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Colorado Avalanche Top 25 Under 25: #17 Jeremy Hanzel

The Thunderbirds defender could be a lovely late-round pickup down the line.

Seattle Thunderbirds v Winnipeg Ice - Game 2 Photo by Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey staff. Five writers have ranked players under the age of 25 in the Colorado Avalanche organization as of July 1, 2023. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.

When the Colorado Avalanche selected defensemen Jeremy Hanzel with the 187th pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, interest spiked among Avs faithful. It’s not often teams use picks on overaged players, especially a defensive player like Hanzel. Once you take a look at the defensemen it’s clear to see why.

Jeremy Hanzel joined the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL in 2021. In the shortened 2021 season Hanzel put up solid numbers in his first year with the team, potting two goals and adding six helpers. He was projected to be a third or fourth-round selection in the upcoming draft but wasn’t selected at all. His draft plus one season was even more impressive, which saw Hanzel triple his regular season production while adding 13 points in 25 playoff games, leaving the second-year defensemen with 46 points in 88 games on the season.

Despite another solid season, Hanzel went through the draft unselected. Hanzel needed to step up his game in his third season in Seattle if he wanted a shot at finally being selected.

He did just that.

The 19-year-old was the assistant captain for the division-winning Thunderbirds and had one of the best seasons from defensemen in the 2022-23 WHL season. Hanzel cruised to a 13-goal, 35-assist regular season, good for 16th among defensemen in the WHL. After such an impressive season it didn’t seem likely that Hanzel had another gear for the post-season, but he did. Hanzel put on a masterful post-season performance as Seattle’s most utilized defenseman. His 22 points in 19 games helped lead Seattle to the WHL Finals, where they defeated the Winnipeg Ice to take home the championship and book their ticket to the Memorial Cup.

There’s more than just the production to like for Jeremy Hanzel from an Avalanche perspective. Hanzel possesses great on-ice vision, among other things. Many scouts noted that Hanzel possessed a great vision of the ice, a tool that translates to the NHL level incredibly well. Said vision allows him to make good decisions with the puck all over the ice, not only offensively. His vision is also a product/reason for his high-level hockey IQ.

Hanzel’s hockey IQ is probably his most highly touted trait as a prospect. Another trait that gives fringe players like Hanzel a chance to play in the NHL, a good example being Ryan Graves. Surprisingly these are both traits that were not at the top of Hanzel’s repertoire when he first entered the Western Hockey League. His major attributes then were his playmaking abilities and his puck skill. Two traits he has held onto as he polished his game.

All and all, this could end up being one of the better late-round picks from the 2023 draft if all things go according to plan. Hanzel has the age, translatable skills, and size (6’ 1”, 196 lbs) that can easily give him a shot with the Avalanche sooner rather than later. The only thing stopping him would be the defensive pipeline in front of him. Hanzel impressed this past season and at Avalanche Development Camp, but there are plenty of names in front of him on the organizational depth chart. Where Hanzel will play next season is the biggest question surrounding the young defensemen, whether the club signs him to play in Loveland or keep him in Seattle.

Wherever Hanzel does go, be sure to keep an eye on him. He has all the tools to really show up in whatever league he plays in. Don’t be surprised to see him much higher in the rankings next year.