Avalanche 2010 draft preview

By John Canario

Top 10 prospects

1. Kevin Shattenkirk
2. Stefan Elliott
3. Ryan Stoa
4. Colby Cohen
5. Tyson Barrie
6. Kevin Porter
7. Cameron Gaunce
8. Brandon Yip
9. Joel Chouinard
10. Justin Mercier

The Colorado Avalanche hold the 17th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Team Needs

Colorado have stockpiled offensive defensemen in the past, but expect that trend to stop this year. The Avalanche have several needs at this year’s draft, but goaltending and left wing appear to be the primary ones.

With goaltending injuries so frequent in the modern NHL, every team needs a capable backup netminder, and Peter Budaj may or may not be that player for Colorado. None of the Avalanche’s recent goaltending draftees have played particularly outstanding, so this too might be an area they target at the draft.

In trading Wojtek Wolski to the Phoenix Coyotes at this year’s trade deadline, the Avalanche have created somewhat of a void at left wing. Avalanche management remain optimistic that Ryan Stoa can fill the gap, but do not be surprised if they spend an early pick on a winger.

Organizational Strengths

The Avalanche ranked sixth in the NHL in scoring in 2009-10, with 236 goals. Four of their top five point-getters from the past season were under the age of 25 (Paul Stastny, Chris Stewart, Matt Duchene, T.J. Galiardi), so drafting scoring forwards does not appear to be an essential team need this year, particularly at the center position. With Stastny, Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly down the middle, Colorado has very versatile trio of young pivots. Stewart, Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller (who is a restricted free agent this summer) are the Avalanche’s only established threats from the wing, but prospects Brandon Yip and Ryan Stoa are expected to chip in offensively next season for the parent club.

In O’Reilly and 22-year-old left wing Justin Mercier, who spent the season with the Lake Erie Monsters, the Avalanche appear to have two youngsters with promising careers ahead, playing hard at both ends of the rink.

In the past few years, the Avalanche scouting staff have done a masterful job selecting defensemen, particularly those of the offensive variety. Kevin Shattenkirk, Stefan Elliott, Colby Cohen, Tyson Barrie and Cameron Gaunce should make for an intriguing roster battle at Colorado’s training camp in 2010. Each of these rearguards have shown the ability to quarterback an efficient power play at either the CHL or NCAA levels, which is an area where the Avalanche have room to improve.

Organizational Weaknesses

If the Avalanche have one glaring weakness, it is in goal. While the late-blooming Craig Anderson had a phenomenal 2009-10 campaign going 38-25-7 while posting seven shutouts, a .917 save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average, Colorado’s depth between the pipes drops off steeply after the 29-year-old. Backup goaltender Peter Budaj, 27, has not shown enough consistency over five NHL seasons to warrant long-term starting duty and could be let go next summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Tyler Weiman was the starting netminder for the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado’s AHL affiliate) this past season. He compiled a solid 21-18-3 record to go along with a .912 save percentage. At 26 and with just a 5’11 stature, Weiman may be more suited towards a career in the AHL. He is a restricted free agent this summer. In the system, the Avalanche have a slew of either inconsistent or unproven goaltenders in Kent Patterson, Kieran Millan, Brandon Maxwell and Trevor Cann. Expect the Avalanche to use at least a selection or two on a goaltender, and likely in one of the first few rounds.

While the Avalanche appear to have at least a couple can’t-miss defensive prospects, they do not have any one rearguard that perfectly fits the “imposing-shutdown-defender” mold. This could be an area they address through the draft, especially with veteran Adam Foote’s career likely winding to an end in the next year or two.

Draft Tendencies

At the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Colorado’s recently-hired general manager Greg Sherman and his scouting team opted for Canadian and American players, selecting prospects who played on North American soil with each of their seven selections. In the last five drafts, the Avalanche have selected only three European players out of their 38 selections. Perhaps prospect Denis Parshin’s decision to stay in Russia for the past half-decade has soured the Avalanche with regards to drafting foreign players.

The Avalanche tend to do a lot of their drafting from the WHL and OHL, but will occasionally take players from the QMJHL and NCAA as well. They have also been known to spend late-round picks  on USHLers and even high school players.

Draft Selections in 2010

Round 1: 17th
Round 2: 47th
Round 3: 77th
Round 4: 107th
Round 5: 137th, 139th
Round 7: 197th

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result
at No. 17: Jack Campbell, G