The Colorado Avalanche made eight selections at the 2018 NHL Draft over the weekend in Dallas. Starting with Czech winger Martin Kaut, the team put an emphasize on adding players with a lot of high-end skill - picking a number of players that are viewed as true boom-or-bust prospects.
The Avalanche picked five forwards, one defensemen and two goaltenders at this year’s draft.
It is clear that Joe Sakic relied heavily on his European scouts as the team drafted three Russians, two Finns, one Canadian and kid from Raleigh, North Carolina to go along with Kaut.
This is a far departure from the QMJHL-heavy drafts from the Patrick Roy era.
We will have a more in-depth look at each of the new prospects later this week, but in the meantime, here is a quick look at each of the selections from the 2018 Draft.
Martin Kaut - RW - 16th overall
Ranked 16th in Bob McKenzie’s final rankings, many people moved him down their lists due to a heart condition that caused Kaut to leave the draft combine early. With a clean bill of health, Kaut has already spoken about playing in North America next year with many assuming he’ll play for the Eagles. That said, Kaut is one of the more NHL ready prospects in the draft, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he makes the Avalanche out of training camp.
From Hockey Prospects Black Book:
Kaut is a physically mature winger who can take advantage of defenseman who are either flat-footed or caught out of position by using his speed. He has the ability to change gears deceptively and throw his opponents off as he’s capable of stopping-up or cutting directly to the net and mixing up his options with the puck on his stick. He’s a smart player who’s aware on the ice and recognizes how to shift the conditions to his liking in order to re-open passing lanes or stall long enough to wait for support in the offensive-end. He’s a dangerous winger who features a high-degree of skill and can use his hands to force defenders to respect him, which usually allows him to play a heavy possession style game. His passing ability is some of the best in this class. He’s got tremendous vision and at times appears to have eyes in the back of his head by consistently making difficult no-look passing plays to his teammates. We have seen him overwhelm his opponents with his size and an active stick to win a board battle and then execute an accurate pass that sets up his teammates for scoring chances all season. Furthermore, he’s not a one-dimensional passing player. He’s got a precise shot that’s got a snap-like release meaning he doesn’t always release the puck near the end of his blade in one motion, instead he likes to push the puck forward slightly before shooting it. He’s also able to shoot the puck while skating down the wings or cutting across the slot and has a heavy slapshot which he likes to use in our viewings. Kaut’s able to identify when to use his shot and when to use his pass to create the most effective scoring chance, never really relying on one over the other, showing good overall timing when he attempts either option.
Justus Annunen - G - 64th overall
Justus Annunen was the starting goalie for the Karpat U20 squad, where he put up a 2.31 GAA and a .907 save percentage in 26 games, he followed that up with a 1.83GAA and .935 save percentage in 12 playoff games. Internationally, Annunen helped Finland capture a gold medal at the U18’s by putting up a 2.00 GAA and a .914 save percentage in 6 starts. He’s expected to play for Karpat in Liiga next season.
ETA: He’s a goalie, so prognosticating this would be silly
From the Cat Silverman’s analysis:
Annunen is the poster child of the evolution of Finnish goaltending, adding in some conservative elements to a game that boasts quick, aggressive challenges and active hands.
He can’t quite execute the attack and retreat method that Rinne does with the timing of the perennial Vezina candidate, and that raises a red flag for teams that want to see a safe bet.
He’s got a little more agility than Gravel does at his size, but also plays a much more aggressive game — which can hurt him when he’s unable to recover as quickly as players like Dostal or Miftakhov. He’ll need to make a change before long; either he’ll have to adapt to playing a more conservative style to eliminate his need for so much extra movement, or he’ll need to work on his conditioning enough to get him across the top of the crease when he decides he needs to challenge.
Sampo Ranta - LW - 78th overall
Ranta is a big, quick winger that is set to start his NCAA career next season at the University of Wisconsin. Ranked 63rd by Bob McKenzie and has high as 52nd, some feel the Avalanche got great value by selecting Ranta here. Having played for Finland a number of times internationally, there’s a good chance we’ll get to see his skills on display this winter at the World Juniors.
ETA: He’ll likely play at least two seasons of college hockey before even considering turning pro.
Corey Pronman’s take:
Ranta’s one of the better skaters in the draft class, and, combined with the fact he’s 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, it makes him quite appealing. He’s a high-end athlete who is built like a truck and, when he comes barreling down the wing, there’s little defenders can do. Ranta can make plays off the rush, showing fine if not above-average hands and the shooting skills to finish chances from long distance. The issue with Ranta is upstairs. I don’t think he has great instincts and doesn’t make a ton of plays when he’s not moving in straight lines.
Tyler Weiss - LW/C - 109th overall
Weiss was selected 15th overall in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection draft by the Sarnia Sting but chose to play with the USNTDP instead. As a part of an incredibly deep U18 team, Weiss spent a lot of the season in the bottom-6 with very little special teams play - a deployment that stifled his production. Next year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Weiss is expected to get big minutes and should be among one of the higher-scoring freshmen in the nation. When not on the ice, let’s hope Weiss spends as much time as possible in the weight room and campus dining hall - he needs to get a lot stronger before he becomes a professional player.
