In the wake of Semyon Varlamov’s most recent lower-body injury, Avalanche third-string goaltender Andrew Hammond received his second call-up since being acquired by Colorado.
One of the seven pieces received by general manager Joe Sakic in the Matt Duchene trade, it was initially thought that Sakic would look to deal Hammond to a team in need of goaltending. However, with continued concerns about Varlamov’s durability, it seems as though the Avalanche value the 29-year-old goaltender more than reported.
“I feel like I’m a valued asset to [the Avalanche], and that’s the way they’ve spoken to me,” Hammond said, following Thursday’s morning skate. “For me, it is nice to feel wanted. All the management people I have gotten to know over the last little bit — I’ve been really impressed with how great of guys they seem [to be], and I am just excited to be on the Avalanche right now.”
The Avalanche management’s work making Hammond feel welcomed has been important for Hammond’s mindset as he looks to resurrect his NHL career, but the embrace of the locker room may have a much bigger impact.
“I was impressed with how close-knit the group seems and how welcoming they were. I think that speaks to the character and the leadership of the captains and everyone else — like the older guys. For me, it’s been a pretty easy transition; a lot easier than I thought it may have been.”
Part of what has made his transition so easy is the fact that he hasn’t had to move teams following the trade, and has spent the entirety of this season playing for the Belleville Senators of the AHL. After the trade, Colorado reached an agreement with the Senators to keep Hammond with Ottawa’s AHL team while Colorado is in the process of moving its AHL team to Loveland.
The Avalanche currently share their AHL team with the St. Louis Blues and do not have room to store another goalie there, as both teams have goaltending prospects in need of playing time and development.
As Hammond still awaits his first NHL start of the season and first in an Avs sweater, he isn’t bothered by not being able to play with Colorado’s AHL affiliate for the time being.
“It’s definitely a unique situation, but I haven’t spent too much time dwelling on it or thinking about it,” Hammond said. “Hockey is one of those things where you basically play where you get told to play and you play your best. For me, that’s what I’ve been doing all season.”
“I think for everyone involved, I needed a fresh change of scenery, and although it may not be 100-percent change, I think it’s still nice to stay in touch with the guys I did know and then, obviously, transition to getting to know people in this organization now.”
Hammond is well-known around the NHL as “the Hamburglar” from his historic 20-1-2 record in the 2014-15 season that saved the Ottawa Senators’ season and pushed them into the playoffs. Since then, he has struggled to stay afloat at the NHL level, playing only 30 NHL games in the two seasons. He looks to Avs goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila to help him get back to being the “Hamburglar” we all remember.
“[Parkkila] is someone that really emphasizes the technical side of the game. Especially during the season, I think those are things you might stray away from, as the season gets longer. For me, it’s nice most times to get back in here and get to work on those things and dial them back up. That’s been the best part of this so far.”
“It seems to be now all these countries are chasing the Finnish goalie coaches, because they seem to be the ones from such a small country developing all these great goalies. Clearly, they’re doing something right, and I’m just taking everything he has to say with open arms.”
Currently, Varlamov is officially listed as day-to-day, so there is no word on how long Andrew Hammond will be with Colorado and there is no plan in place for him to start in the near future. With the league-mandated bye week approaching, Varlamov could only miss the next two games, but at some point, it might be wise of Colorado to give Hammond a shot at another start in an NHL net. This would be beneficial for an assessment of his abilities, as well as to allow him to stay sharp and familiar with the NHL game.
Assuming he can continue to progress, Andrew Hammond provides both confidence in the organizational goaltending, and comforting depth and insurance for any worst-case Varlamov scenarios.