Prior to this past week, the assumption was that the Colorado Avalanche would enter the 2018 NHL Entry Draft with practically only their own draft picks.
That may remain the case; they have their own pick for rounds 1 through 7 and then one additional second, given as a part of the three-way trade involving Samuel Girard, Matt Duchene, and Kyle Turris.
They aren’t currently expected to have Ottawa’s first rounder, which was retained by the Atlantic Division club earlier this spring—but given a disturbing string of events coming out of Ottawa in the last few days, it’s now anyone’s guess how the team will operate.
If the Avalanche are given Ottawa’s fourth overall pick in hopes that the team won’t have to give away an even higher pick next year, then it’s likely much of their draft strategy will change.
Even if they don’t somehow end up with that extra first-rounder this year, though, they are guaranteed to get the Senators’ first round selection next year. And given the allegations and events that have transpired in the last week, it’s hard to imagine it won’t be a top-five pick, as well.
Knowing that there’s almost certainly a top-five selection in Colorado’s immediate future, they can afford to change the way they look at drafting a goaltender this summer.
Initially, it seemed safer for the team to be conservative in their use of picks on goaltenders higher than the third round on down. In a weaker draft class, without a clear elite goaltending prospect in the bunch, it seemed less worth it to risk a higher pick on a guy who may not pan out as a starter long-term.
With at least one high-end cornerstone headed their way at another position either this year or next, though, Colorado can almost certainly afford to spend one of their two second-round picks - or use them to trade up higher in the round - on one of the two promising Czech prospects available in net next week.
Jakub Skarek and Lukas Dostal.
When the second round starts on Saturday, expect Skarek and Dostal - a pair of goaltenders out of the Czech Republic - to be the first two taken by teams due to what’s looking like strong development and promising games that should transition to North America well.
Greg Balloch of InGoal magazine did a heavy comparison profile of the two already, which you should definitely take a long look at. But the best way to sum up the differences between the two was stated by him eloquently early in his scouting report:
“Both Skarek and Dostal play smart positional games for their individual sizes. Skarek has a decided size advantage and will very rarely stray from the blue paint of his crease. Dostal isn’t necessarily aggressive, but he does understand that taking depth is needed in certain situations – and he has very solid positional awareness for a goaltender of his age.”
The Avalanche have struggled to see an overseas goaltender pan out after drafting them, and they haven’t shown a ton of promise that any of their current prospect options will change that any time soon.
With that in mind, it seemed smarter, to me, to take a lower-risk North American option if they decided to use a later draft pick on a goaltender this year - which, given how their depth chart currently looks, is almost certainly needed. A North American prospect will need less time to transition to the smaller ice surface, and they’ll be closer to the coaching staff during the season for supervision and easy tracking of their development. Even if they select an NCAA player who, for all intents and purposes, cannot work with the team at all during the season, the close location will make it easy to keep an eye on things until they’re ready to sign.
If the Avalanche have an extra top-five pick this year or next, though, they an afford to take a bigger risk on a higher-ranked goaltender - and this year, the top two seem to be almost universally considered the pair out of the Czech Republic.