Elite Prospects, he’s got the instincts of a scorer matched with the strength and skill to get to the front of the net. Apparently he’s got a strong shot — but he tends to rely on finesse. Sounds right up the Avalanche’s alley, to be honest.
Check out a sweet Rendulić goal — and an even sweeter celly:
Good luck to Rendulić — or, as they say in Croatia, “Sretno.”