The 2013 NHL Draft is only days away. The Stanley Cup has been awarded to the media favorite
Penguins Blackhawks once again. All eyes are now shifting to the upcoming draft and free agency. We will hear more and more about the Avs vocal approach to who they like for the first overall pick but what we don't hear about is who they like at other spots in the draft. One thing is clear, whatever you see, read and hear on Youtube or in the media, just forget it as the Avs will surely go against what most think... at least from their second pick on.
In 2009 we saw a changing of the guard that resulted in Pracey heading up the drafting for the Avs. With 4 drafts in the books under Pracey, we are starting to see more and more how and where the Avs draft. Looking over their past 4 drafts may have many going "what the?" sometimes combined with "who is that?" comments as the Avs have generally skipped over the bigger names in the media for players they feel fit their "character, skill and compete" focus. How do you quantify such things? It can be hard, especially for the casual fan, to pick out players who have enough of these three traits to be on the Avs radar. This pushes a lot of fans (and even media) to migrate to stats and other items that don't tell the whole picture, and who end up with a lot of those above questions and comments when the Avs do use a pick.
We know the Avs draft for skill, character and compete. A quick look at draft history (since 2009) shows they really like their forwards from the OHL and their D from the WHL. This is even more apparent when looking at their earlier picks in each draft. with picks in the top 2 rounds, the Avs have drafted 5 OHL forwards, 2 WHL Ds and a goalie from the WHL. Any forwards from the WHL & QMJHL have come later in the draft with a focus on strong two-way players. When they have drafted from the QMJHL, they have generally focused on specific types of players as seen especially with Beaupre & Donnelly. Then of course they have a sprinkling of players from everywhere else with the largest group (after the OHL & WHL) being US based players where they generally get the 4 years of player "rights" rather than the 2 years you see elsewhere.
A lot is said about the Avs inability to develop Ds internally but they are actually very good at drafting Ds...when they take them from the WHL. Over 18 drafts, the Avs have drafted 7 WHL defensemen out of the top 3 rounds (top 90 picks). Those Ds are: Siemens, Elliott, Barrie, Boychuk, Sauer, Regehr and Berry. After the top few rounds it is really a crapshoot who makes it to the NHL but the Avs have even had luck getting Cumiskey who was drafted with the latest pick that the Avs have ever used on a WHL D. Clearly the WHL has produced a lot of the Avs "successful" draft picks that were used on Ds which is a big reason we are seeing the Avs primarily draft their Ds from the WHL. The WHL is such a great producer of NHL talent...especially Defensemen.
On the other end, since Pracey too over, we see the Avs take a ton of forwards out of the OHL. In fact their top pick in every draft has been used on a forward from the OHL. That of course looks to change with the Avs having the first overall and their being a lone player from the OHL slated to go top 8 but definitely not top 5. Another interesting thing is that the Avs have signed every OHL drafted forward (excluding the two due next summer) to an entry level deal. They are clearly having success with the forwards from the OHL, especially the ones they draft in the top 3 rounds.
One of the more overlooked things the Avs draft by is "career pedigree". We see too many players get a huge boost by the media because of a great year only to come back down to earth the next year. Then there are others that are overlooked their draft year only to light it up the next year or even a few years down the road. Sure some players plateau and never improve while others are late bloomers but it is the ones that have a career of success that the Avs like to mostly focus on and have the best success. Players get different opportunities. Some move up a level and have to put their time in on the lower lines learning the game more while others are thrown right into a scoring line role. Some players end up on stacked teams that either help give them a boost or see them playing much lower than expected. While others go to bad teams and face tough competition every night being the sole focus of the opposition. Every player has their ups and downs. When it happens in their draft year they either drop in the rankings or rise in them at a greater rate than the others who are just continuing to develop at a steady pace. One year does not make a player and the Avs know this.
Did you know that every player drafted in the 7th round (since 2009) by the Avs was a highly regarded player for chunks of their hockey careers? Gus Young was a stud D out of Massachusetts. Luke Moffat was the next wonderkid and went #2 OVERALL in his WHL draft. An american player who went #2 OVERALL. Dillon Donnelly was a first rounder in his QMJHL draft and even overlooked Colin Smith went 7th overall in his WHL draft. The Avs are big on drafting players who have been highly regarded for years and it shows in who they are drafting.
Most notable includes Duchene who went 5th in his draft, O'Reilly who went 1st in the very same draft. Even more surprising was that Joey Hishon went 8th overall in the Duchene/O'Reilly draft despite being NHL draft eligible a year later. Joey was so highly regarded he did not end up picked much later in the draft like a lot of Oct/Nov/Dec birthdays usually do when they enter a year before their NHL draft class. Even Landeskog saw the same thing as he was the #3 overall pick in the CHL import draft a year PRIOR to his NHL draft class. He wasn't the #3 in just one league draft but rather for the entire Canadian Hockey League (WHL/OHL/QMJHL). Meurs, an incoming pro, was 13th overall in his draft year. Bournival, who went to Montreal in the O'Byrne acquisition, was 7th overall in his draft. Thats just a few of the forwards.
On defense you see Elliott who went 12th overall in his draft. That same draft saw Barrie go 18th overall. Siemens? Well he went 3rd overall in his draft. Hopkins went 2 spots before him at #1 overall. Overlooked Beaupre was a first rounder for his draft as he went 22nd overall BUT like Hishon and Landeskog he went in the draft PRIOR to his draft class' draft. If he was drafted a year later he may have went 10-15 picks higher but he had to be drafted a year prior to his draft class peers.
The Avs clearly have certain types of players they draft for. They also have certain "tells" that can be picked up on to give you an idea who may or may not be on their radar. While they do have no problem drafting "undrafted" players like Heard, Smith, etc they still spend a large majority of their picks on players who have a career history of success. So when you are looking over draft lists, watching Youtube highlights, and reading up on scouting reports keep in mind what the Avs have done before. While there will be some fluctuation due to some Junior leagues being stronger at different parts of the draft and now with the Patrick Roy input, the Avs will still keep a large focus on a few main things:
Draft your forwards from the O,
Your Ds from the W
and keep an eye on the ones who are NOT late risers and/or media darlings.
Everyone has different opportunities but what we do with those opportunities over the years is generally more important than what you have done lately. You will have greater success drafting the ones with a great career pedigree than the ones who are the "sexier" or are a "hot ticket" right now.
In PART TWO (if I have the time & enough interest from MHHers), I will profile which individual players Avs fans should be keeping an eye on...