** This piece was written by Angélique, but she is currently in Canada and her igloo doesn't have internet access, so I'm posting on her behalf **
It's never fun to watch your beloved hockey team go through a tailspin during the middle of the season. Yet, not all hope is lost; you do get a relatively high draft pick out of the situation. For the second time in the past three years, the Colorado Avalanche find themselves with a top three draft pick. With only six picks in the draft, Colorado needs to make both of their first round picks count.
The Avalanche caused quite the stir when they selected Joey Hishon with the 17th overall pick, but at least early on, the Avs look like they made a smart selection. Hishon led his Owen Sound Attack team in scoring during the regular season and helped lead his club to a Memorial Cup appearance.
Second round pick Calvin Pickard showed his stamina as he faced the most shots of any other goaltender, last season, in the Western Hockey League. Pickard, along with fellow draftee Sami Aittokallio, maintain long term hopes as best options for the answer in goal for the Avalanche.
In the third round, the Avs selected center Michael Bournival. Bournival, who shows signs of being a third line forward on the next level, had his rights traded to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Ryan O'Byrne.
The Avs sacrificed a future third round pick in order to draft Belleville Bulls (OHL) defenseman Stephen Silas in the fourth round. Silas' offensive production took a dip, but his development was effected by a poor Belleville squad.
The Avalanche snagged a couple of Portland Winterhawks (WHL) in the fifth round in Troy Rutkowski and Luke Walker. Rutkowski was second in team scoring for defensemen with 47 points; a slight improvement over his previous season. Walker signed an entry level contract during training camp and spent the year with the Lake Erie Monsters; putting up 18 points in his first full season as a professional.
The Avalanche wrapped up the draft by picking up Arizona native Luke Moffatt in the seventh round. Moffatt spent most of his freshman campaign as a bottom six forward and conributed with 13 points in 36 games and made it all the way to the Frozen Four.
In addition to the second overall pick, the Avalanche also own the rights to the 11th overall selection in the draft. Colorado also owns draft picks in the fourth (93rd overall), fifth (123rd overall), sixth (153rd overall), and seventh (183rd overall) rounds. Colorado's second and third round picks belong to the St. Louis Blues and New York Islanders respectively.
Forwards -- 16
Defensemen -- 13
Goaltenders -- 8
QMJHL -- 4
OHL -- 7
WHL -- 6
NCAA -- 4
High School -- 3
Europe -- 4
Canada -- 19
United States -- 14
Europe -- 4
The Avalanche have selected 37 players between the 2006 and 2010 NHL Entry Drafts. While the Avs do have scouts in Europe, 89 percent of the players that they have drafted have been North American. European players that have been selected, tend to come in the mid to late rounds. The Avalanche profess to target the best player available, regardless of position. The Avalanche value character, skill, and work ethic. Yet, with all things being equal, the Avs may opt for a player in North America over a European player due to transfer agreements with certain countries. Also, drafting more college or college bound players allows an organization to potentially evaluate a player up to four years before committing on a contract.
First Round Prediction
With the top part of the draft being more wide open than in recent years; projecting the top choice for clubs has been a bit more difficult, but more exciting. Red Deer Rebels (WHL) forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the consensus top pick, but there is a chance the Edmonton Oilers, who hold the top selection, may opt for Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson. As for the Avalanche, they have been rumored to be selecting any one of Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Larsson, or Jonathan Huberdeau.
Prediction for the 2nd overall pick -- Jonathan Huberdeau
While the Avs certainly value character, they seem to value skill most of all. Huberdeau is perhaps the most skilled player of the high end prospects outside of Nugent-Hopkins. The position of the player will not scare off the Avalanche.
Prediction for the 11th overall pick -- Jamie Oleksiak
The Avs can go in several directions with this pick, perhaps even trade it for a player that can help now. Oleksiak is intriguing because of his size, and he would differ from the small puck moving defensemen the Avs have favored over the last few years. Oleksiak would allow the Avs the luxury of having him spend at least a couple of seasons in a strong nurturing college enviornment.