Another year has come and gone, and the Avalanche are back to square one after a disappointing end to the season. This year the Avalanche have to prepare for the Seattle expansion draft and then a draft class where much of the talent, especially from Canada, didn’t not play much or at all.
The WHL played 24 games, the OHL played none. The QMJHL tried to play a full season, but was filled with shutdowns and restarts. In the end, the teams in the Q played between 26 to 40 games. The USHL played around 52 games each with Chicago coming out as the Champions. NCAA got going in November and managed to finish the season. And Europe had varying degrees of success.
This was a challenging year to scout players. Access to building was limited, video is at the mercy of how the teams are set up. Video scouting and analysis, interpersonal connections, looking at teammates of already drafted Avs prospects, and finding good development homes for next year will play big roles in this year’s draft.
There is also no concrete number one overall pick to measure other players against. Owen Power seems to be the default, but it could be a variety of guys. Buffalo will get first look at trying to pick the best of the bunch as they were awarded the first overall pick.
Where does this leave the Avalanche? For starters they will be drafting 28th overall. Then 92nd and 220th. They have a new Director of Amateur Scouting, Wade Klippenstein, who has been given the reins as Alan Hepple was not renewed with a contract last summer. Hepple had been the Director of Scouting for the Avalanche since 2009.
Klippenstein has been with the Avalanche since 2016 and his main area of focus was Western Canada. He had large role in drafting Cale Makar, Nic Henry, Bowen Byram, Alex Newhook and Trent Miner. He previously worked as the director of scouting for the Brandon Wheat Kings and Prince George Cougars of the WHL. So be on the lookout for more of a Western Canada influence in the coming drafts!
Focusing on this draft, I do wonder, if the Avalanche take the long game approach. By that I mean, draft players they can let develop in another organization’s program for years. European and NCAA commit players, namely. I can see a draft class, where they avoid CHL players entirely, so they don’t have to make the quick two-year decision on the player before their signing rights expire. There’s likely going to be a wait-and-see approach for Canadian prospects and there will be lots of talent in the overager class for next summer’s draft.
That is not to say a first round pick wont be used on a CHL player. There are many that could fit in with the current group in a few years, and teams have seen age-17 seasons and tournaments like the World Juniors for those who will be picked early. However, the Avalanche could be on the hunt to move their pick. Potentially as a part of a big trade to bring in a top caliber player like Jack Eichel.
This should be a fun offseason for the Avalanche, with some tough decisions to make, some big name contracts to sign in RFA Cale Makar and UFA Gabe Landeskog. Also the Seattle Kraken expansion draft to top it off! The team will be losing a good player: Ryan Graves, J.T. Compher and Joonas Donskoi are names that come to mind.
“The linchpin to everything is Cale Makar’s next contract. There’s some evidence the two sides are going to try for a long term deal. That could be a massive number for the Norris finalist - and the only defenseman to average a point per game” - Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts
That being said, one player I think we should keep an eye on, in the later rounds of the draft, is Jake Chiasson of the Brandon Wheat Kings. Noted Wheat King connection, a center and a really high character guy. Jake is developing into a solid two-way center for a Wheat Kings team that is loaded with talent and should be a powerhouse team in the West for a number of years. He is a name I would keep an eye on.