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Prospect Watch: Laying out the Grid

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2016 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Now that the dust has settled from the 2016 Amateur Draft we can put aside emotions, take a rational look at what the Avs did and start putting together a picture of how these fellows fit into the development system long term. Will we look back on this draft as fondly as last years’? Probably not. It doesn’t appear to have the same breadth of talent as 2015 and the Avs pick portfolio was different because we didn’t have an extra 2nd rounder or any 4th rounder at all.

Let’s start out by looking at who was taken, where they came from, where they’re going and when they might have an impact at the professional level.

Tyson Jost - 5’11 190# C/LW drafted from Penticton of the BCHL
Going to: University of North Dakota
Options: Avalanche, San Antonio, Everett (WHL)
ELC Time Frame: Anytime, likely around 2018 +/-, rights held until 2020

Jost has top 10 talent so as soon as he’s close to being ready to play for the Avs we should find him in Colorado. Like most NCAA players he probably won’t want to spend much time in the AHL so it’s doubtful he will do his development with the Rampage. An extremely unlikely option is to play in the WHL for the Silvertips, but we didn’t see Greer playing in Rouyn-Noranda as a likely option at the time either.

Cam Morrison - 6’2 207# LW/C drafted from Youngstown of the USHL
Going to: Notre Dame
Options: San Antonio, North Bay (OHL)
ELC Time Frame: 2018+, rights held until 2020

Morrison is big already at age 17 and has scored right off the bat at every level so staying for a full 4 years in college might not be necessary from a development standpoint. It’s likely he’ll need at least a year in the A to help the transition to the pro game and schedule when the time comes. Given his age and what we’ve seen of his statistics, he might have been picked in the first round next year if he had been born a couple weeks later, which is nice. Like Jost, he has his rights held by a CHL team if that becomes an appealing course in the next 2 years.

Josh Anderson - 6’3 220# LHD drafted from Prince George of the WHL
Next year: PG, ineligible for AHL until 2018
ELC Time Frame: Rights expire in 2018

Easily the most divisive pick on Saturday, there’s a bit of a disconnect between what he looks like on paper and in general scouting reports versus what Avs Director of Scouting Alan Hepple had to say about him. Taking a pragmatic view, Anderson is very young and missed almost half of his draft year season with a back injury. What he looks like at 17 years old could be quite different than what he looks like after finishing his WHL career. It’s a tough pick to like I’ll grant you, but I’m going to give it a chance for now. After a couple of years in the AHL, if he makes it that far, we might be a lot happier about it.

Adam Werner - 6’5 198# G drafted from the Farjestad system in Sweden
Next year: On loan to IF Björklöven in Allsvenskan (Swedish AHL)
Options: San Antonio, some time with Farjestad BK in SHL, Swedish Nat’l Team tourneys
ELC Time Frame: Rights held until 2020, will be an SHL Free Agent next summer

Werner has played a lot internationally for Sweden at every age level and will be in North America for this summer’s World Junior development camp. He has been loaned to a 2nd-Tier Pro team for next season which is promising since, at 19 years old, he’s still eligible for juniors. It’s tough to nail down a time frame for when (or if) Werner makes it to North America. The Avs system needs goalies right now, 2 in fact, but I don’t see him being in the mix at this point. How they fill the AHL starter/NHL 3rd spot and the AHL 3rd spot (which also depends on the ECHL affiliation situation) will dictate what the development staff are thinking here.

Nathan Clurman - 6’2 198# RHD drafted from Culver Military Academy
Next year: Not definite, best intel is that he will play for Tri-City (USHL), committed to Notre Dame
Options: PG year at Culver, Tri-City Storm (USHL), Notre Dame, San Antonio (technically)
ELC Time Frame: ???, rights held until 2021

A bit of a mystery when he was picked, actually a lot of a mystery, word gradually spread around that he’s a highly thought of young defenseman from a prep school with a decent NHL pedigree. Best guess is that he will spend next season with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL located in Kearney, Nebraska, which anyone who’s made the long drive East on I-80 will tell you is a little over a full gas tank away from Denver. I think this is a promising pick for the distant future but it’s going to be several years before we really get a handle on this guy.

Travis Barron - 6’1 187# LW drafted from the Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Next year: Ottawa, ineligible for AHL until 2018
ELC Time Frame: Rights expire 2018

Many of us have noted a parallel between Julien Nantel’s pick in the 2014 draft with Barron. He slipped a few rounds from where a lot of scouts had him and is known for defensive prowess more than for a scoring touch. Like Cam Morrison and Josh Anderson, he’s very young - all 3 were born in the last 2 weeks of August 1998, just a month before the cutoff for this year’s draft eligibility. I really like this pick, if you’re trying to get a solid asset in the 7th round this is the way to go.

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Contrary to 2015, this draft’s horizon is much further away than with last year’s picks, and that’s a good thing. After the 2014 draft/development debacle, the Avs needed a big year to replenish the system quickly, Rantanen/Boikov starting their ELCs this year and Meloche, Beaudin and Greer expected to next year did that and honestly ended up a little more effective than you might have thought. The Avs took 4 players with 4+ years of amateur rights so it gives them a chance to stagger ELCs rather than creating another situation where they are in a contract crunch constantly like we’ve seen the past 3 years. The idea of a boatload of new talent coming in each year is appealing but reality is that there aren’t more than a handful of spots each season for rookies to develop properly. The goal is to create a pro development structure that is balanced with 1st, 2nd, & 3rd year players plus some solid veterans to lead the way and provide stability.

Taking a broad view, a few things stand out to me about the 2016 draft class. First of all going back to the far horizon point, it’s very young. Three 17 year olds and only one overager in Werner. Morrison, Anderson and Barron are less than a month from being 2017 draft picks, where they might have gone much higher especially in Morrison’s case. Remains to be seen and depends on improvement but these three could end up being quite a bit more valuable than their draft positions indicate. Another excellent strategy to leverage assets.

Second, contrary to a certain DP reporter’s views, there are a bunch of NCAA prospects. You have to go back to 2007 when Colorado took a massive 6 out of 9 college guys to find anything similar. I have no great love for the NCAA as a development path. I find their amateur eligibility rules arbitrary, selfish and counter-productive and not being able to check progress yearly at training camp is frustrating to anyone that follows prospects avidly. I’m also not a big fan of their light schedule. Regardless, I’m somehow fine with all 3 of the choices the staff made here. Jost will be a short-timer, Morrison looks to be on the right track and as far as I can tell the 5 years of amateur dev that we get with Clurman is a great deal.

Third, it seems that the new scouts the Avs hired this year had a good deal of input into the selections. Lyle Wingert is based in Western Canada and would presumably have been scouting Jost & Anderson. John Funk also scouted there and followed the USHL so he along with long-time US amateur scout Neil Shea probably made the proposals on Morrison & Clurman.

It’s a reach and a silly point in general but the balance in this draft intrigues me. Not that it would ever happen, but you could put all 6 of these guys on the ice at once and handle just about any situation. There’s Jost the highly-skilled center with power forward Morrison on one wing and defensively responsible Barron on the other. Big bruising defenseman Anderson on left point with slick skating Clurman on the right, and monster goalie Werner in the net. I highly doubt they planned it that way but it’s pretty cool how it worked out.

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What about you, dear reader, now that time has passed and emotions subsided, what do you think of the Class of 2016 as a whole?