Late round Avalanche draft options

With the Stanley Cup Finals behind us, the draft nearly still nearly a week away, and the rotten carcasses of our personal choices for the 2nd and 11th picks beaten into unrecognizable submission, I thought it would be fun to open up a discussion on some of the Avalanche’s later picks with a long-winded article. Currently, the Avs hold four picks after the first round, one each in rounds 4, 5, 6, and 7 (#93, 123, 153, and 183 overall). Granted, there are hundreds of options at this stage, but we know enough about the tendencies and preferences of Pracey, Sherman, et al. that we can at least narrow the eligibles down to more and less likely draft candidates.

We’ll let Mr. Pracey begin help us review the criteria, in his own words: “Key is always, from our mandate, it’s skill; it’s compete; it’s character”. Another offshoot of skill and compete that comes up a lot in front office draftspeak is the praising of draftees for “hockey sense”. That is, even if the guy’s an amazing skater, works hard on the cycle, and loves his mommy, if he’s an on-ice dummy we may well pass for a guy with higher awareness. We value these criteria over size, and we don’t like wasting early picks on toolsy projects that haven’t shown production. Larsson and Landeskog talk not withstanding, we avoid Europeans as badly as almost any team in the league, Russians especially. The current Avalanche roster is chock-full of former college players, and we’re always happy to welcome more, especially in the late rounds a la Luke Moffatt and Gus Young. However, we still get a majority of picks from the junior ranks, with 11 of our 14 domestic picks in ’09 and ’10 being CHLers.

In anticipation of the draft, I’ve ruined a lot of what spare time I’ve had making a spreadsheet with whatever strengths and weaknesses I could find on each prospect ranked in the CSS NA Skaters (and a couple more), and thought I’d share some players of interest. For reasons discussed earlier (as well as the lower availability of free scouting reports), I haven’t tried to evaluate Euro skaters. As for goaltenders, between the unreliability of scouting them and good numbers of them in the Avs system, I’ve left them out as well. They could certainly end up drafting either or both, but it’s not the most likely and it’s something we can always decipher those players as a group after the draft.

 For a year without a 2nd or 3rd rounder, I feel good about our prospects for the other picks. A good thing to remember is we’re holding the 2nd pick for each late round, so if you are the type to color things in rainbows and lollipops (or feel like you need to be), it’s a lot like having late 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th rounders instead.  The consensus says there’s a bit of a talent drop off right around our first Saturday pick at #92, but with our scouting I suspect we can nab someone from the good side of that split, and find good potential with all of our picks. Our scouts have shown great willingness to grab a faller (e.g. O’Reilly, Elliott, Barrie) where others might lock on one guy and never budge. I think there’s a very good chance our 4th round pick ends up being someone originally slotted in the 2nd round range.

 If by trolling through the CSS rankings, you’ve looked into someone in the second round range but think we have no shot at him at #92, think again. Released before the CHL playoffs, they are notoriously unreliable, COUGHHISHONHKGIH. Mix in goalies and Euros and things are particularly hard to pin down. Last year, two players ranked in the 30’s, and four in the 40’s made it past #92, including our own Troy Rutkowski, ranked 44th but picked at 137. Even with more up-to-date info than CSS, even the experts are clueless to the order in these rounds.

Unpredictability aside, I thought I’d take a stab at some players who you may want to keep an eye on as potential Avalanche draftees. The important disclaimer here is I have not witnessed any of these players in person, or on video. I have zero scouting experience and sometimes have no idea telling whether one of our own players played great or horrible on a given night. I’m just another average hockey fan stuck in Colorado with too much time on his hands to surf the world wide web. Don’t be the moron who watches a sexy youtube video and then hits on the horny guy who posted it (or in this case, chews me out for bad scouting). It’s all second-hand authorship. I have tried to cross-check reports with others where available for accuracy. Some of you in a more advantageous position will have seen some of the following players, so please add your input as to these and others you’ve watched or heard about.

First off, I’ve crossed the following off my list either for reports of lazy/indifferent play, poor compete levels, work ethic or character issues. Based on those reports, these guys aren’t happening: Lucas Lessio (CSS#46), Sean Kuraly (50), Joseph LaBate (51), Colin Jacobs (61), Austen Brassard (64), Alan Quine (72), Garrett Meurs (#79), Barclay Goodrow (116), Michael King (126), Aaron Harstad (134), Luke Hietkamp (135), Matej Stransky (136), Garrett Clarke (167), and some others ranked lower.

