Patient Avs have building block in Notre Dame’s Cam Morrison
Avalanche 2016 second-round draft pick Cam Morrison is an example of why Colorado probably won’t make a long-term deal with a high-priced free agent Saturday. While the Notre Dame sophomore forward is a year or two from playing in the NHL, the Avs appear willing to wait for him. They are determined to rebuild the league’s worst team with youth and patience.
Barring a Matt Duchene trade, which would fetch a top-four defenseman and/or a draft pick/prospect, Colorado seems set on the status quo. Duchene most recently has been linked to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators.
As for Morrison, he’s not going anywhere.
“It’s definitely cool, since they’re trying to rebuild everything from the ground up,” Morrison said Thursday after the Avs’ week-long development camp. “It’s pretty cool to be part of that experience. I’m excited for what lies ahead.”
He added: “When both me and the staff on the Avs feel I’m ready, I’ll consider making the jump. But right now I feel like I’m in a good place, and still developing as a player.”
Morrison was drafted at age 17 and was among the NCAA’s youngest freshmen last season. He finished tied as Notre Dame’s fifth-leading scorer
(24 points) and fourth-leading goal scorer (12). He would like to double those numbers in the 2017-18 season.
“I feel like that’s a reachable goal,” he said. “I’ve definitely been working on a lot of things with my game. My skating has improved to get me to more pucks and beat the defense down low.”
NHL free agency begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic declined comment this week about his team’s plans, but a spokesman said no big splashes will be made and the grand idea is to “build from within.”
The Avs’ nonaggressive approach to free agency doesn’t mean they won’t sign a flurry of players to two-way contracts Saturday. In fact, the Avs might be among the busiest teams stocking their minor-league system, because many of their minor-league players from last season will be playing in Colorado during the 2017-18 season.
Young forwards J.T. Compher and A.J. Greer, plus defensemen Chris Bigras and Anton Lindholm, mostly played for San Antonio of the American Hockey League last season, but all could make Colorado’s opening-night roster in October. And high-profile spring signees Tyson Jost, a forward, and defenseman 950 AM, 87.7 FM
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Andrei Mironov could bypass the minors entirely and immediately play for the Avs. Those players represent change, although Compher, Lindholm and Jost finished last season with Colorado, which was out of the playoff picture midseason and finished with a club-low 48 points.
Next year, top unsigned prospects such as Morrison and 2017 first-round draft pick Cale Makar, a defenseman, could be ready. Makar, selected No. 4 overall, will play at least one season for the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Speaking of school, Morrison departed the Avs’ development camp Wednesday afternoon to make it to his summer classes in South Bend, Ind. The camp continued through Thursday, after the 20-some contingent hiked the Manitou Incline above Manitou Springs.
A year ago, shortly after he was selected 40th overall in the draft, Morrison left development camp a day after he arrived. His classwork at Notre Dame was his priority, so his visit to the Denver area was only of the meet-and-greet variety.
Morrison is preparing for his sophomore hockey season at Notre Dame, but he’s further along academically. He likely will be offered a contract before his senior year with the Fighting Irish, and he wants to be close to his degree.
HOUSTON AT COLORADO
Notre Dame forward Cam Morrison was a secondround pick of the Avs last year.