We are three weeks away from the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and the Colorado Avalanche has four picks currently to work with: a first (27th), fifth, (155th), sixth, (187th), and a seventh (219th). The final three picks will most likely be used to select a player. But there is plenty of reasons to believe the Avalanche will not select one at 27.
The way I look at it, the Avalanche can do four things with that pick. Select a player, use it to trade up or trade down in the draft, or just simply trade the pick away for a roster player that can help them now. What could those moves look like for the Avalanche? Are they realistic? Let's dive in and see.
Select a player at 27th
The easiest of the options is just to select a player with the pick. Simple, easy, make a call, go on stage, and select a player. A few players that are ranked around 27th include Riley Heidt of the Prince George Cougars, Gabe Perreault of the USDP, David Reinbacher of Kloten in the Swiss League, and Bradley Nadeau of the Penticton Vees. Pretty simply, if they select a player at 27th, he will need to be ready to make the jump to the pros in two years.
The Avalanche could make a bit of a splash and trade up into the draft. With this draft being projected as a deep draft, especially with the forwards, moving up to grab a player who is closer to the NHL would be a solid play. Moving up in the draft isn’t something that happens very often in the NHL. But it has been done. Last year, Arizona moved the 27th pick, 34th and 45th to get the 11th pick from San Jose. In 2021, Detroit moved the 22nd, 47th, and 137th to Dallas for the 14th pick. In 2020 the NYR traded the 22nd and 71st to Calgary for the 19th selection.
For the Avalanche how ever to move up, let's say into the 11th to 15th range, they would have to give up quite a bit. Since they don’t have any 2nd, 3rd, or 4th-round picks, they would have to move a player or prospects to do so. That is not ideal for the position the Avalanche are in. Another option they have is to target cap-strapped teams and swap picks while taking on a contract. Looking at the teams drafting in the 11th to 16th, they have Vancouver with negative cap space and Calgary at 16 with $1.25M in space.
Example: Vancouver gets 27th and Colorado gets 11th and Tyler Meyers. Vancouver frees up $6M, Colorado gets 11th, and a 1-year 3rd pairing defenseman at $6M. I would be interested to see if Meyers could get back to looking like he did when he was in Winnipeg in the Colorado system, and playing a third-pair role would be very suitable for him at this stage in his career.
A little easier to do in this draft is to move down and out of the first round completely. You have multiple teams who are rebuilding or have multiple second round picks that could package those 2nds and move into the first round. The Chicago Blackhawks have four, both the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings have three, and the Seattle Kraken, Nashville Predators, and Minnesota Wild have two of those picks.
Moving down gives the Avalanche to gain more assets. With the firsts this year being more valuable, getting a couple of good assets back is something the Avalanche should be looking into. They could even spread those assets over multiple years which gives them more ammunition for this coming season's trade deadline.
Example: Arizona gets 27th and Colorado gets 38th, 81st, and Arizona’s 2nd in 2024 (they have four 2nds in 2024). Arizona, for the second time in two years, will be drafting three players in the first round. That’s what you want to be doing as a rebuilding team and all you give up is two 2nds and 3rds. Colorado gets a high 2nd-round pick to select a player, a 3rd-round pick which they might select a player with or move for a player, and a potential high 2nd-round pick for next year which is a great asset to have with the 2024 1st they currently have.
Trade 27th away completely
The way I’m currently leaning is that the Avalanche, by draft June 29th will have moved the 27th pick away for a roster player that can contribute right away. Is it a 1-for-1 trade? A massive trade? Whatever the case, this year's 1st round pick is on the table in any trade talks. The Avalanche have to find a solution to the 2C spot, and this 1st is probably how they address it.
Example: Winnipeg gets 27th and Colorado gets Dubois. Dubois has made it clear he does not want to sign a long-term deal in Winnipeg, so the Jets should be shopping him aggressively. Dubois, while expensive for the one year, would be a great fit behind Mackinnon and would give Newhook another year to grow into the 2C role.
Example: Vancouver gets 27th, 2024 1st, Newhook & Merkley and Colorado gets Pettersson. Now this trade really can only happen if Pettersson tells Vancouver he is not signing a longer-term deal and Vancouver goes and tears it down. But Vancouver getting four 1sts back for him is a good start for the rebuild. Colorado on the other hand gets a 1-2 punch down the middle, and probably has the best 1-2 center depth in the league. Now Pettersson will cost you a lot starting in the 2024 season but will be worth it.
What do the Avs do with their first-round pick? Let us know in the comments below!