Avalanche 2005 draft review

By Roman Tanner

The 2005 NHL Entry Draft saw the Colorado Avalanche draft heavily from the U.S. U-18 national team program and U.S. college ranks. Tied for the most selections in the now seven-round event with nine, this draft was looked upon by many as a chance for Colorado to replenish their depleted prospect pool, and replenish they did.

At this early stage, this draft class appears to be one of the strongest in Denver since the 1998 group that saw them land Alex Tanguay, Martin Skoula and Robyn Regehr. Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix decided to trade the team’s only draft pick in the first round to the Washington Capitals in exchange for two picks in the second round (picks 47 and 52), leaving Colorado with four picks in the first 52, the most of any NHL team in this range.

The Avalanche drafted exclusively forward prospects in the early rounds and ended primarily with defensemen. They appeared to be one of the few teams to markedly react to new rules in the CBA regarding European players (must now be signed after two years, instead of four), as they selected five players eligible for four years of NCAA hockey before they must be signed.

Below is an overview of the new Avalanche draftees.

Ryan Stoa, C – US National Team Development Program
2nd round, 34th overall
6’3, 200
Born: April 13, 1987 in Bloomington, MN

At 6’3 and a bit over 200 pounds, Stoa has the potential to develop into an effective power forward in the future. He is a good skater who possesses deceptive speed despite his size, and has a great set of fundamental skills. Stoa does a good job using his body to protect the puck, which helps him to be effective down low and in the corners. He is a good fore-checker but also has a bit of a scoring touch. Stoa has shown himself to be a more effective setup man, but he will find ways to bury the puck.

A member of Team USA for the 2005 U-18 World Championship, Stoa registered 14 goals, 24 assists, and 36 penalty minutes in 38 games with the US National U-18 team in 2004-05. He played at Bloomington’s Kennedy High School before joining USA Hockey. During the 2002-03 season, he earned All-Lake Conference Honorable Mention. Stoa joined the USDP for the 2003-04 season, when he ranked fourth on the U-17 team in overall scoring with 25 goals and 21 assists. He also played for Team USA’s gold medal team at the 2003 U-17 Four Nations Cup.

Stoa will attend the University of Minnesota beginning this fall.

Paul Stastny, C – University of Denver (WCHA)
2nd round, 44th overall
6’0, 200
Born: December 27, 1985 in Quebec City, PQ

With their second pick, Colorado drafted the son of former Quebec Nordiques great, Peter Stastny. Those who were fortunate enough to see Peter Stastny in his NHL days may think that they are looking at him once again through his youngest son. The younger Stastny’s skating is strikingly similar to that of his legendary father — powerful with good speed. Paul is an immensely gifted playmaking forward who possesses excellent hockey sense and instincts. He sees the ice very well and has an uncanny ability to find the open spaces on the ice where plays can be made. Stastny possesses a great work ethic, and he can play in any situation. He is very strong on the puck and outstanding on faceoffs. Stastny is a physically strong player whose strength should continue to develop.

Paul Stastny came to the University of Denver as a highly regarded freshman, and he didn’t disappoint. He became an integral part of the Pioneers team that successfully defended its national championship title this season, which helped boost Stastny’s draft stock significantly. His tremendous individual performance earned him many honors including the WCHA and USCHO Rookie of the Year honors. Stastny was named the recipient of Denver’s Barry Sharp Memorial Trophy, which recognizes the team’s top freshman. He was also selected to the NCAA All-Tournament and WCHA All-Rookie Teams. Stastny finished second on the team in scoring with 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 42 appearances. He led all WCHA rookies in conference scoring during the regular season with 31 points. His 45 overall points tied him for first in the nation among rookies. His 28 assists ranked him third in the nation among rookies while his 1.07 points per game ranked him tied for third among all rookies.

Stastny will almost certainly return to the University of Denver, to lead the Pioneers in their defense of the national title.

