Spencer Martin struggles as Avs lose in Rookie Showcase finale, but remains positive

SAN JOSE, CALIF. - Spencer Martin wasn't going to make the Avalanche's varsity club, no matter how well he played in this "Prospect Showcase" tournament. He could have done handstands out of the Shark Ice practice complex and he'd still be ticketed to San Antonio by the end of this month at the latest. The Avs already have two veteran goalies, Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier, on one-way contracts, while Martin is still just 22 and on a two-way.

But, well, Martin probably didn't do himself many favors with his play in the Showcase, which, for the Avalanche, ended Tuesday in a 5-3 loss to the prospects of the Anaheim Ducks. A 3-3 game with under 20 seconds to play, the Ducks won it on 2017 second-round pick Maxime Comtois' goal with 12.9 seconds remaining and added the empty-netter.

That last goal wasn't so much Martin's fault, as it came just as a power play was about to expire, after Avs right Brady Shaw was whistled for a high hit. The Avs' defense broke down a bit in front of the net, allowing Comtois to slip in front and tap in Andy Welinski's crossing pass.

But some of the other goals Martin gave up in his two games? Yeah, some were softies, and Martin wasn't too happy about that.

"That's not the result I was looking for," a sweat-soaked Martin said in the cramped Avs dressing room afterward. "As a whole, I could have been a little sharper."

Martin, the Avs' third-round (63rd overall) choice in the 2013 NHL draft, allowed four goals on 32 shots against Anaheim. He allowed three goals in two periods of work Saturday against San Jose.

Martin may not have looked great, but at least he felt great. He dropped his weight from about 200 pounds to 191 after a vigorous offseason training program under renowned Canadian fitness guru Matt Nichol.

"I feel quicker. I felt good moving around," Martin said. "I don't doubt that I'll be sharp at the main camp, so that's a positive to take from this. But it's disappointing because I think we had a really good team in this tournament and you want to win if your team is outplaying the other team."

Martin got a taste of the NHL last season, playing three games as an injury call-up from San Antonio. The numbers weren't great there either (0-2-1, 4.35 goals-against, .865 saves percentage), but, hey, it's a start. Martin knows he has a big year coming up in his development in the Avs' system, that he'll likely be the Rampage's No. 1 guy under coach Eric Veilleux. He knows a big year will probably put him in prime totem-pole hierarchy next fall, as Bernier is only playing under a one-year deal and can be unrestricted after this season.

And a bad one might put him on a downward career spiral, as he is in the final year of his entry-level contract himself. Teams usually don't stay with goalies more than one cycle of entry-level contract if they don't show signs of real promise by the end. There is still time for Martin to prove himself, therefore, but time is starting to become something of a factor.

"Hopefully, this year and years to come, I'll keep earning opportunities and then hopefully stick and have a good career in the NHL," said Martin, who is 6-foot-3. "It was motivating to have that (NHL) experience last year. In order for me to be at my best, I just have to focus on what I can do. You've got to be patient and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way."

NOTEBOOK: The Avs got goals from Hugo Roy, Shaw and J.T. Compher in the game. The Avs outshot the Ducks 35-33 and had the better scoring chances overall. Tyson Jost assisted on two goals and Alex Kerfoot assisted on a goal for the third straight game. ... A $500,000 gap remains between the Avalanche wants to pay him and what defenseman Nikita Zadorov wants to earn on his next contract, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told BSN Denver. Zadorov is in Ottawa, where his agent, Roland Hedges, is based. Hedges and Avs GM Joe Sakic are likely to talk again before veterans are due to report Thursday morning. Zadorov is hoping to make $2.5 million on a new contract. ... Sakic said there was "nothing" to report on any other personnel matters, presumably including the dicey status of Matt Duchene.

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