Earlier this week, I took a look at some of the forward options that the Colorado Avalanche could use the sixteenth overall pick on. While there were some good options, the 2018 NHL Entry Draft will likely be remembered for the high-end defensemen that are selected in the first round.
There are a ton of talented blueliners this year, so it would not be surprising if Joe Sakic uses his first pick on one of them. Here are some of the options that could be available to the Avalanche at pick 16:
Ty Smith - LD - Spokane Cheifs, WHL
Smith will almost certainly be gone by pick 16, but if he’s available, the Avs need to sprint to the podium and make the selection.
While he doesn’t have blazing speed, Smith is an incredible skater and a big reason for that is how much he keeps his head up. He’s always looking ahead for passing lanes to develop or that long outlet pass to send a teammate on a breakaway. This ability to keep his head up seemingly at all times gives him an edge over many opposing forecheckers. He’s able to slow the game down and speed it up seemingly at will. In doing so, Smith is able to create many controlled zone entries whether it be individually, or with a crisp pass at the line. In the Canada vs. United States game at the U18 World Junior Championships, on multiple occasions on the power play Smith was able to gain the line with speed, then slow the game down and find an open man.
Bode Wilde - RD - USNTDP U18
From Habs EOTP:
He is a great skater in all facets. He’s agile, speedy, and displays a good acceleration; all qualities that push his offensive prowess to the next level and allow him to pivot and come back on defence just as easily. His strength on his skates also allows him to go for his one-on-one move and not get knocked out. He can also recover his balance easily after having barely slipped through a hole between two defenders to create a scoring chance.
In his second NTDP season, with a new coach at the helm, Wilde has shown NHL scouts, and me, what people were getting excited about him for in the first place. Playing on the same pairing as fellow top 2018 draft prospect K’Andre Miller, Wilde has brought his offense back up, made tremendous strides in his play in his own end, and although he is a righty, has proven he is adept at playing on either side of the ice.
Calen Addison - RD - Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL
From Habs EOTP:
Addison is an exceptional offensive talent, but at times he can be too eager to get involved, and it often ends up hurting his team. Despite the vision and awareness that serve as some of his top attributes, he does make poor decisions to go all-in on offence when the situation calls for more patience. He has some tools at his disposal that can help him become less of a liability defensively. In addition to the active stick and fluid mobility that help him engage attacking players, he has the lower-body strength to engage physically both in front of his net and in board battles, but his desire to turn every play into an offensive opportunity prevents him from incorporating those elements into his play with enough regularity.He is trusted with short-handed time, and is more positionally sound in a situation that dictates it, patrolling his area of the ice effectively. It seems most of his issues on the defensive side of the puck are a matter of maturity rather than an inability to play that style.
K’Andre Miller - LD - USNTDP U18
From All About the Jersey:
There is one important personal note about Miller that comes up often about him. He is still relatively new to being a defenseman. This February 14, 2017 article by Becky Olsen at USA Hockey profiled a then-17 year old Miller, highlighting that he used to be a forward. He made the switch back in 2015 due to a team need for more defenders. In a way, this makes his current situation more impressive. Changing from forward to defense is not easy. Doing so while being a part of a collection of talented, young American players with the intent of development for international play is even harder. That Miller was not only able to join the USNTDP but remain at the position and play a prominent role on their U-17 and U-18 teams speaks very well to how he has picked up playing defense and how good he has been to do what he has done so far. This is a big reason why this big defenseman has a large amount of potential. He can still learn and experience more as a defenseman - and that could make him even better in the long run.
The Under-17 year is more about process than results as far as the NTDP is concerned, so don’t take numbers into account too much there unless they’re really good. The first year was sub-par numbers-wise for most of the team, but Miller improved tremendously from the start of the year to the end. He capitalized on a couple of injuries to teammates to move up the depth chart and secure a permanent spot on his natural left side, which definitely seemed to be a more comfortable fit for him. He finished third among the team’s defensemen with 17 points, and despite needing to make some improvements in his own end, was seen as someone who should go early on the second day of the draft when his time came.
But it was in his second year, his under-18 season, that Miller really established himself as a potential first-rounder. With new coach Seth Appert at the helm, the whole team took a giant step forward, particularly offensively. Miller was given more freedom to jump into the rush, something he loves to do, and was able to better utilize his size and skating ability to improve his positioning defensively. He finished the year with 29 points, third among the team’s blueliners, and greatly improved his stock at the World Under-18s where he played the toughest minutes for Team USA and helped them win a silver medal.
Jonny Tychonick - LD - Penticton Vees, BCHL
The 16th pick might be a little high for the guy some are calling “a left-shooting Cale Makar”, but we know how the Avs love to look to the second tier Western Canadian leagues for their top picks. Tychonik could be the third straight Avs first rounder to be selected from the Junior-A ranks.
From Habs EOTP:
Tychonick’s offensive game is based on his feet and release. He fluidly patrols the blue line, waiting to receive the puck to fire a quick and low shot at the net, aiming for the stick of his teammates to try for a deflection.
He is not shy to take the puck further up in the offensive zone when he has the chance, jumping from the point for a wrister. He owns the space available to him and is precise in his releases. He also has good vision and is capable of freezing defenders on occasions to create space for himself and teammates alike.
On the defensive side of the game, Tychonick shows some other inconsistencies in his gap control while defending off the rush, sometimes leaving too much space for opposing forwards to work with or being too agressiv. But his smooth pivots and great stick work still allow him to repair mistakes, deny access to the slot, and adjust to counter the different moves of approaching opponents easily.
In his own end, Tychonick closes the gap with opponents and stays with them, even if he doesn’t have the strength yet to impose himself physically very often. At the U18 World Championship, he was trusted to play on the penalty kill due to his solid positioning. He was caught puck-watching or reaching at times, but considering the drastic change in level of competition, it was impressive how quickly he showed he could adapt to playing against much more talented and faster opponents.