Since the Lake Erie Monsters joined the American Hockey League and partnered with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2007-08 season, the team has sent a total of 24 players to the Mile High City, with 23 of them seeing action with the team’s parent club. Players such as T.J. Hensick, David Jones, Cody McCormick and Cody McLeod have become regulars with the Avs after donning a Monsters jersey in the franchise’s inaugural game on October 6, 2007. From the past to the present, lakeeriemonsters.com will take an in-depth look at how the Monsters have aided the growth and development of some of Colorado’s most promising young prospects.
Defenseman Darcy Campbell was one of just three Monsters to appear in more than 70 games this past season, as the 74 games he suited up for was second only to Chris Durno’s 76. A native of Airdrie, Alberta, Campbell was the only Monster to get called up and not see any on-ice action with the Avalanche. Acquired from the Syracuse Crunch with Phil Dupuis in exchange for Mark Rycroft in January 2008, Campbell was recalled to Colorado on February 19th.
One of 11 players on the Monsters to make his NHL debut this season, center Phil Dupuis also led the Monsters with 29 assists, 46 points and 10 multi-point games. Acquired along with Darcy Campbell from the Syracuse Crunch for Mark Rycroft on January 22nd, 2008, Dupuis appeared in eight games with the Avs this season, recording eight penalty minutes. In two seasons with the Monsters, the French-Canadian forward has played in 84 games, registering 54 points (22G, 32A) and 54 penalty minutes.
It was a long, hard road to the National Hockey League for Monsters’ captain Chris Durno, but the burly, 219-pound forward made his NHL debut on January 18th against the Calgary Flames. Prior to appearing in two games with the Avs this season, Durno spent 147 games with the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL from 2003-2006. The road to Denver also included stops in AHL cities Milwaukee, Norfolk, Portland, San Antonio and Cleveland before the left winger from Scarborough, Ontario, made his debut in the NHL. Signed as a free agent by the Avalanche in July of 2008, Durno led the Monsters in games played (76), goals (18), penalty minutes (131), power play goals (7) and power play points (15).
In just his first season of professional hockey, center T.J. Galiardi made his NHL debut, spending the last 11 games of the season with the Avalanche. The native of Calgary, Alberta, began his season in Cleveland, registering 27 points (10G, 17A) and 32 penalty minutes in 66 games before being summoned to the Mile High City in mid-March. It was there that the second round draft choice of the Avs in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft recorded four points (3G, 1A) and six penalty minutes in 11 games with Lake Erie’s parent club. The highlight of the season for Galiardi came on March 27 against Vancouver, when he recorded his first NHL goal in a 4-1 loss to the Canucks. Prior to playing professionally, Galiardi recorded 70 points (18G, 52A) in 72 games in the major junior ranks with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League in 2007-08.
Much like Durno, forward Matt Hendricks had a long road to the NHL, as the rugged center played professional hockey for six years before getting his shot to play in the NHL. Acquired from the Boston Bruins organization in exchange for defenseman Johnny Boychuk in June 2008, Hendricks appeared in four games with the Avs, recording 13 penalty minutes. Despite missing roughly half the season due to injury, Hendricks led the team with six game-winning goals. With the Monsters, the native of Blaine, Minn., recorded 29 points (14G, 15A) and 69 penalty minutes in 43 games.
The first player of Swedish descent to don a Monsters’ sweater, forward Per Ledin made his NHL debut in the last three games of the season with the Avalanche, recording two penalty minutes. Signed as a free agent by the Colorado organization in July 2008, Ledin recorded 23 points (11G, 12A) and 55 penalty minutes in 58 games with the Monsters. The 2008-09 season was just Ledin’s second in North America in the past seven years, as he played in 27 games with the Baton Rouge Kingfish of the ECHL in 2000-01.
Defenseman Ray Macias was one of three Monsters to appear in his first NHL game this season and record his first point in the NHL. On April 9th, Macias recorded an assist in a 3-2 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars. Born in Long Beach, Calif., Macias began his professional career in 2007-08 with the Monsters after spending five years with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. Macias and defenseman Wes O’Neill were the only players to spend time with all three teams in the Colorado organization, as they played with the Avs, the Monsters and the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL. Prior to spending the last six games of the season with Colorado, Macias registered 18 points (3G, 15A) and 20 penalty minutes in 36games with the Monsters as well as recording six points (1G, 5A) and four penalty minutes in eight games with the Chiefs. In the past two years, Macias, Colorado’s fourth round draft choice in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has recorded 31 points (7G, 24A) and 38 penalty minutes in 78 games with Lake Erie.