Tom Fritsche, LW – Ohio State University (CCHA)
5’11 183
2nd round, 47th overall
Born: September 30, 1986 in Parma, OH

Tom Fritsche is the younger brother of current Columbus Blue Jackets forward Dan Fritsche. Colorado’s Fritsche is an extraordinarily creative playmaker. He has superb passing skills, is very smart and possesses great hockey sense. Fritsche is an outstanding skater with speed who moves very well through traffic. His play is very good around the net and along the boards. He also possesses a quick release. Fritsche is defensively responsible and transitions quite well. He can play in any type of situation. While Fritsche has shown that he can give and take hits, he could stand to be more involved in the physical side of the game.

Fritsche enjoyed a sensational season with Ohio State that culminated in selections to the CCHA All-Rookie and Super Six All-Tournament teams well as being named Rookie of the Year and to the All-Rookie Team by Inside College Hockey. Fritsche was also the recipient of Ohio State’s George Burke Award, which is presented to the team’s top freshman. He led the Buckeyes in points (45), assists (34) and plus/minus (+21). His 45 points (11 goals, 34 assists) tied him for first in the nation among rookies (incidentally with Paul Stastny). His 34 assists led all the nation’s rookies and tied for fifth overall. In addition, his 34 assists ranks third all-time on the Buckeyes team among freshmen. Tom played for the US National U-18 Team in the NTDP in 2003-04, finishing second in scoring on the team with 24 goals and 51 points He spent the 2002-03 season with the US U-17 Team in the NTDP.

Fritsche will attend Ohio State University again next year for a promising sophomore season.

Chris Durand, C – Seattle (WHL)
2nd round, 52th overall
6’1, 186
Born: January 21, 1987 in Saskatoon, SK

This is the pick that may very well define Colorado’s 2005 draft. A steal at 52nd overall, Durand could have easily gone in the first round. A good, smooth skater, he has quick feet that allows him to elude defenders. He has a good accurate shot and passes very well using his keen vision of the ice and good set of hands. Durand is especially effective when on the half boards in the offensive zone by bringing a defender to him then finding the open man for a scoring chance. He also positions himself well around the net, allowing him to pounce on rebounds. Perhaps most importantly, he anticipates the play, which allows him to intercept opponents’ passes and he seems to be dedicated to sacrificing his body to make a play. Scouts concur that it was his lack of consistency this past season that accounted for the drop in ranking but that top ten potential is certainly still there.

Durand was selected to play in the 2005 CHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver. He notched 18 goals and 34 assists with 76 penalty minutes in 66 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2004-05.

Durand will return for a second season with Seattle of the WHL to continue his progression.

T.J. Hensick, C – University of Michigan – CCHA
3rd round, 88th overall
5’10, 180
Born: December 10, 1985 in Lansing, MI

One way to describe T. J. Hensick is poetry in high-speed motion. He is a tremendously gifted offensive player who combines flair and creativity with blazing speed. He is of the pure goal-scorer variety. Hensick is a player who is very confident and has excellent hockey sense. His speed and quickness makes him an extremely difficult player to defend against. Hensick is very good on faceoffs, possesses a very quick release and dominates with the puck. The biggest knock on Hensick may be that he tends to avoid the physical side of the game. He has demonstrated that he can give and take the hits but it is not often, if rarely evident. He could also be more involved in the defensive side of the game as well.

Not opting into the 2004 NHL Draft didn’t hurt T. J. Hensick’s draft stock this year. He, along with junior Jeff Tambellini (LA) comprised one of the nation’s most lethal offensive duos this season. Not surprisingly, both were named co-recipients of Michigan’s Hal Downes Trophy, which recognizes the team’s most valuable player. Hensick finished second on the Wolverines in points with 55 (23 goals, 32 assists) He also finished second on the team in goals and assists as well. He also finished fourth in the nation in points per game (1.41). Among the many accolades Hensick received this season included being named one of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award (following John-Michael Liles in this regard and former Av, Chris Drury), selections to the All-America West as well as the CCHA All-Conference First Teams. Hensick was also a member of Team USA’s 2005 U-20 WJC squad.

Although initial indications point to a return to Michigan for Hensick, T.J. may in fact be the most NHL-ready player of all the 2005 Avalanche draft picks.

