Pa­tient Avs have build­ing block in Notre Dame’s Cam Mor­ri­son

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

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

As­so­ci­ated Press file

Notre Dame for­ward Cam Mor­ri­son was a sec­on­dround pick of the Avs last year.

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