The Colorado Avalanche have had quite a bit of turnover already in their off-season, first firing former Head Coach Joe Sacco, then hiring Patrick Roy to be their new bench boss and Vice President of Hockey Ops and promoting Joe Sakic to be their Executive Vice President of Hockey Ops. Roy and Sakic have joined the fray and will look to help the team improve upon their prospect base that has them sitting 29th in the NHL in that regard.
The good news for Avs fans is that Colorado holds the first overall pick in this year’s draft and has eight picks in the entire draft. That, alone, could provide a big boost to a team whose prospect pool leaves much to be desired.
Top 10 Prospects:
When a team finishes with the number one overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft, it is easy to say that they need help just about everywhere. Colorado is no different, though they are relatively set in their top-six and between the pipes. A lot of their problems will be solved on their own, with Gabriel Landeskog and Steve Downie healthy and Ryan O’Reilly’s contract dispute solved. Those three, along with Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, and P.A. Parenteau, make up a formidable top-six.
Where the team struggles, however, is on their blue line. This season, the Avs had nine different defensemen play at least 12 games. While that is less of an indictment of their team’s talent level on the blue line and more of their health, they had just one defenseman that played more than 20 games post a positive plus/minus rating. They need help on their blue line. They have eight defensemen under contract for next season already, but anyone who watched this team play during the 2012-13 season will tell you that they should not be overly attached to many of them.
Despite the need for defensemen at the NHL level, Colorado has three high-level defensemen in their organization – Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott and Duncan Siemens – each of whom should challenge for a roster spot next season.
In addition to that, the Avs are also loaded with talent in the AHL and Central Hockey League at goaltender. Calvin Pickard could be the first of the four goaltenders to find himself at the NHL level, but any of the other three could easily vault over Pickard and take on the job.
Colorado is also loaded down the middle, having two top-tier talents in Joey Hishon and Michael Sgarbossa. While these two may well challenge for a roster spot next season, most of the Avs’ prospects down the middle project to be bottom-six players. The lone exception to that would be Colin Smith, who had a spectacular season for the Kamloops Blazers with 106 points in 72 games this season.
The Avs do not have a whole lot of size up front in their organization and are woefully under-stocked on their wings. They have a few players that might be able to slot in as role players in their lineup, but there are no game-breakers and no players that inspire much confidence that they will be develop into game-beakers.
Colorado rolls into New Jersey for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft holding eight picks: 1st, 32nd, 63rd, 93rd, 123rd, 153rd, 183rd, 201st overall.
The Avs have pretty much come out and said that the first overall pick is in play, and if it would help improve their team immediately, it would be safe to say that their other seven picks are as well.
For the past five years, Colorado has primarily selected players from the CHL, with a couple from the Scandinavian leagues sprinkled in as well.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results:
The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones notched 56 points in 61 games this season for the Winterhawks, as well as 15 in 21 games in the playoffs and seven points in seven games at the World Juniors where he looked like a man among boys.
Jones is a terrific skater and an extremely smart player on both ends of the ice and a right-handed shot to boot. That shot is one of his best assets, as well as a great first pass, and he is not afraid to use either. He plays in all situations and is just as comfortable shutting down a team’s top players as he is manning the point on the power play. Jones will not turn 19 until October, but he is NHL-ready now and should make an immediate impact on Colorado’s blue line before his 19th birthday.
Follow Blake Benzel on Twitter: @HPTbcbenzel