Big players and big unknowns. Must be Colorado at it again. Going into the draft, Colorado had two things on its mind, get big and get Euro. That’s what they did as the majority of their picks where big and European with a few being both. The Avs came in with the ability to take chances and they did. With McCarthy and Jackman both being lost just a few picks before Colorado’s, the Avs were faced with some talented Europeans to choose from or a few middle of the pile Ds. Colorado is not one for being middle of the pile, and so the draft went as follows:
(1/25) Mikhail Kuleshov LW 6-2 200
(2/45) Martin Grenier D 6-5 231
(3/93) Branko Radivojevic RW 6-0 183
(4/112) Sanny Lindstrom D 6-2 194
(4/122) Kristian Kovac RW 6-3 213
(5/142) William Magnuson D 6-5 232
(5/152) Jordan Krestanovich LW 6-0 168
(6/158) Anders Lovdahl C 6-3 189
(6/183) Riku Hahl C 6-0 187
(7/212) Radim Vrbata RW 6-0 175
(8/240) Jeff Finger D 6-1 194
A few names stick out while others remain a blur or unknown and that’s probably how they will remain. Mikhail brings a high skill level to an already talented team. He is still at least two years away from the big club, but of any of the players drafted, he could put on the biggest show at camp. When he comes to play, he will dominate, and if he relies on skill only… he will only flicker and then fade out. He is likely the Avs replacement to Kamensky, they hope.
So what happened to that big D they were going to take with pick #1? Well with the Avs bad luck at signing first pick Ds, they were smart to “wing it”, but not with their second pick. Martin Grenier brings what the Avs thirsted for, a towering physical defensemen. Some even say he’s the most punishing player in the draft. The hardest shot at the skills competition as he showed his stuff, was even ranked the top QMJHL player in the draft…and now he’s an Av.
With two aspects out of the way, now came the time to get the best and biggest. Branko is a relative unknown to most people but he does have some skill. He is a playmaker with decent size and hands but most likely will be nothing more than a 30 point player on the Avs third or fourth line.
Sanny Lindstrom brings good size and experience as he was born in 1979. Of the draft picks, he would have the best chance to make the team as they are weak on defense and Sanny has some time already put in out in Sweden. His skill level is good and he could one day put up 20-30 points on the blue line but he will more likely play it safe as a solid two way D. Hershey seems his next stop.
The draftees seem to stumble here as some will make it as 3rd/4th liners and others will be nothing more than minor leaguers, but there are two to take note on. Both are right wingers and both are Europeans, but after that…the rules change.
Kristian Kovac is a huge winger who adds some skill to his big package. He played great for his junior team in Slovakia but seemed to have lost it at the next level. He is my pick as this year’s Lazarev as he could go either way like Lazarev before him. Hopefully he’ll put it together as a skilled powerhouse. He does have luck on his side as the Avs have had good luck with developing mid-round picks into above average players (Hejduk/Drury/Kamensky).
Radim Vrbata fell, and fell hard. He was ranked 48th overall for North Americans but was still around when the Avs called at 212. This for a player thought to be one of the top RW available from NA? He’s small and has decent skill, and he is known more as a playmaker than a scorer. The way he might work out is as a 3rd line puck controller for the Avs who could notch 30 points a season. Not bad for a 7th rounder.
The rest is a mix of names from decent D’s to unknown Europeans, all of which may never wear an Avs sweater regularly, but there is hope. The same thing was said of Dan Smith and Hejduk, who both look to be Avs regulars next year.
This was a solid draft for the Avs where they saw picks flying everywhere and did not bite on any bad moves. They drafted for the future and even made a few moves to stir up some talk, but in the end they drafted smart and may end up with some good talent for the future.