The Colorado Avalanche need all the help they can get, and their AHL affiliate may have helped them out by bringing in a couple NCAA free agents for Joe Sakic and his staff to take a look at over the next couple of months. The San Antonio Rampage announced today that they have inked Brady Shaw and Ben Storm to amateur tryout contracts. With their respective teams out of NCAA postseason contention, the pair will now get a chance to show how they fit at the next level in an effort to secure contracts with San Antonio (or possibly even Colorado) for next season or else become free agents again in a few months.
Of the two, the defenseman Storm is likely the better pro prospect. Ironically, Storm was a sixth-round draft pick of the Avalanche in 2013, prior to their affiliation with the Rampage, but has yet to sign an entry-level team with the deal and may never. Storm was a four-year starter at St. Cloud State University, holding down the blue line as a stay-at-home defenseman. Although Storm lacks much offensive upside – just four goals and 13 assists in 121 collegiate contests – he makes up for it with solid defense and checking. The 6’7″, 229-lb. behemoth from Laurium, Michigan is always the most physical presence on the ice and skates surprisingly well for a player his size. Storm may need some time in the minor leagues to refine his puck handling and movement, but as they say “you can’t teach size”, and Storm’s stature alone should keep the 22-year-old employed in pro hockey for a while.
The forward Shaw has a more uphill battle in pursuing his NHL dreams. After an explosive sophomore season at the University of Vermont in 2014-15, during which he recorded 31 points in 38 games and showed a complete game, Shaw’s performance has dropped off in each of the past two seasons. Shaw scored just 16 points in 36 games last year and 19 points in 34 games this season, all whilst struggling with the two-way pressure of playing a larger role on the team. A former star in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), Shaw was a highly-touted prospect who simply didn’t meet expectations at the college level. The 24-year-old may be able to rediscover his game in the AHL, but as of now as a lot of work to do to become more than just a replacement-level minor league player.