As the season is starting to wind down one game at a time for the Colorado Avalanche, it really is not too early to have discussions about who the team could possibly take in the first round of the 2017 NHL entry draft. One of the top players who is eligible for the upcoming draft, is Nolan Patrick. Patrick is a versatile center what uses his speed and sheer size to his advantage.
However, I have the firm belief that Patrick is not the guy who the Avs should draft with their upcoming first round pick. In comparision to last year's NHL entry draft, this draft is considered weak in prospects. It is believed that the majority of the players who are eligible in this draft, do not have what it takes to completely transform the face of an organization.
So, who should the Colorado Avalanche select with their first round pick?
A major weakness that the Colorado Avalanche have is a lackluster defensive corp, and Joe Sakic has been known to select forwards with these picks instead of defensemen. For example, back in the 2013 NHL entry draft the Colorado Avalanche were debating between picking the high-powered Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, or a defenseman in Seth Jones who was playing for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. In the end, Joe Sakic decided to choose Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall pick.
The most successful season in recent years of the 2013-14 season, the Avalanche shocked the world of the NHL by winning the Central Division, only to be ousted by arch-rivals in the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the NHL playoffs in seven games. Nathan MacKinnon was a major contributor in his rookie season, as he would rack up 63 points (24 goals, 39 assists) for the Avalanche.
Following the record-breaking 2013-14 season, the Avalanche have not been the same ever since as they have missed the playoffs two seasons, and are currently sitting as the league's worst NHL team with a record of 16-38-2. One of the main mistakes that the Avs did that sent them backwards, was by giving away Ryan O'Reilly, and Paul Stastny. O'Reilly was a part of a trade that would send him to the Buffalo Sabres, and Paul Stastny left during free agency to division-rival the St. Louis Blues.
The Avs should not select Nolan Patrick with their first round pick, due to the simple fact that they do have skill coming up through the ranks of the center position. Fans seem to forget that first round pick of the 2016 NHL entry draft, Tyson Jost, is gaining valuable experience with the University of North Dakota hockey club. Word around the league is that Jost may decide to come to the NHL sooner rather than later, so it may be possible that he could be coming to the Avalanche at the beginning of the 2018 NHL season.
Instead of focusing on another forward player, the Avalanche should simply take the option to the take best overall projected defenseman of the 2017 NHL Draft. The player who I am obviously speaking of, is Timothy Liljegren.
Timothy Liljegren, Rogle BK (SuperElit/SHL)
Height/Weight: 6'0/200 lbs
Position (Handedness): D(right)
Birthplace: Kristianstad, Sweden
After being a dominating for with Rogle BK J20 in 2015-16 by recording 22 points in 29 games, Liljegren would receive an call-up to play in Sweden's top league. In his first season with the big club in the SHL, as a 16-year-old, he would post five points in 19 games.
During the 2016-17 season, Liljegren has mostly split time between these two clubs, where has contributed six points in nine games in the SuperElit, and three points in nine games in the SHL. Liljegren was snubbed to represent Team Sweden in the World Juniors, and many people have to wonder if Sweden has had regrets of that decision--similarly to Team Canada snubbing Jakob Chychrun, who is now seeing regular minutes in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes.
What has been said about Liljegren
“Scouts say his offensive game is far more developed than his defensive game. He is an elite skater, both in terms of speed and agility, and adept at running a power play. He is seen as both a puck mover and an offensive point producer. No one is suggesting he’s the next Erik Karlsson, not by any means, but scouts say he has some of the same qualities and, therefore, has the potential to be projected as a possible top pairing defenceman in time.” - TSN's Bob McKenzie
“Very gifted skater who uses his feet to his advantage defensively and in transition. Smart, poised, anticipates the play, sees where to exploit opponents and can dictate play in all areas. Excellent in the defensive zone because he beats pressure, fends it off and the puck gets moving ahead quickly. Has a command of the game and he finds a way to be a contributor at critical times.”- TSN's Craig Button
NHL Player Comparisons: Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman