I would like to thank our friends over at Raw Charge for coming up with this idea and letting us piggyback onto it.
What if we could take a mulligan on a Colorado Avalanche draft, and re-do the picks the team made? Maybe the team isn’t where it is now. Maybe some of its future draft picks don’t get made because the team ended up being better and got worse picks in future drafts. Maybe Patrick Roy is still around if he didn’t totally botch so many drafts. There are lots of trickle down effects that could happen in such a case. But it’s still fun to ask “What if?”
Today, I’ll be looking at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft with a little hindsight.
This will be forever known as the year the Tampa Bay Lightning outsmarted everyone. They found the best winger in the game when they drafted Nikita Kucherov 58th overall, and then were able to turn the fourth-from-last pick in the draft into Ondrej Palat. What might be most impressive is that each of the six players selected by the Bolts in the 2011 draft have made an appearance in the NHL.
In contrast, the Avalanche had six picks, including two first rounders - the second of which came over from St Louis as a part of the Erik Johnson trade.
Selecting second overall with their own pick, the Avalanche were able to find their future captain in Gabriel Landeskog. Unfortunately, the 11th overall selection didn’t turn out nearly as well.
The Avalanche didn’t select again until the fourth round, and none of their four late-round picks ever played a game in the NHL. Here’s how we’d do it all over again:
Here are the rules for the re-draft set out by Geo at Raw Charge:
“The rules for this Mulligan are that I can only select a player that was drafted within the next 20 draft picks after Colorado’s selection. This is to give some reality to the possibility of having made the “right” pick according to who was available and who might have been on the draft board at the time. That means that I can’t turn a bust of a first round pick into a super star long shot seventh rounder. Any trades that were made at the draft, including trading draft picks away, can be undone if there is no player worthy of the pick the team traded for, or if there is a star player the team could have selected instead of trading away the pick.”
First Round, 2nd Pick, 2nd Overall
Original Pick: Gabriel Landeskog - F - 579 GP, 177 goals, 239 assist
New Pick: Gabriel Landeskog
Other Options: Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sean Couturier
There is a strong argument to be made that Mark Scheifele should be the pick here. He’s one of the best centers in the game, and he’s consistently undervalued among the league’s stars. That said, the pick has to remain Landeskog. He quickly became the team’s captain, and has become the face of the franchise off the ice with a team-bonding personality. Any success this Avalanche team has will be in large part do the the star caliber play and leadership of the big handsome Swede.
First Round, 11th Pick, 11th Overall
Original Pick: Duncan Siemens - D - 20 GP, 1 goals, 1 assist
New Pick: Oscar Klefbom - D - 316 GP, 29 goals, 93 assists
Other Options: Rickard Rakell, J.T. Miller
The Avalanche drafted a 6’3” left-handed defender with their second first round pick. Unfortunately, they took the wrong one. Selecting a “rugged”, shut-down defender is rarely a good idea, and Siemens turned out to be compelling proof of that. Coming out of junior, his size and physicality were lauded — unfortunately, the league has moved in a direction that those kind of defenders are being phased out.
In Klefbom, the Avalanche would get the big, strong defender they were looking for — but in a player that has a much more well-rounded game. He can log some huge ice time, and is one of the only bright spots on the blue line in Edmonton over the last decade. He’s Siemens, but with more mobility and the ability to play with the puck.
Fourth Round, 2nd Pick, 93rd Overall
Original Pick: Joachim Nermark - F - No NHL games played
New Pick: Johnny Gaudreau - F - 394 GP, 133 goals, 254 assists
Other Options: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Tobias Rieder
This one is a no-brainer. With the gift of hindsight, we can easily tell that Johnny Hockey is one of the five best players from this draft class. He’s this generation’s Martin St. Louis, and he’s become the poster child for proving that skill will always mean more than size.
In Nermark, the Avalanche took a speedy forward who never came over to North America and has spent the last two seasons playing professionally in Norway.
Fifth Round, 2nd Pick, 123rd Overall
Original Pick: Garrett Meurs - F - No NHL games played
New Pick: Andrew Shaw - F - 504 GP, 111 goals, 122 assists
Other Options: Sean Kuraly, Fredrik Claesson
Playing on a Plymouth Whalers team with Stefan Noesen, Tom Wilson, Ryan Hartman and Rickard Rakell, Meurs is a kid who simply didn't live up to the potential he had as a youngster. He was selected 13th overall in the OHL Priority Draft, and even led a very good Whalers team in scoring two years after the Avalanche selected him. Unfortunately, he was never able to take develop and has spent the last few years racking up penalty minutes in the ECHL.
Meanwhile, as one of the most annoying players in the NHL, Andrew Shaw has carved out a very good NHL career for himself. He is a great forechecker and would be able to provide a lot of what the Avalanche were missing last season, both as a secondary scoring option and an agitator.
Sixth Round, 2nd Pick, 153rd Overall
Original Pick: Gabriel Beaupre - D - No NHL games played
New Pick: Josh Manson - D - 335 GP, 20 goals, 68 assists
Other Options: Laurent Brossoit, Josh Archibald
Another defender that was drafted because he was big and hit hard, Beaupre spent a few seasons in the AHL before ending his pro career with a couple in the ECHL. The late rounds are supposed to be for “swing for the fences” type picks - that’s not what this was.
Again, the Avalanche could have selected a much better version of the same player in Josh Manson. It took a while, but Manson has developed into the most underrated defensive defenders in the NHL. Coming from the BCHL, this isn’t a pick Joe Sakic would have missed today.
Seventh Round, 2nd Pick, 183rd Overall
Original Pick: Dillon Donnelly - D - No NHL games played
New Pick: Ryan Dzingel - F - 268 GP, 66 goals, 72 assists
Other Options: Garret Sparks, Ondrej Palat
The Avalanche selected Donnelly out of the QMJHL after a season in which he recorded 8 points and 153 penalty minutes. He was a big, physical defender that took penalties and hit hard without providing anything else - I sense a theme here. By drafting Donnelly, the Avalanche passed on a speedy winger that most fans wanted to sign as a UFA this summer. Dzingel turned into a very good NHL forward and would fill the biggest hole in today’s lineup.
He put up more than a point per game playing in the USHL during his draft year, so passing on Dzingel for a only three goals in his QMJHL career is a clear snapshot of what can go wrong when scouts hold on to beliefs of a bygone era.