Avalanche Prospects: 7 Questions for Rampage Writer Nathan Mallett


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This season’s Colorado Avalanche prospects are one of the better groups we have seen in Denver. Unfortunately, most of them seem to need a couple of more seasons before they are NHL-ready. That may be bad for the Avalanche, but it is great for Colorado’s new affiliate in the American Hockey League — the San Antonio Rampage.

Calvin Pickard, Chris Bigras, Mikko Rantanen — names that are well known in Avs Nation, and will hopefully become big names across the NHL as well. But how are they even doing in the minors? When will we see them in Colorado? And what do people in San Antonio think about this new affiliation?

Considering the Avalanche’s current situation, every day we have to wait for the prospects to get NHL ready seems to long. The Avs need help soon — without trading away core pieces if possible — and the best way would be to call up some youngsters. Unfortunately, it does not make a lot of sense to rush teenagers into the league, which is why guys like Rantanen and Nikita Zadorov are back in the AHL. But can we expect help soon?

There probably aren’t many people who could give us better insight on the matter than Nathan Mallett, writer of Running With the Herd. We asked him questions, he gave us the answers you want to hear — let’s get to it!

Sep 29, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard (31) warms up against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, how do you feel about the cooperation with the Avalanche a month into the season? What changed compared to the Panthers tenure in regard to the roster and the way players are handled (call ups/demotions)?

So far, so good. I feel like the Avs have really put an emphasis on winning at all levels and have done everything they can to ice a competitive and exciting team in San Antonio. I do wish they would’ve added a little more quality AHL level depth in free agency. Other than Roy’s tendency to carry less than a max roster, I haven’t noticed much so far that’s different than any other affiliation.

The Rampage have many of the most promising Avalanche prospects on their roster (e.g. Pickard, Rantanen, Bigras) and the team looks like one of the best farm teams the Avs have had in a long time. What are the clubs goals this season and does it look like they will reach those goals?

I think their goals are similar to most in the AHL; make the playoffs and develop quality NHL players by putting them in a healthy and winning environment. They are obviously off to a great start. That said, it will be a difficult task as the current AHL landscape makes it difficult for them (travel, playing less games than 5 other division teams, crossover rule). Also, as I mentioned earlier, the lack of depth is concerning. I think they will need minimal injuries, both here and in Denver. If they can stay healthy, they certainly have the makings of a playoff team.

Two thirds of the Avalanche’s future defense are currently building the Rampage’s blue line (Zadorov, Bigras, Geertsen, Siemens). Do these four actually look like they can join Johnson and Barrie in the NHL anytime soon or much more importantly, will they ever? How are they developing in SA?

All four are certainly capable of eventually playing in the NHL. Whether that’s with Colorado remains to be seen. Zadorov looked very good in his only game in San Antonio so far. Bigras is fun to watch and extremely intelligent, but is probably 2 years away. I love Geertsen’s game. Defensively responsible and an underrated puck mover. He is low man on the totem pole right now, though, and he is likely a couple years away as well. Siemens is the wild card. I see NHL D-man when I watch him. He hardly makes any mistakes and has been one of the best defensive players this year. I could see him being moved as part of a package deal which will get him NHL time somewhere else.

Andrew Agozzino is one of the best AHL scorers once again. Will he ever get a real chance in Colorado? Would he have been called up over Andreas Martinsen if it hadn’t been for the shoulder injury?

I see Agozzino as a very good AHL player who may never stick permanently in the NHL due to his size. He could very well bounce around and carve out a decent career, but I’m not sure it’ll be as a regular NHL player. As far as a callup, I’m not sure. If the Avs were looking for a big body to play fourth-line minutes, the best option was Martinsen. Agozzino is a top-six player and would be very out of place on a fourth line.

Both Joey Hishon and Duncan Siemens had a fairly bad training camp and preseason (Siemens didn’t even get to play a game). Martinsen, Dennis Everberg and Ben Street were called up over Hishon. Will they have to find a new club before they get the chance to break into the league as full-time players?

With full disclosure that I know very little of Hishon’s career path, it appears to me, that he is likely going to play out his contract as an AHL player before moving on. Like I said about Siemens earlier, I think he has NHL potential. That potential may not be reached with this organization, however.

What grade would you give Patrick Roy for his roster moves so far? Would you have done anything differently in his position?

I think he’s done the best with what he’s got.  I know fans aren’t fond of seeing some of the overpriced veteran defensemen being run out there every night, but that’s the business of hockey and hopefully, they remedy that when those contracts are up and we see more of Bigras and Zadorov getting those minutes. If I was to do anything different, it wouldn’t be related to roster construction so much as it would be to player usage.

Are there any players on the Rampage who had a surprisingly good or surprisingly bad start into the season and look better or worse than expected? If so, who?

It might sound odd, but I did not expect THIS performance from Calvin Pickard. I knew he was a very good goalie with potential to be a top performer, but he’s played better than I ever imagined he would. The role players (Michael Schumacher, Reid Petryk, Sam Henley) on this team have really stood out for the small things as well.  Andreas Martinsen was a little disappointing while he was here. I had heard how well he played in training camp this fall and was very excited to see him, but he just never impressed on a consistent basis.

So, it looks like it will be a while until this team could contend for the Stanley Cup with their current prospects. However, it also looks like the mentioned players are developing well in the AHL — even Siemens.

Next: Why Avs Fans Are Relatively Lucky

For now, all we can do is wait and see what happens. Will Matt Duchene be traded? What about Semyon Varlamov? Would that even help?

Those are important questions, but a totally different story. Fact is, there are Avalanche prospects developing in San Antonio, and if Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are patient, their first-year success should return soon enough.

Big thanks to Nathan Mallett!