In previous years when the Avalanche
have owned a high draft pick (and there have been too many of those recently) they have had an odd sort of advantage. Picking third in 2009 the Avs had the simple task of picking whichever player of the big three (Duchene, Hedman and Tavares) was left to them after New York and Tampa Bay had drafted, giving them the easiest choice in the whole draft. In 2011, picking at second overall, the Avs had a bit tougher time of things, considering most scouts felt at least four players had earned top spot consideration, but when Landeskog was available to them that was a player they simply couldn't pass up. Now the Avs face a situation the Edmonton Oilers
could tell them a thing or two about, and that is having the enviable pressure of picking first overall. Now any of the three players considered to be in the running (Jonathan Drouin, Nate Mackinnon and Seth Jones) could be taken with that number one pick and I could find a reason to be happy about it. It speaks to the nature of the depth of the draft that any of those three players could be considered a successful first overall pick. Rather than force my own opinion on the people here at Mile High Hockey I'll do a bit of an in depth look at each player, starting with Drouin, and let you decide for yourselves.
I started with Drouin because, to fans in the United States who may have only seen him for the first time at the Memorial Cup, he's the unknown of the bunch. Of course if Avs fans have visited the Denver Post website at all they've been hearing about Seth Jones all year and the Memorial Cup was a sudden and rather dramatic introduction to Nate Mackinnon. To someone who watched the Quebec League this year however, or as much of it as living in Western Canada would allow, Drouin's name is very much in the conversation for first overall. There are a lot of things to love about this young man, even though many Avs fans probably haven't thought about him as much as they have Jones or, more recently thanks to his play in Saskatoon, Mackinnon.
Watching Jonathan Drouin stickhandle is like reading a pleasing piece of poetry. It is smooth, elegant, seamless in its transitions and pleasing to the eye. Metaphors aside Drouin's ultra-smooth stickhandling is done at wicked speeds, with pinpoint accuracy and a confidence bordering on cockiness that reminds one of Patrick Kane
. Drouin is larger than Kane was in his draft year (standing at 5'11 as opposed to Kane's 5'9 and weighing about 185 lbs.) and his point totals are eye-popping with 105 points in only 49 games this season. From a pure offensive standpoint he is the best player in the draft. He has a lightning quick release and a set of hands that would put all but the most skilled NHL players to shame even at this young age. His highlight reel is a mile long (look him up on YouTube, just don't hurt yourself when your jaw hits the floor) and it shows keen hockey sense, amazing hands and the surprising ability to stickhandle on the backhand nearly as well as he does on the forehand. One particular shift (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7YDx0M51WE) stands out as being particularly amazing to watch, reminiscent of Peter Forsberg
more than Patrick Kane.
Those who only saw the Memorial Cup saw Mackinnon just a step ahead of Drouin but those who saw the World Junior tournament this year saw the opposite. In a tournament traditionally dominated by 19 year olds 17 year old Drouin stole the show on many occasions, eventually earning a promotion to the top line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
(whose draft year point totals Drouin would have destroyed if he had played a full season) and Mark Scheifele
. When his teammate and friend MacKinnon went down with an injury Drouin carried the mail for the seemingly invincible Halifax Mooseheads, leading the team in both regular season and playoff scoring.
It's not all a bed of roses with Drouin. His size, or lack of it, is a concern as is the fact that he did spend a good chunk of the season injured, limiting him to just 49 games (though he did miss some games due to his time at the WJC). Of the top three prospects he is considered by most scouts to be the least NHL ready due to his size and concerns about how his skill game will transition to the NHL and the Avalanche are a team that needs help just as quick as they can get it. However the thought of someone like Drouin playing with, say, a natural shooter like Landeskog, or another skilled puck possession player like Duchene, is tantalizing. The conversation for first overall is heating up as June is now upon us and in that conversation you have to consider the skill and hockey sense of the amazingly talented Jonathan Drouin.
If you guys enjoyed this let me know. Next time I'll take a more in depth look at Nathan MacKinnon for the benefit of those who may not have seen him prior to the Memorial Cup. In addition I pride myself on knowing this draft class fairly well so if there are any other players people are curious about feel free to ask me. I can't promise I know everything but I can promise to try to shed some light on these players.
MileHighHockey.com is a fan community, allowing members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Colorado Avalanche and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editors of MileHighHockey.com.