From the Black Book:
Weiss is an instinctive playmaker who plays a fast game and has plus tools which allows him to stand out on the ice. His acceleration allows him to launch himself out of the gate and catch the defensive opposition off guard, using a combination of edge work and plus straight-line speed to penetrate defensive units while looking to set up his teammates for scoring chances. He has a tendency to drive wide and cut behind the net while using his vision to set up players in the slot area and likes to make plays at top speeds, rarely slowing down the play, even if the play would be more effective if he did. One of the main reasons this occurs is due to his motor, when he’s dialed in, Weiss plays at a high rate but doesn’t turn it down on some plays when he needs to. His passing ability is a plus, he’s capable of threading passes through multiple players and delivering them on the tape of his teammates at a consistent rate. His shot however, is inaccurate and he has trouble finding soft-ice for high percentage shots in some of the games we have watched. His defensive effort isn’t below average but it’s also not a stand-out area in his game at this point in time, although his puck skills are a plus and like the rest of his game, he can use his hands while going at top speeds
Brandon Saigeon - C - 140th overall
An overaged center from Hamilton, Saigeon helped lead the Bulldogs to an OHL Championship this season. He is a below average skater, but has a great shot and can make plays when given time. Fans in Loveland should become very femiliar with him as he’s likely to have a decent career as an AHL scorer.
ETA: Already 20, Saigeon will be given the opportunity to fill a bottom-6 role with the Eagles this season.
From the Black Book:
There are consistency issues with Brandon’s game as he can utilize his combination of size and skill to thrive throughout a game, but also can blend in and become a non-factor. For Saigeon to find an effectiveness at the pro level he will need to enhance his skating ability. He currently possesses a short stride that hinders his acceleration and overall top speed. While Brandon does show intensity to his game at times, he needs to become more aggressive and assertive with his frame in the dirty area and while competing for loose pucks or body position. He has taken time during his OHL career to begin to produce offensively, this trend might follow Saigeon to the pro level.
Danila Zhuravlyov - LD - 146th overall
The only defenseman drafted by the Avalanche this year, Zhuravlyov is a great skater who has been praised for his transition game. He could be what the Avs thought they were getting in Andrei Mironov.
He was ranked 77th by Hockey Prospects.
ETA: We could see him in the AHL in two years
From the Black Book:
Zhuravlyov is a highly-mobile two-way defenseman who has shown to be a transitional puck-mover. He’s a superb skater with excellent two-step area quickness that allows him to get up to one of the better top-gears in this draft class. Another great quality to his skating is his lateral movement, due to having advanced cross-over mechanics and he can pivot or cut on a dime which makes him excellent at weaving in and out of heavy traffic and gaining offensive-zone entries while transitioning the puck through all three-zones. Additionally, he can process and evaluate incoming pressure quickly which allows him to make smart and fast decisions when attempting to make an outlet pass to a teammate or when he’s deciding to skate the puck out from behind his own-goal line. He doesn’t just use his skating to move the puck up the ice, he also uses it to close his gaps efficiently, giving opposing teams limited time to react to him. He’s a proactive defenseman rather than a reactive one, and he’s willing to aggressively engage opponents using his length and an active stick in an attempt to disrupt offensive plays. This does cause him to throw himself out of position occasionally but he’s got the skating ability to recover and he plays at a pretty high-pace which helps him get back into position. His overall positional awareness is a plus and he constantly keeps his head up and surveys passing options so that he can attempt to take away both passing and shooting lanes. One of the most impressive aspects of his recovery sequences is when he’s transitioning from the offensive-line, when he or his defensive partner gets caught. We have seen him rapidly catch up to players on breakaways and disrupt their high-percentage attempts in some of our viewings.
Nikolai Kovalenko - RW - 171 overall
The son of one-time Avalanche Andrei Kovalenko, Nikolai will hope to follow his father’s footsteps to the NHL. He’s got a long way to go, and may never come over from Russia, but this late in the draft, a kid with Kovalenko’s pedigree is worth the risk. He was ranked as high as 66 by HockeyProspects.com
ETA: who knows?
From the Black Book:
Nikolai is an instinctive passer. Even when given a high-percentage shot, he’s still looking for his best passing option which at times gives his teammates open-net goals after he gets a goalie to bite however it also takes away some of his better scoring chances. This is largely due to not being as comfortable shooting the puck as he is passing it. He does have an above-average release point but it lacks velocity and he prefers his backhand at times, specifically when on breakaways. Additionally, he’s got excellent two-step area quickness and good pivoting mechanics, but his straight-line speed isn’t as good as the rest of his skating mechanics at this point in time. We’ve seen him strip opponents off the puck in the defensive-end and make some nice backchecking plays but it’s not a prominent part of his game at this point, though it could help him translate to a center in the future if he continues to gain strength and improve his straight-line speed. Kovalenko has flown a bit under the mainstream radar this year due to not having played internationally. Regardless, he’s a talented and crafty forward whose game has the potential to translate to North-American ice.
Shamil Shmakov - G - 202 overall
Shmakov is a giant - 6’6” and he looks even taller. Aside from that, not a while lot is known about the Russian goaltender. One draft analyst mentioned that he plays like Tim Thomas in that he flails around, using any means necessary to stop the puck. If nothing else, this pick gives us something to ask Cat about whenever she writes about the goalies.
ETA: We’re never going to see him play in North America