by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com / For more Avalanche news CLICK HERE
LAS VEGAS--The Colorado Avalanche only has one skater on its rookie tournament roster that has played in the NHL, but that doesn't mean the team lacks experience.
The Avalanche has taken part in rookie tournaments the previous two seasons and has eight players that have participated in the prior events.
Fresh off winning the ECHL Kelly Cup with the Colorado Eagles in June, forward J.C. Beaudin is one of five skaters that is at his third rookie tournament with the Avs, along with Josh Anderson, Travis Barron, Sergei Boikov and Nicolas Meloche. Nolan De Jong, Petr Kvaca and Ty Lewis are at their second-straight prospect showcase.
"It's really intense," Beaudin recalled of his previous experiences following Colorado's morning skate at City National Arena. "You got to be prepared. You got to know the system. Just do you, do what you can. Show the organization what you can do and have fun."
While these types of prospect games aren't quite at the same level that players would experience in the National Hockey League or American Hockey League, they are still highly competitive.
"It's always different. The guys start to be stronger and not a lot of guys are nervous before the game," Boikov said. "It's going to be tough games in this tournament. Everyone is prepared, and we're going to do our best and see what we can do."
Vladislav Kamenev is the lone skater on Colorado's roster that has played in the NHL, appearing in five career games--three coming this past season with the Avs.
However, Kamenev is also one of 20 players that will be suiting up for the first time for Colorado at a rookie showcase--he was acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators last November. Among those other first-timers are three 2018 Avalanche draft picks in Martin Kaut (No. 16 overall), Justus Annunen (No. 64 overall) and Brandon Saigeon (No. 140 overall).
For players like Beaudin and Boikov who have previous experiences at these tournaments and at the minor-league level, they can offer a little pre and in-game wisdom to the new rookies.
"When I was young, the older guys were doing the same thing," Beaudin said. "I'm just trying to be a good example, work hard and help them if they have questions."
There might be some nerves for the Colorado newcomers when the club begins the Vegas Rookie Faceoff tonight versus the host Vegas Golden Knights, but those will likely dissipate quickly after puck drop.
"You practice and train all summer long. Now it's the real thing," Beaudin said. "It's fun to play hockey. I'm excited."
BOIKOV BACK IN ACTION
It's been a long 12-month recovery for Sergei Boikov, but the Avalanche prospect is expected to finally return to game action this evening at the Vegas Rookie Faceoff.
The defenseman had his 2017-18 campaign cut short before it really even started after getting hurt in a preseason game on Sept. 21, 2017 versus the Dallas Stars.
Minutes after scoring to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead, Boikov took what appeared to be a harmless hit along the boards but suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the impact.
"It was pretty hard mentally, but I tried to think of the future through it all," Boikov said. "Now I'm ready and 100 percent."
A couple surgeries later, Boikov is ready to prove himself and get back to doing what he missed over the last year.
"It's very exciting because the whole time I wasn't playing, I was thinking about going on the ice and help the guys and help the team," he said. "I'm going to try and do my best."
Every game at the Vegas Rookie Faceoff will be streamed live online on the teams' respective websites.
The contests will only be available in the Avalanche's and the opponents' television markets and will be blacked out elsewhere.
All Avalanche games can be viewed here.