Defenseman Aaron MacKenzie, like 10 of his teammates, made his NHL debut in the 2008-09 season with the Avalanche. A native of Terrace Bay, Ontario, MacKenzie appeared in five games with Colorado at season’s end, recording a plus/minus rating of +1. Prior to being called to Colorado, the six-year pro recorded 12 points (3G, 9A) and 50 penalty minutes in 52 games with the Monsters.
Playing with all three teams in the Colorado organization – the Avs, Monsters and Johnstown Chiefs – defenseman Wes O’Neill’s season reached its peak on March 27th, when the native of Essex, Ontario, made his NHL debut against the Vancouver Canucks. After his March 26th promotion to the Avs, O’Neill would appear in a total of three games with Colorado, recording four penalty minutes. By season’s end, the Notre Dame graduate had played in 54 games with the Monsters, registering six points (1G, 5A) and 34 penalty minutes, as well as recording an assist in six games with the Chiefs. O’Neill, in two seasons with the Monsters, has dressed in 105 games, recording 12 points (3G, 9A) and 84 penalty minutes. O’Neill was signed by the Colorado organization in August of 2007.
Defenseman Derek Peltier, along with center T.J. Galiardi, were the only two players to see time with both Lake Erie and Colorado in their first full year as professionals. An alumna of the University of Minnesota, Peltier appeared in 63 games with the Monsters this season, recording 19 points (2G, 17A) and 32 penalty minutes with Colorado’s AHL affiliate. Like Vernace, Peltier, Colorado’s fifth selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (6th round, 184th overall), was recalled in mid-March to the Avs. A native of Plymouth, Minn., Peltier spent the last 11 games of the season with the Avs, recording two penalty minutes. Appearing in six games last season with the Monsters, Peltier’s two-year totals with the Monsters come to 69 games played, 20 points (2G, 18A) and 36 penalty minutes.
In just his second professional season, forward Chris Stewart saw action in 53 games with the Avs after spending the first two months of the season with the Monsters. Stewart put up 19 points (11G, 8A) and 50 penalty minutes in his first season in the NHL. Prior to his move West in early December, Stewart registered 11 points (5G, 6A) and 23 penalty minutes in 19 games with the Monsters. But the highlight of Stewart’s season came on December 9th, when he recorded his first NHL goal and assist in a 6-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings. A first round pick of the Avalanche in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Stewart recorded the team’s lone hat trick this season in a 6-4 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on November 9th. In 2007-08, the Toronto native led the Monsters with 25 goals. In two seasons with the Monsters, Stewart has appeared in 94 games, recording 55 points (30G, 25A) and 116 penalty minutes.
Acquired from the San Jose Sharks for a conditional draft pick in June of 2006, defenseman Mike Vernace finally cracked the NHL lineup after spending the past three seasons in the American Hockey League, two of which were with the Monsters. After recording 17 points (3G, 14A) in 65 games with the Monsters this season, Vernace willingly walked West, taking his game to Denver upon being recalled to the parent club in mid-March. In 12 games with the Avs, the Toronto native registered eight penalty minutes. In two seasons with the Monsters, Vernace has appeared in 142 games, registering 45 points (6G, 39A) and 109 penalty minutes.
Aside from Hensick and Cumiskey, forward Brian Willsie was the only Monsters player called up to Colorado with previous NHL experience. Prior to this season, Willsie had appeared in 334 games in the NHL, 69 of which were played in Denver with the Avs from 1999-2003. A sixth round pick of the Avs in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, Willsie spent 42 games with Colorado this season, recording four points (1G, 3A) and 14 penalty minutes after his call-up to the team in late November. Before he was summoned West, Willsie led the Monsters with 14 points (8G, 6A) in 12 games. Willsie, a native of London, Ontario, set a franchise mark in October, recording a goal in six straight games. The 31-year-old was signed in mid-July as a free agent by the organization after posting 12 points (4G, 8A) in 53 games with the Los Angeles Kings in the 2007-08 season.
