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Elliott ready to claim Avalanche roster spot

DENVER -- Stefan Elliott certainly noticed when the Colorado Avalanche traded John-Michael Liles to Toronto just before the 2011 Entry Draft.

Like Liles, who led all Avalanche defensemen in scoring for five consecutive seasons, Elliott is a puck-carrying blueliner with plenty of offensive talent.

Liles' departure opened a roster spot Elliott hopes to fill when training camp begins in September.

"It's kind of hard not to (keep up with offseason news)," Elliott told NHL.com. "I follow the NHL and I keep track of all the moves that are going around, especially when they involve the organization that you belong to. When a move involves a defenseman, it kind of sticks out a little more."

Elliott, 20, is coming off a monster season with the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League, during which he amassed 31 goals and 50 assists in 71 regular-season games and was awarded the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the league's defenseman of the year.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Elliott led the WHL in game-winning goals (12), plus/minus rating (plus-62) and added 3 goals and 5 assists in 10 postseason games.

"I have to give credit to my team," he said. "We had a great run toward the Memorial Cup. Unfortunately we came up short, but I think it was a pretty good year for me overall and I'm looking to build on it and to continually get better."

The second of the Avalanche's two second-round picks (No. 49) in the 2009 Entry Draft, Elliott completed his four-year junior career as the highest-scoring defenseman in Blades history with 241 points (82 goals, 159 assists) in 282 regular-season games. He had 7 goals and 13 assists in 27 career postseason games.

Elliott signed with the Avalanche in March after the Blades were eliminated from the playoffs, and had two assists in five playoff games with the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League.

"I like to jump into the play," Elliott said. "I like to rush with the puck, I like to pass and I like to shoot. Everyone kind of knocks me on my defensive play, but at the same time I don't think it's as bad as it turned out to be. I can be reliable in the defensive end, as well."

Elliott will have plenty of competition in camp while trying to nail down a roster spot on what promises to be a revamped Colorado defense corps.

Free-agent signees Jan Hejda and Shane O'Brien join returnees Erik Johnson, who was acquired from St. Louis on Feb. 18; Kyle Quincey, who missed the final 53 games while recovering from shoulder surgery; Matt Hunwick; Jonas Holos; Ryan O'Byrne; Kyle Cumiskey and Ryan Wilson.

Elliott also will be competing with two other prize prospects: Tyson Barrie, a third-round pick (No. 64) in 2009 who was a WHL Defenseman of the Year finalist last season after collecting 11 goals and 47 assists in 54 games for the Kelowna Rockets; and rugged Duncan Siemens, the Avalanche's second first-round selection (No. 11) in June and a teammate of Elliott's in Saskatoon.

"There's always competition," Elliott said. "We'll all be trying to compete for a spot on the team, but we'll support each other no matter what happens. We're going to be pushing each other."

There is no question in Elliott's mind that he is ready to make the leap from junior hockey to the NHL.

"Not really," he said. "In order to do it you have to believe that you can do it. Obviously my goal is to make the team. I'm going to come to camp and work as hard as I can and try to make it a tough decision for the coaching staff. I'll come to camp and work hard, but ultimately the decision is theirs. I'm going to do everything I can to show them that I deserve to stay.

"Confidence is key. If you're not confident in your abilities and in what you can do, you're not going to go very far. I'll come into camp confident and try to do my best. It's a big change and I'm looking forward to it. My parents did a good job raising me and I've been away from home for the past four years. I think that'll help a lot. I think I'm ready to start this new chapter in my life."