Avalanche 2008 draft preview

By Ryan MacLeod

Top 10 prospects

1. T.J. Hensick, C
2. Kevin Shattenkirk, D
3. Nigel Williams, D
4. Chris Stewart, RW
5. Kyle Cumiskey, D
6. T.J. Galiardi, C
7. Colby Cohen, D
8. David Jones, RW
9. Raymond Macias, D
10. Ryan Stoa, C

A changing of the guard is in order for the Colorado Avalanche after reuniting Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg proved the duo no longer has what it takes to carry a team deep into the playoffs.  Young guns such as Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolksi are ready to take over offensive duties on the team’s top line, but Colorado will need to continue drafting well to fill out the remaining holes in their lineup.

The team heads into the draft with six picks in their possession. Colorado gave up its first-round selection to get Adam Foote from Columbus at the trade deadline, so they’ll sit and watch until 50th overall in the second round. However, in a draft year that is deeper than most, that second-round pick can be turned into a quality NHL prospect and an important piece to the Colorado puzzle.

The Avalanche had a solid draft last year, selecting quality defenders in Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen. Their focus will likely be on forwards this time around.

Team needs

With many unrestricted free agents from last year’s roster, the Avalanche have a few holes to fill.

Defense is the biggest current need for the big club.  This could be addressed via trade, but anyone taken with the 50th pick is likely years away. 

Organizational strengths

Colorado’s prospect pool has many quality defenders, most notably, 2007 first-rounder, Kevin Shattenkirk, who fits the mold of a post-lockout defender, with his strong mobility and smaller frame and could be a future leader with the franchise.

The team’s list also boasts hulking defender Nigel Williams, Kyle Cumiskey, Colby Cohen and high-scoring Raymond Macias.

Organizational weaknesses

The most glaring weakness is goaltending as neither Billy Sauer nor Trevor Cann is steeped with star potential. Sauer is the stronger of the two and is coming off a good season with the University of Michigan (NCAA) but there’s no indication he has the makings of an NHL-caliber starting goaltender.

The team also has some holes to fill at forward. They lack top-end forward candidates outside of T.J. Hensick and will look to address that issue with their second-round draft pick this year.

Draft tendencies

Avalanche GM Francois Giguere will be directing his third draft with the team and if there’s anything we’ve learned so far it’s that he has a penchant for drafting players out of American hockey leagues. To date, 10 of his 15 selections have been playing hockey in the United States on draft day, with three others playing in Canada and two in Sweden.  It is the long horizon for signing that is likley attractive about these college-bound players.

Giguere also appears to have adapted to post-lockout drafting strategies, electing to pick skill and skating abilities over size and physical dominance.  Just two of his selections have been more than 6’2 on draft day, defenders Nigel Williams and Jens Hellgren.

The picks

Round 2, No. 50 overall
Round 4, No. 110 overall
Round 5, No. 140 overall
Round 6, No. 167 overall (from BOS)
Round 6, No. 170 overall
Round 7, No. 200 overall

Colorado gave up its first-round selection to get Adam Foote. The  third-round pick went to the Florida Panthers in February as part of the deal that brought Ruslan Salei into town and they have two sixth round picks as a result of a draft day trade with the Boston Bruins in 2007.