A seventh round choice of the Avalanche in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Kyle Cumiskey has split the past two seasons with the Avalanche and the Monsters. This year, the fleet-of-foot blueliner appeared in 28 games with the Monsters, recording 17 points (5G, 12A) and 16 penalty minutes. Although the Colorado organization recognizes the speed and puck handling ability the native of Abbotsford, B.C., brings to the table, the AHL also acknowledged the expanding skill set of Cumiskey, and rewarded him with a spot 2009 Canadian AHL All-Star Team. Cumiskey played in six games this season with the Avalanche before his season was cut short due to a shoulder injury. Over the past three seasons, Cumiskey has appeared in 53 games with the Avs, recording seven points (1G, 6A) and 18 penalty minutes. In the past two years with Lake Erie, Cumiskey has registered 19 points (6G, 13A) and 20 penalty minutes in 33 games.
After wrapping up a four-year collegiate career with the University of Michigan, center T.J. Hensick began his professional career with the Monsters, appearing in 50 games, recording 45 points (12G, 33A) and 18 penalty minutes in 2007-08. Hensick also made his NHL debut in the 07-08 season, playing in 31 games with the Avalanche, posting 11 points (6G, 5A) and two penalty minutes. This year, Hensick began the season with the Monsters, recording 16 points (7G, 9A) in 12 games. After his time in Lake Erie this year, most of it spent in the early stages of the season, Hensick appeared in 61 games with Colorado, recording 21 points (4G, 17A) and 14 penalty minutes. Overall, Hensick has appeared in 92 games with the Avs, collecting 32 points (10G, 22A) and 16 penalty minutes in the past two seasons. With the Monsters, Hensick has recorded 61 points (19G, 42A) in 62 games in the past two seasons.
After spending three years at Dartmouth College of the ECAC, Jones began his professional career in the 2007-08 season with the Monsters. A native Guelph, Ontario, Jones went back and forth between Denver and Cleveland in his first year out of college, picking up 30 points (14G, 16A) in 45 games with the Monsters. Making his NHL debut in the same season, Jones recorded six points (2G, 4A) in 27 games with the Avs in 07-08. A ninth round choice by Colorado in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Jones recorded 13 points (8G, 5A) in 40 games with the Avalanche this season. To date, Jones has appeared in 67 games with Colorado in the past two years, recording 19 points (10G, 9A) and 16 penalty minutes.
A fifth round choice of the Avalanche in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Cody McCormick made his NHL debut in 2003-04 with Colorado, and would spend the next three years between the Avalanche and their AHL affiliates during those years – the Hershey Bears, Lowell Lock Monsters and Albany River Rats. In 07-08, McCormick recorded six points (2G, 4A) with the Monsters in 13 games at the beginning of the season before finishing the year in Colorado with four points (2G, 2A) and 50 penalty minutes in 40games. This season, the bouncing between the AHL and NHL stopped for McCormick, as the London, Ontario, native recorded a personal best 12 points (1G, 11A) and 92 penalty minutes in 55 games with the Avalanche. In five seasons with the Avalanche, McCormick has appeared in 190 games, recording 30 points (9G, 21A) to go with 250 penalty minutes.
Signing as a free agent with Colorado in July of 2006, Cody McLeod spent time with Colorado’s former AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats, in 2006-07 and stayed with the organization the next season, bringing his game to Cleveland in 2007-08. After recording 13 points (6G, 7A) in 27 games with the Monsters in 07-08, McLeod left Lake Erie in mid-December to play full-time with the parent club. The native of Binscarth, Manitoba, finished out the 07-08 season with the Avalanche, recording nine points (4G, 5A) in 49 games. This year, McLeod spent the entire season with the Avs, registering 20 points (15G, 5A) in 79 games. In the past two years, McLeod has appeared in 128 games with Colorado, recording 29 points (19G, 10A) and racking up 282 penalty minutes.
A sixth round selection of the Avalanche in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, goaltender Tyler Weiman became the first Monster to lead the AHL in a statistical category, as his eight shutouts were a league best in the 2008-09 season. A native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Weiman has spent the five years in the Colorado organization, appearing in one game with the Avs. Weiman made his NHL debut on October 4th, 2007 against the Nashville Predators, stopping all 10 shots he faced in the third period. In 2007-08, Weiman went 9-19-1 with a 3.32 GAA and a 0.916 save percentage. This past season, Weiman set franchise records, recording 21 wins, to go along with a 2.46 GAA, a 0.919 save percentage and eight shutouts.