The Avalanche sent 27 of their top prospects to the West Coast this weekend with one player considered the de facto captain.
No surprise. It’s former Minnesota Gophers star Ben Meyers.
“He’ll be the leader of the group,” said Avalanche director of player development Brian Willsie.
The Avs won 3-2 Friday against the Kings in Colorado's first-of-three NHL rookie tournament games through Monday in San Jose, Calif. Meyers scored the game-winning goal on a tip-in at the net. He centered the top line alongside Oskar Olausson and Jean Luc-Foudy.
It all opens the door to this question: Is Meyers deserving of an Avalanche roster spot to start the season?
Ben Meyers, former @GopherHockey standout, puts the Avalanche ahead 3-2 in the third period with this savvy tip-in at the net. He’s got a real chance to earn a roster spot this season. pic.twitter.com/fgLOkaImso— Kyle Fredrickson (@kylefredrickson) September 16, 2022
“I just want to play my game, compete every day and get better every day,” Meyers said Thursday from inside the Colorado locker room after rookie camp practice. “However the coaches want to use me is what I’ll do.”
The Avalanche embark on their Stanley Cup defense with significant roster turnover at forward. Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Maple Leafs), Andre Burakovsky (Kraken), Nazem Kadri (Flames) and Nico Sturm (Sharks) each left in free agency. Meyers is among several young players competing in rookie camp to help fill the void.
Meyers, 23, benefitted from a short stint in the NHL last season. The 2022 Hobey Baker Award finalist at Minnesota signed a free agent contract with Colorado on April 13, and three days later, Meyers scored a goal in his NHL debut. His stock within the organization has been rising ever since.
“I took a lot from being around those guys, how professional they were, how hard they competed and how focused they all were on winning,” Meyers said. “It’s just good to see that’s what it takes to be a champion at the end of the year.”
Avalanche rookie camp forward Sampo Ranta, an Eagles (AHL) prospect who played in 10 NHL games last season, was college teammates with Meyers at Minnesota.
“He knew what we went through in college and was bringing that energy. It was fun back then. Now, we just have to do the same here,” Ranta said. “He’s a workhorse. He’s physical and brings a lot of energy. He’s been putting up points in college and everywhere he’s been. He can do that (in the NHL), too. … A great player. He brings a lot to the table.”
The Avalanche player development team is clearly high on Meyers potential as a contributor next season.
“Ben is an exceptional kid. I can’t even call him a kid. He’s a young man,” Willsie said. “Mature beyond his years. … It’s a big springboard for him into the main camp. He’s trying to secure a roster spot with the big club. It’s a great opportunity for him.”
Meyers, when asked to describe his NHL-ready skillset, said he brings a “responsible game” in addition to “some speed and playmaking ability.” He’s looking to build on a dominant senior NCAA season — 41 points (17 goals) — and five games with the Avalanche last year.
“We compete against one another in practice, but come game time, we’re all working together,” Meyers said. “Obviously, everyone is trying to move on in their careers.”