There are plenty of late 1st through early 3rd round range guys in the Pracey mold, and for those of you conspiracy theorists who expect trades, I’ll name a few: Rocco Grimaldi (if not with the 11th), Dmitri Jaskin, Scott Mayfield, Boone Jenner, Richard Rackell, Philip Danault, Stuart Percy, Nick Shore, Reid Boucher, Robbie Russo, and Shane McColgan.

Now for the players in the Avs mold more likely to be available, sorted by CSS for structure only:

Ryan Tesink, LW, Saint John (QMJHL), 5’11” 155, CSS 47th, Hockey Writers 102nd: Speedy, tenacious winger who is praised for his work ethic. Buried on a bit on Huberdeau’s Memorial Cup winners. Highly skilled and a great skater but needs to get much stronger.

Michael St. Croix, C, Edmonton (WHL), 5’11” 175, CSS 59th, HW 42nd, The Scouting Report 51st, Hockey Spy 74th, Puck Prospectus 26th: Could easily be snatched up before our pick. Speedy playmaker is very skilled, with great vision, stickhandling, shooting, with a high motor and a gritty game. Concerns in the size/strength department and on defense.

Olivier Archambault, LW, Val d’Or (QMJHL), 5’11” 170, CSS 65th, HW 96th, TSR 69th: Lacks top end speed, but is a character guy all the way with a great work ethic, great hockey sense, and offensive skills to boot. Another guy who could stand to get stronger and improve his defense.

Travis Ewanyk, LW, Edmonton (WHL), 6’0” 180, CSS 66th, HW 77th, TSR 67th, Spy 77th, PP 90th: Getting some buzz and may go higher. A physical, grinding competitor and ideal for a low-line pest role. Solid defender who loves to hit and has high hockey IQ. Offense is a work in progress. Lacks good hands and pucks skills, and not the fastest either.

Zach Yuen, D, Tri-City (WHL), 6’0” 205, CSS 69th, HW 90th, TSR 92nd, Spy 88th: First things first, his childhood idol is Joe Sakic. Here’s to him. Beyond that, he’s a smart, versatile defender with great character, best in his own end but improving on offense, where his outlet passing is already a strength. Also a former figure skater. But do we have to go beyond the Sakic thing? Like most, he could improve his strength.  

Tobias Rieder, C, Kitchener (OHL), 5’10” 175, CSS 73rd, HW 97th, TSR 78th, PP 70th: Another high energy playmaker, with some amazing hands and elusive skating ability. Good character and a hard worker. Quite weak physically, so stays mostly on the perimeter.

Patrick Koudys, D, Rensselaer (NCAA), 6’3” 210, CSS 76th, HW 95th, TSR 100th, Spy 86th: Just finished up his freshman year at RPI. His old OJHL coach says he’d be the top pick based on character alone (I know, “coaches”, but still). Blessed with great size and a hard slapshot. Still needs work on skating/agility and his offensive game, but could be on the radar as someone keep stashed away in school for three more years of development.

Colten St. Clair, C, Fargo (USHL),  5’10” 190, CSS 77th, HW 159th: Team leader with outstanding work ethic and great character. A very good skater with a plus shot, brings energy and defensive acumen as well. Questions center on size, upside, and consistency in all zones. Bound for North Dakota next year.

Mike Paliotta, D, USA U-18 (USHL), 6’3” 200, CSS 86th, HW 132nd, Spy 65th, PP 67th: A little bit of a project, but great size and skill if still available. A smart shutdown rearguard who makes good passing decisions and plays physical. Has a hard shot but needs to keep improving his offensive game a bit. Skating is his main concern. Bound for Vermont.

Steven Fogarty, C, Edina (HS-MN), 6’2” 195, CSS 90th, HW 163rd: Our first high schooler here, he’s a playmaking center with nice hands vision, and good size. What stands out is his character, work ethic, and willingness to improve. Needs work, especially on strength and defensive awareness. Notre Dame bound.

Dylan Wruck, C, Edmonton (WHL), 5’8” 160, CSS 99th, HW 136th: “The Wrucking Ball” led the Oil Kings with over a PPG scoring. Slight in stature, he plays well in both ends and doesn’t shy from physical play. Very competitive, good character, great speed, and great puck skills. Size is the big question mark, but could be worth a late pick.

