LAS VEGAS--Pre-season rookie tournaments are meant to not only prepare young players to compete with the veterans when NHL training camps begin but to also help them stand out among their peers in front of a plethora of scouts and team executives.
That latter part is especially important for those who have been passed over in the NHL Draft or are fighting for contracts.
Recently-drafted Brandon Saigeon and amateur tryout Matthew Boucher fall into the latter of the two categories for the Colorado Avalanche at the Vegas Rookie Faceoff. The two 20-year-olds are aiming to play pro hockey this year after four seasons of junior hockey.
The forwards are among a handful of skaters doing their best to earn a deal and start their professional career this season with the Avalanche organization. Boucher and Saigeon have an advantage on the stat sheet currently as both scored for the second straight game in the Avs' 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
"I think the effort has been terrific," said Colorado assistant general manager Craig Billington on the urgency being displayed by the club's 28 players at the prospect showcase. "They're all working, and they're all trying to show their best out there. They know they're being evaluated. It's a day-by-day process. This is the early part and a really good tournament to kick start the evaluation process."
Saigeon was passed over in two previous NHL Drafts before Colorado selected him in the fifth round at No. 125 overall this past summer. He recorded 35 goals and 70 points last year with the Hamilton Bulldogs and helped the club win the Ontario Hockey League championship.
Boucher just wrapped up his fourth season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he registered his third-straight campaign with 25 or more goals. He had a career-high 69 points (31 goals and 38 assists) last year, his second as the team captain of the Quebec Remparts.
The two players don't have to look any further than one of their teammates in Las Vegas to see how jobs can be earned during training camp. Ty Lewis was an amateur tryout at last year's Avalanche camp but earned an entry-level contract after a strong showing. Lewis then went on to produce a 100-point season in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Saigeon, Boucher and the four other unsigned players on Colorado's roster still have some of opportunities to impress before decisions will be made. The Avs conclude the Vegas Rookie Faceoff on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks and begin its NHL training camp on Friday in Denver.
ANNUNEN IN NET: Goaltender Justus Annunen made his first start of the rookie tournament on Sunday and played for the second time in less than 24 hours.
Annunen stopped 32 of 36 shots he faced against Anaheim after making seven saves on eight shots on Saturday versus Vegas.
Colorado's second selection (third round, 64th overall) at the 2018 NHL Draft played the second half of the contest against the host Golden Knights in a move that was pre-decided. Petr Kvaca started that game and is expected to see more time in goal in the Avs' last contest of the showcase on Tuesday.
CAPTAINS: Sergei Boikov and Nicolas Meloche wore the alternate captain letters for Colorado in the contest against the Ducks. The Avs did not have anyone wear the captain 'C' after Vladislav Kamenev wore it on Saturday but was a healthy scratch versus Anaheim.
Meloche and J.C. Beaudin were the team's alternate captains versus Vegas.
DEBUTS: After watching the Avalanche's first game of the prospect showcase, seven players saw their first action of the rookie tournament on Sunday. Cole Ully, Tim McGauley, Michael Joly, Cole Reinhardt, R.T. Rice, Alex Breton and Sean Strange all made their debuts in Las Vegas against the Anaheim Ducks.
SCRATCHES: With seven skaters playing in their first contests in Las Vegas, seven others got some rest after playing the previous night versus the Knights.
Vladislav Kamenev, J.C. Beaudin, Travis Barron, Logan O'Connor, Matthew Pufalhl, Robbie Holmes and Turner Ottenbreit were the healthy scratches on Sunday and watched the game from the stands at City National Arena.
Colorado scratched Nolan De Jong for the second consecutive outing.
Avalanche Lineup vs. Anaheim Ducks
Cole Ully - Tim McGauley - Michael Joly
Ty Lewis - Brandon Saigeon - Martin Kaut
Josh Dickinson - Igor Shvyrev - Nick Henry
Cole Reinhardt - Matthew Boucher - R.T. Rice
Josh Anderson - Sergei Boikov
Alex Breton - Nicolas Meloche
Sean Strange - Kevin Davis