Obviously, the 2010-11 NHL season was from the Colorado Avalanche perspective a forgettable one. The team finished a mere six points ahead of the cellar-dwelling Edmonton Oilers. Matt Duchene was the team’s leading scorer in just his second season in the league, but the goaltending trio of Craig Anderson, Peter Budaj and Brian Elliott all posted save percentages under .900. Legendary Avs Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote each played their last games in the NHL that season as well, signalling the closing of an era of dominance.
Nonetheless, armed with a pair of first-round picks, Joe Sakic stepped into a new role as alternate governor and executive advisor and went to St. Paul, Minnesota to usher in a new era.
In retrospect, the draft class is not a strong one, with multiple players in Central Scouting’s Top 25 skaters turning out to be outright busts already. First overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has shown flashes of brilliance playing in a role above his experience level, but Gabriel Landeskog appears to be the most complete player from this class at this time.
Landeskog’s history of leadership was one of the major reasons Colorado selected him second overall in 2011. Starting with Team Sweden at the U-16 level, continuing through Kitchener and being named captain of the Avalanche after his rookie season, Landeskog clearly has a special character. While “intangibles” tends to be a lazy shorthand, Landeskog’s professional and intense approach to the game nicely captures what the word means. He is a hard checker who has excellent anticipation, never shying away from any area of the ice. Despite being a player whose offensive contributions will be secondary, he remains the top scorer of the 2011 class to date and a fine foundational piece as the Avalanche seek to build a Stanley Cup winner out of some excellent young players.
If the St. Louis Blues had lost one more overtime game to finish ahead of the Minnesota Wild, this pick – part of the Erik Johnson-Kevin Shattenkirk trade – would have stayed with St. Louis. As it was, the Avalanche have not gotten much value from their fortune. The long timeline for Duncan Siemens has no doubt frustrated many Avalanche supporters and the player himself. A long series of injuries is mainly to blame, but Siemens was always likely to be a fairly conservative blueline presence. He has the full set of necessary skills to be an effective NHLer in a limited role, but expecting too much from him is bound to disappoint at this point.
4th round, 93rd overall: Joachim Nermark, C, Linköping Jr. (Sweden)
NHL Games Played: 0
Nermark had some decent indicators his draft season. He had cracked Linköping’s SHL lineup for a few games as a junior, made Team Sweden’s U-18 squad for the second time, and was a top five scorer on his J20 team. Neither speed nor size presented an obvious issue, but Nermark ended up stagnating in Sweden.
A player who might been an excellent defensive center if things went differently, Nermark never found any offense at the top level of Swedish hockey. For most of the past three seasons he has played in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second pro tier. While he puts up a few points, the soon to be 23-year-old has signed a contract to play in Norway next season, making him a longer bet than ever to play a role in the North American game.
5th round, 123rd overall: Garrett Meurs, RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Meurs is probably on his way out of the Avalanche system when his entry-level contract expires this summer, after not scoring a point in 23 AHL games over the last two seasons. He had modest offensive totals in his draft season, with just 40 points in 68 games as a second-year OHLer. The expected uptick occurred over two post-draft seasons, but probably not to the degree one would expect of a player with pro-ready skills. All the same, Meurs got his contract in the spring of 2013.
A hard worker to be sure, Meurs’s rookie campaign in the AHL was a credit to his overall responsible game. Yet he could not keep the forward progress going. Stints in the ECHL showed a pro player with some offensive upside, but it looks as though it will be limited to the lower levels of professional hockey.
Beaupre looks like another Colorado pick whose major impact will be three years of minor league help on an entry-level contract. In the relatively high-scoring QMJHL, a capable defender with projectable puck skills should put up close to half a point per game, keeping the team context in mind. Beaupre had 240 games to do it, but topped out at 22 points in his fourth season.
Nonetheless he proved a capable young pro the next year, defending well and contributing on the scoreboard in the ECHL and with the Denver Cutthroats of the CHL. He earned an ELC and the subsequent checks the hard way, but Beaupre has spent more time in the ECHL than the AHL lately. The Fort Wayne Komets put together a good campaign, and the league has benefited from a nice influx of talent over the years, but the relative lack of progress remains a bit of a poor tell for a player as far as an NHL career is concerned.
7th round, 183rd overall: Dillon Donnelly, D, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Looking to Shawinigan was an interesting bet by the Avalanche scouts, since the team did improve markedly the next season. The player in question was a bet similar to the one made on Gabriel Beaupre, but has not worked out as well for the team. Donnelly was an American-born prospect trying to play in QMJHL, and proving his toughness many nights. Not a big kid by junior standards, Donnelly, like Beaupre, furthermore did not have the kind of offensive skills one hopes for in a bona fide NHL prospect. Still he was a reliable depth defenseman who also got to wear a letter for all three of the teams he played for as a junior (Shawiningan, Quebec, and Moncton). Donnelly has moved on to Canadian college hockey, and will play his sophomore season in Thunder Bay for the Lakehead Seawolves.
HF looks back at the 2011 NHL Draft in this video, which features top pick Gabriel Landeskog from the 2011 NHL Combine.
Prospect of the Month
As mentioned last month, a trio of Colorado Avalanche prospects play for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The team is led by the surprising Ottawa Senators 2014 seventh-rounder Francis Perron and Swiss import and San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick of the 2015 Draft. Avalanche prospects JC Beaudin, Julien Nantel and Prospect of the Month AJ Greer have all played important roles for the President Cup winner, and must continue to do in the 2016 Memorial Cup Tournament. Greer was Colorado’s second round pick (39th overall) in 2015. He got off to a relatively slow start after leaving Boston University in the middle of the season, but has proven to be a valuable asset for the CHL’s top-ranked team. Going into the Memorial Cup tournament, Greer has 22 points in 20 games, including three in the series-clinching romp over Shawinigan.