Once again this spring, I spent a lot of time sorting through the group of draft-eligible prospects for players fitting the Avs draft mold of skill-character-compete, plus hockey sense. Last week, I profiled some forwards. Today, I’ll look at defensemen.
While most of the prospect attention goes to the club’s lack of wing prospects, the pool of Avalanche defensemen really needs some freshening. With Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott presumably moving up for good, only Duncan Siemens remains as a superior prospect on the blue line. Add in the fact that the #1 pick will go to a forward instead of Seth Jones, and it’s safe to assume a chunk of the Avs seven picks will go to defense.
The main question remains, however, as to what type of defensemen the Avs will favor. In 2011, when the big club changed their philosophy from small and defensively ignorant speedy puck-movers to big and slower-than-paint-drying strong crease-clearers, the scouts followed suit with the draft picks of Siemens, Beaupre, and Donnelly. After picking only forwards last year, will the team continue to look towards toughening up, favor two-way players, or look for some new puck movers? Skill may be their stated objective, but what skills will they give the most weight to? After last year, I’ll be happy with anyone who can make a basic breakout pass, but I really don’t know what they’ll do. I suspect they’ll look for the two-way types, though a lot will have to do with the style of the new coaching staff. I would be interested to hear others’ opinions on this.
As for goaltending, I will not be profiling any specifically. Though the team boasts several promising goalie prospects, it has been three years since they’ve taken a netminder and the time may be right to re-stock the system in a bottom round with a projectable goalie than can develop his craft in college or juniors. I’m happy to trust our scouts, along with Roy, Billington and Allaire, to find someone they’d like to develop. Penn State recruit Eamon McAdam interviewed with the team at the combine and is a good example of someone with the competitiveness, character, and projectability that they might look for later on.
A couple of blueliners I would expect the Avalanche to particularly like are Ryan Pulock and Josh Morrissey, but both are unlikely to fall to the 32nd pick.
Keep in mind, once again, that I’ve neither scouted nor seen much of these prospects, but tried to take the consensus of professional scouting profiles.
SECOND ROUND CANDIDATES
Madison Bowey, Kelowna (WHL), 6’1" 195, FC 31st, CSS 32nd, HW 41st, HP 23rd: Excellent skater who plays with energy and physicality. Good passer with a hard shot who can lead the breakout and the power play. Defensive positioning is a work in progress but has improved a lot this year. Needs to read the play better and not gamble as much on the pinch.
Chris Bigras, Owen Sound (OHL), 6’1" 190, FC 47th, CSS 14th, HW 30th, HP 36th: Bigras is a skilled, consistent presence who lacks flash, but possesses excellent hockey sense and commits few mistakes. Not a big hitter but adept at snuffing forwards out with angling, stick-checking and positioning. A good skater and passer who can run the power play, he’s also an adept breakout passer.
Samuel Morin, Rimouski (QMJHL), 6’7" 205, FC 35th, CSS 23rd, HW 32nd, HP 60th: Not just tall but a quick skater. Plays aggressively, happy to flatten someone, but really excels at separating players from the puck with his long reach. A little spindly still and won’t give you much offense besides a nice breakout. I saw a scout say he skated head-down too much rushing the puck. How the hell else would he survey his opponents?
Steve Santini, USA U-18 (USHL), 6’1" 210, FC 34th, CSS 47th, HW 45th, HP 28th: A smart, poised, and physical defender who protects his own end first. Controls gaps, lays big hits, and frustrates attackers with little hacks and pushes. He shows good vision and IQ offensively, making safe breakout passes, but has only average offensive potential. Boston College recruit.
Dillon Heatherington, Swift Current (WHL), 6’4" 200, FC 36th, CSS 31st, HW 39th, HP 49th: Another shutdown D type. Excellent mobility in this steady, positional defender with a physical edge. Good with the stick and calm when pressured. Has a pretty hard shot, but isn’t there for offense.
THIRD ROUND CANDIDATES
Jan Kostalek, Rimouski (QMJHL), 6’0" 180, FC 73rd, CSS 43rd, HW 84th, HP 57th: Two-way Czech blueliner who delivers a big hit and plays a forceful game. A fast, smooth skater who contributes offensively with first-rate passing. Good positioning and IQ. Could get stronger and look for his shot more.
Jordan Subban, Belleville (OHL), 5’9" 175, FC 54th, CSS 55th, HW 66th, HP 54th: P.K.’s brother’s game is built on speed and skating. Possesses a hard shot and brings lots of skill and energy. Major size questions as he’s not built as thickly as his brother and struggles defensively.
FOURTH ROUND AND LATE ROUND CANDIDATES
Blake Heinrich, Sioux City (USHL), 5’11" 195, FC 76th, CSS 81st, HW 146th, HP 109th: A competitive player who is strong in his own end. A strong, physical player who’ll stand up for his teammates. Lacks speed and offensive upside.
Dylan Labbe, Shawnigan (QMJHL), 6’2" 190, FC 79th, CSS 74th, HW 117th: Crease-defending team leader plays a determined, aggressive game. Good two-way potential. Needs to work on his average skating.
Anthony Florentino, South Kent (HS-CT), 6’1" 195, FC 87th, CSS 75th, HW 121st: A leader with a hard shot and a zeal for hitting, he shows a high compete level, but is still quite raw. A stay-at-home-type. Heading to Providence.
Ben Harpur, Guelph (OHL), 6’6" 210, FC 111th, CSS 101st, HW 164th: A fast-improving big guy who can skate, control gaps, and loves physical play. Shows smarts and good hands, but still a project who could add weight.
Mattias Norstebo, Sweden, 5’10" 165, FC 122nd, CSS 86th (Eu), HP 122nd: Very fast puck-mover who works hard and makes remarkable passes. His size holds him back on D.
Kyle Burroughs, Regina (WHL) 5’11" 180, FC 142nd, CSS 133rd, HW 138th: A bit of a sleeper who came on late, he possesses two-way abilities and plays energetically.
Mike McNulty, Prince George (WHL), 6’6" 185, FC 156th, CSS 105th, HW 131st, HP 155th: Big guy who skates very well for his size, and uses his body and reach well on defense. A project who has some refining to do, especially with the puck.
Gage Ausmus, USA U-18 (USHL), 6’1" 185, FC 178th, CSS 148th, HW 196th, HP 106th: Getting some draft buzz recently after going under the radar, this hard worker plays a smart, tough game. Won’t give you offense and lacks footspeed. Heading to North Dakota.
Tyler Lewington, Medicine Hat (WHL), 6’1" 190, FC 181st, CSS 66th, HW 168th, HP 149th: Scouting Combine strength standout is a good passer who likes to get under his opponent’s skin.
Wiley Sherman, Hotchkiss (HS-MA), 6’6" 210, FC 192nd, CSS 104th, HW 152nd, HP 195th: Raw prospect reads the play well and makes a nice outlet. Harvard-bound.
OTHER DEFENSEMEN CLOSELY CONSIDERED
Vladislav Lysenko, Sherbrooke (QMJHL), 6’0" 195
Tucker Poolman, Omaha (USHL), 6’2" 190
Neal Pionk, Hermantown (HS-MN), 5’11" 165
Miles Liberati, London (OHL), 6’0" 195