Raymond Macias, D – Kamloops (WHL)
4th round, 124th overall
6’1, 190
Born: September 18, 1986 in Long Beach, CA

Macias is a savvy offensive-minded defenseman who has a nose for the back of the net. Not only did he see time in all situations last season, his offensive ability and skating led him to see time on both defense and as a right winger for the Blazers. He is a very good and conditioned skater, who possesses great acceleration and overall skill on his feet. He has good hands and is effective moving the puck up ice in most situations. Macias’ overall offensive ability and skating are his big upside, which had him high on Colorado’s list.

In 2003-04, he finished seventh overall in scoring, but his 12 goals and offensive ability as rookie helped earn a spot on the CHL All-Rookie Team, a list that also included the likes of Sidney Crosby and Gilbert Brule. In the summer proceeding the 2004-05 season, the Long Beach, California native was invited to the Los Angeles Kings 2004 Developmental Camp in neighboring El Segundo.

Even though the Blazers didn’t turn in a picture perfect season in 2004-05, Macias lead Kamloops in overall scoring with 47 points in 69 games, seeing action both guarding the blue line and on the right wing displaying his offensive versatility. He also participated in the 2005 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver, B.C. During the skills competition, he was clocked as the third fastest skater. International Scouting Services had him ranked as the third best skater in the 2005 NHL draft behind only Sidney Crosby and Luc Bourdon.

Macias will return to Kamloops of the WHL in the fall.

Jason Lynch, D – Spokane (WHL)
6th round, 166th overall
6’3, 205
Born: May 26, 1987 in North Vancouver, BC

Lynch played in 67 games for the Spokane Chiefs in 2004-05, collecting a goal and four assists with 78 penalty minutes. He was one of three Lynch brothers on the squad in 2004-05, playing with older brothers Scott and Jeff. In his first full season in the WHL in 2003-04, Lynch played in 39 games and registered 52 penalty minutes. He also won a silver medal with Team Pacific at the 2004 U-17 World Hockey Challenge. Lynch helped set hockey history as he appeared with his three older brothers (Doug, Scott, and Jeff) and became the first set of four brothers to play for the same team in CHL history.

Lynch will be returning to backline Spokane in the WHL

Justin Mercier, C/W – US National Team Development Program
6th round, 168th overall
5’11 175
Born: June 25, 1987 in Erie, PA

Mercier is a good all-around player who is ultra competitive, and who is noted for his unparalleled sense of urgency and willingness to play a very physical game. He makes the most of his ice time and works hard at both ends of the ice. He is very effective in tight situations and can battle through traffic. He has great anticipation and foresight, which makes him just as dangerous with the puck as he is without it. This appears to be another late round steal for Colorado.

Before joining the USNTDP, Justin Mercier played the 2003-04 season for the now defunct St. Louis Heartland Eagles of the USHL. He finished the year with a total of 21 points (12 goals, 9 assists) in 60 games played, which left him ranked eighth in scoring for that team. He played the 2004-05 season, his first, with the U-18 team. He also joined the U.S. National team at the Five Nations Tournament in Tjorn, Sweden where he took home gold. He also played for the gold medal-winning USA team at the Compuware Four Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He wrapped up his career with USA Hockey, when he appeared on the U.S. squad that swept the 2005 World U-18 IIHF Championships for gold once again.

Mercier is headed to the University of Miami-Ohio for the 2005-06 season.

Kyle Cumiskey, D – Kelowna (WHL)
7th round, 222nd overall
5’11 165
Born: December 2, 1986 in Abbotsford, BC

After getting minimal minutes with Kelowna in his rookie year during the 2003-04 championship season, Kyle Cumiskey really stepped up this past season into an expanded role for the Rockets. Cumiskey helped anchor a blue line that also boasted the likes of Shea Weber and Mike Card, both of whom helped lead Kelowna to back-to-back WHL Championships and Memorial Cup Finals appearances. Although fate wasn’t on their side this year, Cumiskey shined for the Rockets.

He is a very poised and gifted offensive defenseman, as indicated by his 40 points while playing in all 72 games this season. He is extremely versatile and can be used in all situations. He is a balanced skater with decent acceleration and overall speed. He has good hands and vision, which ultimately gives him the upper hand on the rush.

Cumiskey is set for a third season with Kelowna in the fall.


Jeff Dahlia, DJ Powers contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.