Avalanche 2009 draft review

By Shane Goudie

Colorado’s less than stellar performance last season earned them the third overall pick, the highest since the franchise operated in the province of Quebec. New GM Greg Sherman had plenty of holes to fill in the Avalanche system this year. HF’s 24th-ranked organization lacked depth between the pipes and also desperately needed a legitimate blue-chip prospect within the organisation.

The Avalanche shocked no one when they snagged Brampton Battalion forward Matt Duchene with the third overall pick. Duchene is the blue-chipper Colorado needed and may be in an Avalanche uniform as early as this season. In all, the team drafted two forwards, three defensemen, and two goaltenders. In the year of the Swede, all seven draft picks were North American-born players.

Matt Duchene, F
5’11 200lbs, Brampton Battalion
1st Round 3rd Overall

Despite suggestions by some that the New York Islanders may pass on John Tavares and make Duchene the first overall pick, the talented forward was indeed still available with the third overall choice just as most expected. Shortly after his name was called, Duchene made it clear to all that Colorado was where he wanted to play hockey.

“Every kid dreams of playing for his boyhood team," Duchene said. "It has not sunk in yet. I keep looking down at the logo going ‘are you kidding me, I used to draw this every day at school.’ This is unbelievable.”

Duchene draws comparisons to players such as Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. He has tremendous talent and even at his young age has all the skills needed to excel at the professional level. Duchene possesses quick feet and uses his speed to create scoring opportunities. He is an above average passer and can boast one of the more accurate shots in this year’s draft. His keen hockey sense makes him a very defensively responsible player as well as a reliable penalty killer. There have been some doubts as to his physical game however, but not enough to overshadow the sum of Duchene’s talents.

The consensus in the hockey world is that both Tavares and Hedman will be in the NHL this coming season. There is a debate however whether or not Duchene should be pushed into an Avalanche too fast.

When asked shortly after the draft how he would feel about another year in junior he replied, “I would be OK with another year in junior, but I am going to try and make the team and I really want to. A lot of my favorite players have played at 18, and it’s almost a standard I’ve set for myself. If I don’t, it’s not a big deal. And if not, like I said I have a great team in Brampton to go to. But I definitely want to make it this year.”

If Duchene does not make the Avalanche out of training camp, look for him to captain Canada’s national junior team in their quest for six straight gold medals in the new year.

Ryan O’Reilly, C

6’0” 200lbs, Erie Otters
2nd Round 33rd Overall

With their second pick in the draft, the Avalanche grabbed forward Ryan O’Reilly from the Erie Otters of the OHL. Many felt he had the potential to creep into the bottom of the first round. For years the knock on O’Reilly has been his skating. Despite his lack of speed, O’Reilly was almost a point per game forward with Erie last season. He was used extensively in even strength situations, on the power play and on the penalty kill. His strongest quality is his heart. O’Reilly, who captained both Erie and the Canadian U18 team in the world championships, is the prototypical “character guy” coaches love to have in their line-up. No doubt, Colorado is counting on O’Reilly to add a solid two-way presence to the Avalanche roster in the near future. Both Duchene and O’Reilly have the potential to be captain material down the road for the Avalanche.

Stefan Elliott, D

6’1” 184lbs, Saskatoon Blades
2nd Round 49th Overall

The 2009 NHL Entry Draft was perhaps the deepest since 2003 draft which yielded the likes of Shea Weber, Patrick O’Sullivan, David Backes and Maxim Lapierre in the second round. This depth certainly helped the Avalanche find Saskatoon defenseman Stefan Elliott still undrafted at 49. Elliott is an offense-first defenseman who can move the puck as well as any defender in the draft. He is also very mobile and skates exceptionally well. Some scouts insist that his defensive zone play is up to par and that he is a smart enough player to be an effective defender. Others claim that in order to take the next step Elliott will have to rework his game to prevent him from being a defensive liability on the ice. Scouts generally agree, however, that Elliott will need to improve his upper body strength. To put things into perspective, these same critiques where made of Washington defenseman Mike Green as his career was building steam.

Tyson Barrie, D

5’10” 190lbs, Kelowna Rockets
3rd Round 64th Overall

Barrie, the son of Lightning owner and former NHLer Len Barrie, reportedly informed his father’s team not to select him. No one can blame Barrie for not wanting to be the owner’s son and preferring to build his career on his own. As a result of this, the Avalanche happily picked the young puck-moving defenseman early in the third round. Barrie has many similar qualities to Elliot. He is an offense-first blue liner who has exceptional mobility and speed. His ability to make smart breakout passes is perhaps one of his strongest skills. While quarterbacking the Kelowna offense last season, Barrie potted 12 goals and added 40 assists. Just as with Elliott, he will have to improve his defensive game and strength if he is going to make a smooth transition into professional hockey.

Kieran Millan, G
6’0” 190lbs, Boston University
5th Round 124th Overall

After drafting two centers and then a pair of defensemen, Colorado made Edmonton native Millan the first of two goaltenders drafted by the franchise. Finding a NCAA national champion goaltender this late into a draft is not common. Drafting Millan at the 124th slot was an obvious move to make given the organization’s need to restock the goalie pipeline. The scouting reports on Millan say that he has outstanding hockey sense and is able to anticipate opponents’ moves very well. He has good positioning and is very mobile. He does have a tendency to drop down too soon, leaving far too much room for shooters to abuse. After a somewhat lackluster post-season, there are also some questions regarding his mental toughness. Millan will take the slow route to the NHL and has plenty of time to work on his game.

Brandon Maxwell, G
6’0” 195lbs, USA U17 National Team
6th Round 154th Overall

With their sixth-round pick, the Colorado Avalanche selected their first non-Canadian born player in Florida native Brandon Maxwell. Maxwell was once a highly-regarded goaltender in the US National program. Due to inconsistency and what some call a lack of maturity, Maxwell was demoted from the US U18 squad to the U17 team. Next season, the quick and mobile goaltender will attempt to get his career back on track with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.

Gus Young, D

6’2” 190lbs Noble and Greenough School
7th Round 184th Overall

Colorado made high schooler Gus Young their last pick in the 2009 draft. Young is similar to the previous two defensemen in that he is a very skilled puck mover who sees the ice well. Reports are that Young does play a more physical game than either of Elliott or Barrie, but may not have the potential upside that they do. Young will take the slow road to the NHL in the same way many other late-round picks will. He will continue to play with Nobles Prep School next season and then will make the jump to Yale after that.