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30 in 30

Top prospects for Colorado Avalanche

Forwards Mikko Rantanen, J.T. Compher, defenseman Chris Bigras highlight organizational depth

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 30 teams throughout August. Today, the Colorado Avalanche.

The Colorado Avalanche are intent on building through the NHL Draft and are starting to stock the organization with better prospects after failing to do so for too long. First-round picks aside, goalie Calvin Pickard and defensemen Chris Bigras and Tyson Barrie were the only Colorado draft choices to play regularly last season.

"You have to have depth in your organization, and we're starting to see our depth develop here," general manager Joe Sakic told the Avalanche website.

The prospect pool has improved and should continue to develop under highly successful junior coach Eric Veilleux, who was hired to coach San Antonio of the American Hockey League on July 6.

Here are the Avalanche's top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Mikko Rantanen, RW

How acquired: Selected with No. 10 pick of 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Colorado: 9 GP, 0-0-0; San Antonio (AHL): 52 GP, 24-36-60

The Finland-born Rantanen, 19, is a 6-foot-4, 211-pound power forward who was the AHL's co-Rookie of the Year last season, his first in North America. He isn't overly physical but skates well for a big man and has a knack for getting into good scoring areas to unleash an effective shot.

Rantanen should help fill a void at right wing, where the Avalanche are in short supply. He flourished at the AHL level playing major minutes after seeing limited action in Colorado, most of it on the fourth line. He will be given every opportunity to win a top-six forward role in training camp. 

Projected NHL arrival: This season

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Video: 30 in 30: Colorado Avalanche 2016-17 season preview

2. Chris Bigras, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 32 pick of 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Colorado: 31 GP, 1-2-3; San Antonio (AHL): 37 GP, 6-13-19

Bigras, 21, isn't flashy, but he plays a strong two-way game with plenty of poise given his age. He looked comfortable following his Jan. 13 recall from San Antonio and emerged as one of the Avalanche's better defensemen.

Bigras (6-1, 190) is a smooth skater and adept at moving the puck to the Avalanche's speedy forwards. He is Colorado's best defensive prospect since Barrie was selected with the No. 64 pick in 2009.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

3. JT Compher, LW

How acquired: In trade with Buffalo Sabres, June 26, 2015

Last season: Michigan (NCAA): 38 GP, 16-47-63

Compher, 21, was chosen by the Sabres with the No. 35 pick in the 2013 draft and a key figure in the multiplayer trade that sent forward Ryan O'Reilly to Buffalo. Compher signed his entry-level contract in April, forgoing his senior year at Michigan.

The team captain at Michigan and an excellent playmaker, the 6-foot, 182-pound Compher was a Hobey Baker finalist playing on the high-scoring "CCM Line" with Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets) and Tyler Motte (Chicago Blackhawks). He plays with energy and grit, and will go to the hard areas to make a play.

"I think I'm a competitive player, a two-way guy," Compher said at Avalanche development camp. "I can play wing, I can play center, I can be an offensive guy, I can be a defensive guy. I think that's going to help me transition to pro and try to find a spot on the team."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

4. Tyson Jost, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 10 pick of 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Penticton (BCHL): 48 GP, 42-62-104

Jost, 18, will begin his freshman year at the University of North Dakota after being named Canadian Junior Hockey League National Player of the Year. He was Penticton's captain and wore the "C" for Canada at the 2016 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, where his 15 points in seven games broke Connor McDavid's Canadian record.

Video: 10th overall pick Tyson Jost on his draft day

Jost (5-11, 191) has patterned his game after Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, who also went to North Dakota. Jost needs to work on his skating but is a highly skilled offensive player. He attended Hockey Canada's National Junior Team Summer Development Camp before heading to college. 

"He can score goals, he's got great vision," Sakic said. "Everywhere he's gone, he's been a leader. You cannot have enough character guys. He's a leader on the ice, he does everything you can ask from a hockey player. We really love his character, his compete. He plays a full 200-foot game, he does everything really well."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

5. AJ Greer, LW

How acquired: Selected with No. 39 pick of 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: Boston University (NCAA): 18 GP, 1-4-5; Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL): 33 GP, 16-11-27

Greer, 19, has a strong work ethic and plays with an edge. The 6-3, 204-pound forward could return to his junior team because he was drafted out of college but is expected to begin this season in San Antonio. He joined Rouyn-Noranda in January and was especially effective in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs (12 goals, 10 assists in 20 games). He also had a goal and an assist in five games to help the Huskies reach the Memorial Cup final.

"I want to start my pro career," Greer said at development camp. "I think I'm ready for it, physically and mentally. I think I can play at that level and be a good asset. If they give me a shot, I'll take it at run with it."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

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