Blake Pietila, LW, USA U-18 (USHL), 5’11” 190, CSS 105th, HW 156th: Hard competitor is not much for offense, but really gets after it on both ends, especially on defense, hitting guys and forcing turnovers on the forecheck. He’s got plenty of speed and plays smart. Lacks the puck skills and offensive upside. Michigan Tech bound.

Seth Griffith, C, London (OHL), 5’10” 185, CSS 158th, HW 138th, PP 87th: Smart, crafty playmaker is an agile skater and who finds the back of the net. Great character, work ethic, and energy. Needs to work on his straightaway speed and building strength.

Jesse Forsberg, D, Prince George (WHL), 6’0” 195, CSS 166th, HW 160th, Spy 106th: Very likely draftee despite the low ranking. Good character, effort, and a hard-nosed game. Despite average size projects as a shutdown defender. Smart in his own end, and a good passer, he skates with an awkward stride, and his offense is limited. If he ever ends up with Colorado, his jersey will read: “J. FORSBERG”. This is non-negotiable.

Tony Cameranesi, C, Wayzata (HS-MN), 5’9” 160, CSS 178th: I had to throw him in here because I’ve read two reports citing him as likely the fastest skater in the draft. He’ll need a while to develop his skills, and his hockey sense isn’t quite there yet, but he’s Minnesota-Duluth bound and will have four years to get better. Could be good for a late-round flyer from the team that brought you Kyle Cumiskey.

Tanner Sorensen, C, Shattuck St. Mary’s (HS-MN), 5’8” 165, CSS 180th: At this stage, we’ve got a lot of small, waterbug types available, like this Alaskan who fits right in with his good character, smarts, and speed to burn. Stickhandling and speed are the big plusses, defense and physical play are the drawbacks. Michigan State bound.

Johnathan Parker, RW, Prince Albert (WHL), 5’10” 195, CSS 186th: Draft re-entry finished 5th among goal scorers in the WHL last year among all players, not just eligibles. Excellent shooter with grit and awareness. Skating is a weakness, but could be a good value pick.

John Gaudreau, LW, Dubuque (USHL), 5’6”, 140, CSS 193rd: Smallest player this side of Grimaldi has speed and skills all over. Needs to work on growing. Bound for Northeastern, where Oleksiak will hopefully ensure his safety. Still skilled enough to take a chance on.  

Chris Bradley, D, Youngstown (USHL), 6’2” 195, CSS 207th: RPI-bound defender is a coach’s dream, according to his last coach, at least. The kind of person who’s attitude improves the whole team. A project, but some puck skills and smarts to work with here, and some size for once.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, Gatineau (QMJHL), 5’9” 165, CSS NR, HW 82nd, Spy 110th: Somehow unranked by CSS, he tore it up this year for the Olympiques, especially in the playoffs, netting 29 points in 24 games. Expected to go in the middle rounds. He’s a tremendous skater who thrives as a playmaker but can also score. Competes hard at all times and comes through in the clutch. Size and strength are the obvious issues, but could be a steal with our fourth-rounder.

T.J. Tynan, C, Notre Dame (NCAA), 5’8” 165, CSS NR, PP #39: An overager from Notre Dame that a couple scouts are raving about (Corey Pronman surprisingly has him #39 overall). A high-energy player with great hockey IQ. A top notch puckhandler passer, and skater with some flash. Really small but impressed as a freshman and brings a lot to the table.

Joey LaLeggia, D, 5’9” 170, CSS NR: Another re-entry, on his way to the Denver Pioneers this fall. The Avalanche don’t seem inclined to pick locals over BPAs, but they’re happy to collect PMDs, and since this guy can really M the P, he’s a possible project. Has outstanding skating, offensive skills, and the smarts and effort to make it, but lacks the size and defensive ability (the first of those helps with the other).

(On a side note, we have four other Pioneers ranked: Scott Mayfield [24], Nick Shore [56], Zac Larraza [70], Josiah Didier [108]; Two CC Tigers: Michael King [126] and Aaron Harstad [134]; Three Boston U Terriers: Matt Nieto [43], Adam Clendening [45], and Sahir Gill [110], and a player recruited to Providence by new Avs assistant Tim Army: Craig Wyszomirski [112]).

Okay, enough. Tell me who you like and who else you’d might add to the list. Keep in mind that this list is about who the Avalanche will likely prefer as opposed to personal favorites.

Incomplete list of reference sites:

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