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Gaunce adds to Avs' exciting young class

by Brian Compton

Despite the fact that the Avs' had to wait 49 turns to make their selection at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, they wasted no time in selecting defenseman Cameron Gaunce.
They didn't have a plethora of selections at the 2008 Entry Draft, but the Colorado Avalanche still left Scotiabank Place in Ottawa extremely pleased with what they were able to accomplish.

"It was a very deep draft," Avs Chief Scout Ted Hampson said. "We feel that we added a good young group to the Avalanche roster and we're looking forward to watching them develop."

Due to the February transaction that delivered veteran defenseman Adam Foote, 49 selections were made before the Avs' turn came up. But they did not waste any time in grabbing offensive defenseman Cameron Gaunce at No. 50.
Gaunce is coming off a phenomenal rookie season with Mississauga in the Ontario Hockey League. Due to his tremendous output from the blue line -- he had 10 goals and 30 assists in 60 games -- Gaunce was named to the OHL's All-Rookie team.

Gaunce, though, is hardly the only prospect in Colorado's system, especially on the blue line. Here is a look at the Avalanche's top prospects heading into the 2008-09 campaign:


Chris Stewart -- Selected No. 18 overall by the Avalanche in the 2006 Entry Draft, the 6-foot-1, 228-pound Toronto native is coming off a solid rookie season with the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League. In 77 games for Colorado's top affiliate, the 20-year-old scored 25 goals and added 19 assists. He also racked up 93 minutes in penalties.

"He possesses a physical presence with the ability to play a skilled game," Avs Director of Player Development Craig Billington said. "He's got extremely soft hands and thinks quickly on the ice. To get those two ingredients in the same package is somewhat unique."

T.J. Galiardi -- Colorado's second-round choice in 2007 played his first season of junior hockey after leaving Dartmouth University. In his first campaign with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, the Calgary native had 18 goals and a 52 assists -- an indication of his playmaking abilities and vision.

"T.J.'s a very coachable player," Billington said. "He's willing to learn. I think he's got excellent playmaking capabilities. He's shown a great commitment to his development already."


Ryan Stoa -- The hulking center (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) is known to have a tremendous scoring touch, which he'll have to regain after missing all but two games with the University of Minnesota due to a knee injury. The Bloomington, Minnesota native had 12 goals and 12 assists for the Golden Gophers during his sophomore season of 2006-07.

Entering his senior season in Minnesota this fall, Stoa will wear the "C" as he gears up for the pro game. Colorado selected him in the second round, 34th overall, in 2005.

"He's coming off an injury, and everything's healing up really well," Billington said. "He was cleared to play at the end of this season. He'll be the captain for the University of Minnesota. It's a good boost for him. We're expecting very positive things for him. He was really starting to come around, and unfortunately, he had the injury. He's rehabbed and ready to go. He's very upbeat."


Kevin Shattenkirk -- The New Rochelle, N.Y. native was grabbed with the No. 14 pick in 2007 and enjoyed a solid season with Boston University. In 40 games for the Terriers, the offensive defenseman tallied 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) while registering 38 penalty minutes.

Ryan Stoa will be captain for the University of Minnesota this year, while he gears up for the NHL.
"Obviously, he's a top draft pick of ours," Billington said. "He attended Boston University and progressed well over the year. He thinks the game well. He's a heady player. He sees the ice well and makes good passes. He's a very intelligent player."

Colby Cohen -- This is an interesting situation for the Avalanche, as both Shattenkirk and Cohen are playing for Boston University. Taken in the second round of the same draft, Cohen (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) had three goals, 13 assists and 34 penalty minutes in his first season at the college level.

"Colby's got good size," Billington said. "He has a strong shot from the point. Both he and Kevin had very good freshman years at Boston University. He has a good presence in front of the net."

Billington is confident that the fact that Shattenkirk and Cohen are already playing together will help their development long-term.

"Quite frankly, it has so far," Billington said. "Obviously, there's always the risk of ice time because there's only six spots on the ice. You wonder how it's going to work out. But I think the staff at Boston University has done a tremendous job of managing their ice time."

Nigel Williams -- Second-round pick from 2006 has tremendous size (6-foot-4, 226 pounds) and is coming off his third season at the junior level. In 38 games with the Belleville Bulls, Williams scored 10 goals and added 12 assists. That momentum carried over into the playoffs, as Williams posted seven goals and 11 assists in just 21 games.

"He went to the Memorial Cup and had a tremendous playoff," Billington said. "He's a guy that possesses all the skills and attributes to be a noticeable defenseman. He skates above average for a big man and he's certainly got a big bomb from the point. He can hold his own in one-on-one competition. He really finished the year strong and logged a lot of minutes."


Billy Sauer -- He may have been a seventh-round selection (2006), but Sauer has flourished at the University of Michigan. In his junior season with the Wolverines, Sauer went 30-4-3 with a 1.95 GAA. Sauer is also known to feel comfortable while carrying the puck -- a tremendous commodity in today's NHL.

He finished the year strong in a playoff series against Belleville, where he was night after night one of Peterborough's best performers. - Avs Director Player Development, Craig Billington discussing Trevor Cann
"Billy's coming off a tremendous season with Michigan," said Billington, a former NHL goaltender. "Billy continues to be a very young goalie in the college ranks in terms of when he started. He started as an 18-year-old. If you look at the volume of games played for being a junior heading into his senior year, he's played a bulk of the games from day one."

Trevor Cann --
A second-round pick in 2007, the 19-year-old went 20-28-3 with a 3.59 GAA in his third season with the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League. He didn't have too many nights off on a team that gave up a ton of shots. Billington was pleased with how Cann performed under such duress.

"Trevor's a very skilled goaltender that has seen a lot of rubber over his time in Peterborough," Billington said. "He finished the year strong in a playoff series against Belleville, where he was night after night one of Peterborough's best performers.

"Trevor takes a very serious approach to his game, and a very committed approach. He's an above-average skater with excellent mobility. He gives himself a chance and he competes on the puck."

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