Well, it’s that time of year again with the draft upon us this Friday (well, Saturday for the Avs since we’re out of first-rounders), so I thought I’d share my thoughts on what, and more specifically whom, to look for. Since living in Colorado offers little live or TV viewership of junior-age prospects, I’ve instead been scouring the internet draft guides for reports from those who reliably know what they’re talking about. Whether or not to trust my thoughts, then, is entirely up to you, but it’s always a fun way to open things up for discussion, especially from those of you who have seen the players and formed opinions.
The lucky thing for amateur, second-person, no-sight, wannabe scouts like myself is that the Avalanche front office has made very clear to the public its basic draft philosophy: Targeting prospects with high levels of skill, competitiveness, hockey IQ, and character. There is also more emphasis on size than we’ve seen in the past, but not at the expense of those main qualities. There is still a ton we don’t know from there, but it gives us a good place to start from as fans.
As for this year’s draft, the Avalanche hold a 2nd round pick at 41st overall, a 3rd-rounder at 72nd, and 5th, 6th, and 7th rounders in our usual spots (132 , 162, 192). I’ll lay out some options for the 2nd and 3rd round below, then give you some shot-in-the-dark names for sleepers in the late rounds.
In this draft, I expect the Avalanche to focus on adding forwards, specifically those with some scoring or top six potential, as most every observer considers this our biggest organizational weakness. The good news is there could be a number of good forwards available in our range, especially if the run of defensemen goes as expected in the first round. I think we get a very good prospect either way at 41.
The dream scenario is one of these forwards plummets from their solid first round status: Zegmus Girgensons, Brendan Gaunce (Cam’s brother), Tomas Hertl, or Scott Laughton. These guys would all have Pracey and company sprinting to the podium, but barring a trade, are likely a pipe dream. Martin Frk, Daniil Zharkov, or Boo Nieves may fall as well, but I would expect the Avs to pass on them.
The following players would seem the most likely objects of desire in our selection range (I’ve included Derek Zona’s top 100 consensus rankings, Future Considerations rank, and CSS rankings for reference):
SECOND ROUND CANDIDATES
Nicolas Kerdiles, LW, USA U-18 (USHL), 6’2” 200, Cons. 27th, FC 17th, CSS 29th: All-situations, physical forward with puck skills, a hard shot and big-time dedication and character. Maybe not a top-sixer, depending on who you ask.
Stefan Matteau, LW, USA U-18 (USHL), 6’2” 210, Cons. 34th, FC 34th, CSS 17th: Stephane’s son is a big, strong wrecking ball who loves the rough stuff down low. Smart, with good hands, and a solid defender. Occasional discipline issues based on his overzealous play.
Tanner Pearson, LW, Barrie (OHL), 6’0” 200, Cons. 35th, FC 43rd, CSS 25th: Late-blooming re-entry turns 20 in August. Is considered one of the most-pro ready is this draft due to his great hockey sense in all zones, playmaking and a plus shot.
Colton Sissons, RW, Kelowna (WHL), 6’1” 195, Cons. 42nd, FC 16th, CSS 14th: Power forward who oozes leadership, plays physical at all times, and has a hard shot. Strong and smart. Questions exist about his offensive upside.
Brady Vail, C, Windsor (OHL), 6’1” 190, Cons. 45th, FC 51st, CSS 38th: Hustling, two-way forward is everywhere defensively and on the forecheck. Plays smart and has some offense. Has some skating issues still, and probably more of a third-liner.
Scott Kosmachuk, RW, Guelph (OHL), 6’0” 185, Cons. 47th, FC 57th, CSS 24th: Aggressive, north-south player is a fast, opportunistic scorer, and likes to play rough. Not a true top-six creator, but more of a do-anything tweener with a nose for the net. Working on improving his defense.
Tim Bozon, LW, Kamloops (WHL), 6’1” 180, Cons. 52nd, FC 49th, CSS 42nd: Creative playmaker is an outstanding passer and a natural goal scorer. Plays hard and skates fast. Considered fairly safe as he lacks a true weakness. Needs to build up his frame some more.
SECOND OR THIRD ROUND CANDIDATES
Charles Hudon, LW, Chicoutimi (QMJHL), 5’9” 170, Cons. 55th, FC 52nd, CSS 95th: Little guy who plays with great intelligence, creativity, and puck skills. An excellent leader. Plays with grit despite his lack of strength. Only an average skater.
