When the folks putting together mock drafts get towards the end of the first round, things start to break up a bit from list to list. Pundits move away from Best Player Available and into evaluating team need. The Avalanche have always maintained they'll go BPA, but will they this time around?
Here are the top three choices for the Avs from the various mock drafts out there:
• Steven Hoffner's take: Big (6-foot, 195), physical defenseman has the right tools to help, especially on the penalty kill.• McKeown finished the 2013-14 season with 43 points (11-32—43) in 62 games and a team-high plus-38 rating for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League.
• He is a two-time gold medalist internationally, winning with Team Canada at the 2013 Under-18 World Championship and the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial.
• McKeown was the captain of the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA team in 2011-12 that featured Sam Bennett (No. 1-ranked North American skater), Joshua Ho-Sang (No. 22-ranked North American skater) and Connor McDavid (draft eligible in 2015). He registered 35 points in 28 games for the Marlboros, who fell to the Mississauga Rebels in the 2012 OHL Cup championship game.
• An OHL All-Rookie First Team selection in 2012-13, McKeown led all first year blueliners with 29 points (7-22—29) in 61 games.
• He trains in the off-season under the guidance of former player Gary Roberts, who also works with NHL players including Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning), Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) and James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins).
• Favorite NHL player is Ryan O'Reilly (let that sink in for a minute...)
NHL Central Scouting’s David Gregory
"I love this kid … he can play offensively and move the puck and has a bomb of a shot. When defending you, he presents himself as a big, strong and mobile guy. He'll push guys to the side; he's a legitimate top prospect."
Ah, picks for nostalgia's sake. If the Avs pick Brendan, nostalgia will have nothing to do with it. Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy proved last year that fun story lines mean nothing when selecting a player for their hockey team. Thus, if they do select Claude Lemieux's son, it's for what he brings to the team and nothing more.
The apple didn't fall far from the tree on this one as Lemieux plays a similar game to his father. He's relentless, hard-hitting, and fearless. He's not afraid to drop the gloves, even against guys outside of his weight class. Don't let the physicality fool you, though. He's not without offensive power. He's a good finisher and has a strong presence in front of the net. Like his father, Brendan's a clutch player that rises to the top when put in tough situations, especially those that come during playoffs. "I'm playing my best when I'm playing playoff-style hockey," Lemieux said. "That type of hockey includes making simple and smart plays and scoring a clutch goal every so often. It also means getting under the skin of the opposition, getting them agitated, really working hard and playing good defense."
• Mike G. Morreale's take: How could Avalanche coach Patrick Roy pass on picking the son of former teammate Claude Lemieux? The scrappy 6-foot, 206-pound left-shot had 27 goals, 53 points and 145 penalty minutes in 65 games.
• In 2013-14, Lemieux finished tied for third on Barrie with 53 points (27-26—53) and led the club with 145 penalty minutes. He paced the Colts with seven goals (7-3—10) in 11 postseason games before the Colts were eliminated in the second round by North Bay.
• Brendan’s father is four-time Stanley Cup champion and 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Claude Lemieux. Claude recorded 786 points (379-407—786) and 1,777 penalty minutes in 1,215 career regular-season games, adding 157 points (80-77—157) in 234 career playoff games with Montreal, New Jersey, Colorado, Phoenix, Dallas and San Jose.
• Lemieux was part of Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, scoring in the championship game versus the U.S. (1-1—2 in 5 tournament games).
• He scored the opening goal for Team Orr at the 2014 CHL Top Prospects Game at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, the same arena where his father won his first Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1986.
• Lemieux was named to the Greater Toronto Hockey League Minor Midget ‘AAA’ All-Star Game in 2011-12 after posting 32 points (9-23—32) in 26 games for the Toronto Red Wings.
• He wears No. 21 because that was his father’s number while playing junior hockey and he has also inherited the nickname "Pepe" from Claude. Brendan on his father’s influence: "He’s my dad, he’s my best friend. We’re always talking and working on what I can do better and what I can do to play at the next level."
Director of NHL Central Scouting, Dan Marr:
"Brendan is a guy you can put in front of the net because he can agitate and be a pest; I think that's in his DNA. He has the same skating stride as his father. He's also got a great one-timer and can finish. He's one of these guys who has an equal number of goals and assists, and he brings an important ingredient to a hockey team."
The folks who chose this guy for the Avs must not know what they value in a player. As fans, we know that a strong character and leadership come first for Director of Amateur Scouting, Rick Pracey, as well as Sakic and Roy. This guy has trouble written all over him. Some folks call it "scrappy" and "passionate." However, some (like Bob McKenzie) lay it down like this:
The American blueliner is undersized at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, but he put up 15 goals and 71 points in 51 games for Sarnia. Imagine how many more points he would have registered if he hadn't been suspended on three separate occasions this season for either violating the OHL's diversity policy or verbally abusing an on-ice official or, as fate would have it, both.
In December of 2013, DeAngelo was suspended five games for violating the league's diversity policy in a verbal spat with an on-ice official. In January of 2014, he received an eight-game suspension for violating the league's diversity policy in a verbal exchange with a teammate. Five games after returning from that eight-game suspension, he was suspended two games for (verbal) abuse of an official.
Many scouts don't know what to make of DeAngelo. The vast majority of them say the north New Jersey kid, who'll effectively be at "home" for this week's NHL draft in Philadelphia, is (in spite of size concerns) a first-round talent, a smart, mobile and offensively gifted blueliner.
"Look at the talented small defencemen and where they've been taken in the draft, guys like Ryan Ellis, Ryan Murphy, Derrick Pouliot, even Erik Karlsson," a scout said. "DeAngelo should, on talent, be taken in that 10 to 20 range but I'm not sure he will be because of the other stuff."
Some of the scouts surveyed by TSN said they wouldn't take DeAngelo at all. Others said he would be a consideration in the second round – talent like that is hard to pass – but a couple did say they wouldn't rule out considering him in the first round.
"If you read stuff that people write, I think they go overboard with it because they don't know the details," DeAngelo told the Camden Courier Post. "They think I have character issues. I don't think I have character issues."
Interestingly, USA Hockey chose to not invite DeAngelo to its summer evaluation camp for the 2015 U.S. national junior team.
Of all the stories in what is expected to be an unpredictable draft, DeAngelo's is bound to be one of the most compelling. He's expected to have upwards of 100 friends and family in attendance Friday night and whether he's chosen or not in the first round will be an intriguing storyline.
That's not to say he isn't a talented player, and with the Avs inexplicable love for smaller defensemen, who knows. I'd be extremely surprised if this was the direction they went, though. Some quick hits from NHL.com:
• An offensive defenseman, DeAngelo led all Ontario Hockey League blueliners in assists (56) and points (71) during the 2013-14 season. It marked the second straight campaign he led OHL defensemen in assists after registering 49 in 2012-13.
• The 2014 NHL Draft will take place at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, about a 25-minute drive from where DeAngelo grew up in Sewell, New Jersey. A life-long Flyers fan, DeAngelo’s favorite player is Claude Giroux.
• DeAngelo has a close relationship with former Flyers defenseman, and current Sarnia assistant coach, Andy Delmore, who he credits with helping him become a more complete defenseman.
• He represented the U.S. at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, picking up six assists (0-6—6) in four games for the second-place squad.
• DeAngelo became the youngest player to skate in the United States Hockey League when he made his debut with Cedar Rapids as a 14-year-old, skating in three games before his 15th birthday. He finished the season with 1-14—15 in 28 games.