We still don’t know how or when the NHL will hold the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. What we do know is that whenever it comes, the Colorado Avalanche are going to be selecting a lot later in the first round than they have been in the recent past. If the 2019-20 NHL season does not resume, the Avalanche first round pick will likely land around 27th overall - depending on how the NHL decides to finalize the standings and run the lottery.
Picking at the end of the first round means the Avalanche won’t get their hands on a prospect like Cale Makar, Bo Byram, or even Alex Newhook. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some very talented kids available to them - particularly in a deep draft like this one.
Over the next couple of months, we will be taking a look at some of the prospects that could be around when the Avalanche select at the end of the first round. We’ll start with one of the most polarizing players in the 202 NHL Entry Draft - Antonio Stranges.
Stranges is a player that could be drafted anywhere from the middle of the first round to the end of the second. All it will take is one team to fall in love with his potential - and he’s got a lot of it.
A prototypical “boom or bust” prospect, Stranges is a kid with some very impressive but very raw tools. If a team can harness those tools, he has a legitimate chance to turn into one of the ten best players from this draft class. The problem is that a lot of scouts are skeptical that he can ever put it all together.
Stranges is a dynamic offensive player. His puck handling skills are some of the best in the class. He can do things with the puck that you rarely see at the next level, let alone in junior. He’s got elite agility and the hands to move create plays at a high speed.
He’s not the fastest skater in the draft, but he might be the quickest. He employs the 10-2 skating style that allows him to move east-west in a way that leaves defenders unable to keep up. Combining the skating with puck skills creates a player that can be electric to watch with the puck on his stick.
Right now, Stranges is very obviously a one-way player. He spends a lot of time without the puck wandering and showing a complete disinterest in playing any sort of defensive system. The lack of effort on the defensive side of the puck caused Stranges to get benched on numerous occasions as the coaches in London tried to hold him accountable. He would respond well to the discipline, but far too often it would be short lived.
On the offensive side of the puck, Stranges still spends too much time trying to create offense from the perimeter. This season you could see a concerted effort to try to take the puck to the high-traffic areas more often but he still left a lot to be desired.
Stranges did not have the production this season that points to a high-end offensive prospect. That said, the role Stranges played on London this season, greatly mitigated his ability to produce. While most top prospects find themselves getting a lot of power play time, that wasn’t the case for Stranges. He spent parts of the year on London’s second PP unit, and at other times was removed all together.
Seventeen of the 19 goals Stranges scored this year came at even strength, despite spending a large portion of the year outside the team’s top-6.
Given an expanded role and more trust from his coaches, it’s easy to predict a huge bump in his offensive output next season.
What Others are Saying
“Stranges’ hands are so good. He is such a creative offensive player who can make multiple defenders miss on any given shift. He really can keep the puck on a string. Stranges is also an explosive skater who has such power in his stride. He has this 10/2, surfing style skating stride that allows him to cut and change direction so efficiently.” - Brock Otton (OHL Prospects)
“Stranges is a player who inspires a lot of debate among scouts. He has an elite skill level, and a unique skating stride that some love and some don’t. He can dazzle at times, but also had times like this summer where he didn’t look the part and was cut from the Hlinka Gretzky team.” - Corey Pronman (The Athletic)
If he is going to develop into an impact player in the NHL, Stranges is going to need to change some aspects of his game. If any organization can get it out of him, it’s the London Knights. The coaching staff had shown him some tough love this season and it seemed to have a positive impact. Next year will be crucial - particularly if Connor McMichael makes the Washington Capitals as Stranges will be looked upon to step into a much bigger role.
If he can figure out how better utilize the natural skills he has, Stranges has the potential to be a very strong offensive winger in the NHL. That said, it’s hard to watch Stranges and not think of Jeremy Bracco - a kid who has the tools but plays a style that will amount to being a long-term AHL All Star.
Where He’ll be Drafted
A year ago, many expected Stranges to end up fighting for a spot in the top-10 in the draft. Now many draft analysts are expecting him to slide out of the first round. Due to some significant issues with consistency, depending on which games they are in attendance for, scouts could have very different opinions on him as a player.
Stranges will likely end up being drafted in the first half of the second round. Though, he is the kind of prospect that a team might want to take a chance on in the mid to late 20s. Particularly if it’s a team that can afford to take a risky home run swing thanks to multiple first round picks or a very deep group of young players already in the organization .