Gemel Smith, C, Owen Sound (OHL), 5’10” 160, Cons. 56th, FC 76th, CSS 37th: Speedster with a killer work ethic brings energy to every shift and always seeks to improve. Good offensive hockey intelligence and skill. Brings the effort physically, but his size limits effectiveness.
Devin Shore, C, Whitby (OJHL), 6’0” 185, Cons. 77th, FC 64th, CSS 58th: Playmaker skates well and plays with a high IQ. Great vision and offensive upside. Working on his shot and bulking up. Headed to Maine next season.
THIRD ROUND CANDIDATES (and beyond)
Zach Stepan, C, Shattuck St. Mary’s (HS-MN), 6’0” 165 Cons. UNR, FC 77th, CSS 53rd: Derek’s cousin is an intense, two-way forward with a nice shot, vision and physicality. Upside and skating a concern. Ohio State-bound.
Francis Beauvillier, C/W, Rimouski (QMJHL), Cons. UNR, FC 97th, CSS 56th: Versatile winger has a hard shot and good straightaway speed. Leads by example all over the ice with high levels of intensity on the boards, defense, PK. More of a complimentary player.
Chris Calnan, LW, Nobles (HS-MA), 6’2” 195, Cons. UNR, FC 106th, CSS 69th: Physical crease-crasher skates well, shows good awareness, and finishes checks hard. Still needs to fill out. Boston College-bound.
Josh Anderson, RW, London (OHL), 6’2” 180, (OHL), Cons. UNR, FC 98th, CSS 57th: A talented sleeper who was limited to the fourth line this year. He shows power forward puck skills and an effort-based two way game. Hard shot. Needs to bulk up but has top six potential.
Seth Griffith, RW, 5’11” 180, Cons. UNR, FC 118th, CSS UNR. Draft re-entry is a creative offensive playmaker and scorer. Very good hockey IQ and passer. Improved this year and is a better top six possibility and a likely pick. A top lines-or-bust type.
If you have time and interest, these guys are worth checking out in later rounds as they may also fit the Avs mold:
OHL: Ben Johnson, Tanner Richard, Brock “Brother of Jamie” McGinn
WHL: Steven Hodges, Dominik Volek, Troy Bourke, Brendan Leipsic, Taylor Leier
QMJHL: Christophe Lalancette, Chris Clapperton
USHL: Riley Barber, Matthew Lane, Vince Hinostroza
Junior A: Cory Ward
HS: Hunter Fejes, MacKenzie MacEachern, Matthew Beattie, Dominic Toninato
Sweden: Erik Karlsson (not that one), Tobias Tornkvist
Finland: Henri Ikonen
I expect at some point we will take a defensemen or two. The Avalanche have shown a recent tendency towards big, stay-at-home types (maybe with some bonus offense) over puck-movers. If a first round big boy slips, that could be our second-rounder. Otherwise, I like these guys in fitting with our skill-character-compete combo (BTW, I’m not even looking at goalies based on our prospect depth there and its crapshoot nature):
Patrick Sieloff, USA U-18 (USHL), 6’0” 200, Cons. 46th, FC 50th, CSS 31st
Adam Pelech, Erie (OHL), 6’2” 210, Cons. 48th, FC 73rd, CSS 120th
Mikko Vainonen, HIFK U-20 (Finland), 6’2” 205, Cons. 71st, FC 58th, CSS 11E
Brian Cooper, Fargo (USHL), 5’10” 180, Cons. 98th, FC 91st, CSS 68th
Brett Kulak, Vancouver (WHL), 6’1” 175, Cons. 100th, FC 71st, CSS 55th
Cody Corbett, Edmonton (WHL), 6’1” 210, Cons. UNR, FC 66th, CSS 117th
Christian Djoos, Brynas U20 (Sweden), 5’11” 160, Cons. UNR, FC 83rd, CSS 18E
Max Iafrate, Kitchener (OHL), 6’2” 200, Cons. UNR, FC 123rd, CSS 70th
Mikael Wikstrand, Mora (Sweden), 6’1” 185, Cons. UNR, FC 113rd, CSS 23E
Travis Brown, Moose Jaw (WHL), 6’2” 180, Cons. UNR, FC 135th, CSS 89th
There you have it. Let’s keep this page as a base for draft discussions this week. Let me know who or what you’d like to see this weekend.