Avalanche Prospects Have a Limited Run at World Juniors

via NHL.com and IIHF.com

Colorado’s two prospects at the 2022 IIHF World Juniors take early exits.

Over the past few seasons, the Colorado Avalanche organization has traded pick after pick in its chase for the Stanley Cup. The good news: the cup came home to Denver. The bad news: the Avs’ prospect pool hasn’t been this thin since the years before Nathan MacKinnon’s 2013 draft.

At the 2022 IIHF U20 World Junior Championship, held this year in August due to Covid-19’s cancellation of the original December tournament, the Avalanche have only two prospects competing: Sean Behrens for the United States of America, and Oskar Olausson for Sweden. Both drafted in 2021, these prospects are two of the only high-ceiling skaters remaining in the Avalanche system.

Sean Behrens

D, 19, University of Denver

After a stellar freshman year at the University of Denver and a Frozen Four Championship, Behrens was a late addition to the United States World Junior team as their 7th defencemen. He sat the first game against Germany but played the U.S.’s second game of the tournament, a 7-1 victory over Switzerland. During the game, however, Behrens took a heavy hit that temporarily sidelined him from play.

He eventually returned to the game and finished with 11:21 of ice time and zero points, but did not play again in the tournament, possibly due to the hit taken against the Swiss. Six days later, the United States exited in the quarterfinals following a disappointing 4-2 loss against Czechia after dominating play in the preliminary round.

While Behrens’ nomination to the United States World Junior roster bodes well for the Avalanche’s confidence in his development, the tournament offered a very limited look at Behrens as a player — only 11 minutes. As the 7th defenceman, Behrens had the lowest ice time and an extremely narrow window to establish himself on the ice, a quality which never really surfaced. As a result, his offensive talent never displayed itself.

While Behrens is eligible for the 2023 IIHF World Juniors this winter, it has yet to be seen if he will be named to the roster. Even if he attends, Behrens’ time-on-ice will continue to be limited unless he plays an elevated role. The NCAA stage is a better place to watch this offensive defenceman continue his collegiate development in his sophomore season at DU.

Oskar Olausson

F, 19, Colorado Eagles

Sweden’s time at World Juniors lasted longer than the United States but ended after a 1-0 loss to Finland in the semifinals following a vacuum of offensive pressure or threat.

Still, Oskar Olausson played a valuable role on Sweden’s team as a second-line winger and powerplay regular. In fact, Olausson finished the tournament with the second highest total ice time among Sweden’s forwards despite being listed on the team’s second line. In six games, he had one goal and four assists for five points and finished as a +1. He also led forwards in shots on goal at 18.

Olausson looked strong during Sweden’s early games at the tournament, but as the rounds advanced, he faded into the background of Sweden’s game and failed to generate sustained pressure. Though his shot remains stellar, his inconsistency, confusing use of body contact, and lack of dangerous chances point to another year of development. Avalanche fans should not plan to see Olausson crack the NHL roster any time soon, but there is still hope that Olausson, a former first-rounder has a high upside.

Olausson’s progress as a prospect continues to go in the right direction, and a season with the Avs’ Colorado Eagles in the AHL will provide a year of consistent pro hockey for the Swede. At only 19, the clock has not yet run out.

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