It’s been 18 months since the Colorado Avalanche traded Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators and we’ll have to wait one more before we can close the door on the full return of the deal. Thanks to Ottawa’s decision to draft Brady Tkachuk fourth overall last June, the first-round pick owed to the Avalanche was deferred to 2019. Now we’re a month away from the NHL Entry Draft and the picks acquired in November of 2017 - Colorado also owns Ottawa’s third-round pick - give Joe Sakic and the Avalanche a the flexibility to be one of the more aggressive teams to start the offseason.
The Avalanche currently own four of the first 63 picks in this year’s draft. Add their own pick at 78th overall and the Avalanche could be selecting five times in the first three rounds. That not only gives the team the ability to stock the prospect pool with high-end talent, but it also give Sakic the option if being more aggressive than he otherwise would be.
Every year we see prospects remain available longer than is expected. Sometimes there’s good reason and those players aren’t as good as fans and online scouts think they are, but other times it’s just a matter of circumstance that leads to a player dropping. Maybe the draft order simply falls in a way that the wrong teams are selecting in the area where the player should be drafted and sometimes other fears - such as injury - lead to a player falling further than they should.
We’ve seen a number of times over the past few years that if a team is willing and able to trade up for these falling players, they could pay huge dividends.
In 2015, the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators traded into the middle of the first round to select Mathew Barzal and Colin White respectively. The same year, the Philadelphia Flyers traded up to the 24th pick to select Travis Konecny. The Arizona Coyotes did the same to draft Jakob Chychrun a year later.
Extra picks doesn’t necessarily mean a team is more likely to make deals on draft day but it makes it a lot easier to. More assets mean more options.
They won’t be trading up from Number Four
For the second time in three years, the Colorado Avalanche had the best odds to win the draft lottery - this time it was thanks to the Ottawa Senators finishing last in the NHL. Like in 2017, the ping pong balls fell in the worst way possible and the Avalanche ended up falling to fourth overall.
In a draft that has a very obvious top-two, the fall to fourth hurts a lot. The Avalanche missed out on the chance to draft one of Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko and will be looking at a second tier that is a big step down from those top prospects.
Trading up from 16
When the Avalanche failed to advance to the Western Conference Final, they locked in their own first-round pick at 16th overall. That’s not a bad spot to be given the general concensus that the third tier of prospect in this year’s draft ranges anywhere from eight to about 19 or 20. There is a large clump of prospects with similar potential and the picks will come down to the taste of the team.
That said, there is the potential that a guy the Avalanche are really high on falls outside of the top-10, in which case they could look to move up. Say Matthew Boldy starts to fall to around 11 or Alex Newhook is still on the board at 14. The extra pick the Avs have at the top of the third-round could some in handy.
Trading down from 16
As mentioned, there is a large group of prospects in the middle of the first round that many draft analysts see as interchangeable. The Avalanche might have their sights set on a guy who the know they can get in the 20s (maybe Bobby Brink or Philip Tomasino?). If that’s the case, the team might look into trading down and picking up another second- or third-round pick.
Bill Belichick has made it popular in the NFL and Kyle Dubas is starting to show an inclination to do the same in the NHL. *Trade down*, pick up an extra pick and still get a guy you’re happy with.
The Price of Trading Up
Last year there were two draft day trade that saw teams moving up. The Rangers were willing to pay an extra second-round pick (48th overall) in order to move up from 26 to 22 an select K’Andre Miller.
A few picks later, the aforementioned Dubas traded the 25th overall pick to St. Louis in exchange for the 29th and 76th picks. He got the guy he wanted in Rasmus Sandin, but instead of selecting him at 25, he took a risk and picked up a 3rd rounder in the process.
In 2017, the only first-round pick to be traded on draft day was the 26th overall selection. Dallas paid numbers 29 and 70 in order to move up three spots and select Jake Oettinger.
The price of a late second- or early third-rounder might seem steep for some, but if a team really wants to get a specific prospect into their system, the value of moving up might outweigh the extra lottery ticket later in the draft.
The Avalanche on draft day
Thanks to some tremendous work over the past few years, Joe Sakic has put his team in a place to get creative on at this years draft - specifically early on. With four of the first 63 picks in their back pocket, the Avalanche have a ton of flexibility.
Every draft is exciting, but the anticipation and sense of unknown makes this one even moreso for Avalanche fans. Maybe the Avs trade down. Maybe they trade up. Or maybe they move some of their picks in order to bring in more intimidate help to make a run next season. If you listen to Joe Sakic’s end of season press conference carefully, one thing becomes apparent - it’s very unlikely the team does nothing. The front office has been patient when building this Avalanche team and it has paid off in a big way. At a certain point teams need to get a little more aggressive to take the next step towards contention - is sounds like Sakic believes this summer is the time to do that.
Colorado Avalanche draft picks:
First round - 4th overall
First round - 16th overall
Second round - 47th overall
Third round - 63rd overall
Third round - 78th overall
Fifth round - 140th overall
Sixth round - 171st overall
Seventh round - 202nd overall