Avalanche 2008 draft review

By Ryan MacLeod

The Colorado Avalanche spread out their selections at this year’s draft, taking three defensemen, three forwards and one goaltender. It was General Manager Francois Giguere’s third draft with the team and he moved away from his tendency to select US-born players, picking up five Canadians, one Norwegian and just one American. Two of the team’s picks were 20 or more years old in Mark Olver and Jonas Holos.

Heading in with only six picks, the team added another by trading 2003 draftee Brad Richardson to the Los Angeles Kings for a second-round selection, 61st overall. Colorado made the trade because they felt there were a lot of quality players to be had in the second round.

“It was a very deep draft and we were getting into the mid-to-late rounds with players we felt very positive about and other teams also felt that way,” said Avalanche chief scout Ted Hampson. “We feel that we added a good young group to the Avalanche roster and we’re looking forward to watching them develop.”

The team did not have a first-round selection as it was dealt away to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline in exchange for defenseman Adam Foote.

Cameron Gaunce, D – Mississauga (OHL)

50th overall
Mar 19, 1990, 6’1, 203

He’s not one of the fab-four defenders selected in the first round and he was taken before some other higher-rated defensemen, but the Avalanche had its eyes on Gaunce long before draft day. Hampson said he’s a player with leadership qualities and a desire to play the game.

“We were very happy to grab a player of his caliber where we did,” said Hampson. “He’s a solid character player and has a good feel for the game.”

Hampson said the Sudbury, Ontario native has good size and strength but will need to work on his skating to adjust well to the pro game.

The left-handed shooter led all defensemen in scoring on the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL) last season, recording 10 goals and 30 assists in 63 games. He’ll be brought up slowly through the Avalanche system and should be back in Mississauga this fall.

Gaunce was shocked to hear his name called by Colorado on draft day as he grew up cheering for the team.

Peter Delmas, G – Lewiston (QMJHL)

61st overall
Feb 16, 1990, 6’2, 169

This draft pick was two years in the making and Colorado is hoping Delmas turns into their franchise goalkeeper some day. With only one pick in the first three rounds the team thought its chances of making this selection were slim, but once Delmas slipped a few positions they made a trade to facilitate their choice.

“When he was still there (late in the second round), Francois (Giguere) was able to get a pick for us,” said Hampson. “We’ve been watching him for two years and we thought it would be great to get him at that point in the draft.”

Central Scouting had Delmas pegged as the third best goaltender from North America in the draft.

“He’s got good size,” said Hampson. “He’s got good quickness and a good technical game.”

Delmas played 65 games for the Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL) last season, compiling a record of 17 wins, 13 losses and four ties with a 2.84 GAA and .903 save percentage.

Kelsey Tessier, C – Quebec (QMJHL)

110th overall
Jan 16, 1990, 5’9, 168

This speedy center was projected to go as high as the second round, but for unknown reasons he slipped to the fourth round where Colorado was more than happy to bring him into the fold.

His size and ability to fight through checks has been questioned, but that’s not a major concern to the Avalanche’s scouting staff.

“Definitely, (a player’s size) is not as important as it used to be,” said Hampson. “In Tessier’s case, he’s the ultimate competitor.”

Colorado likes his soft hands and goal scoring ability, as well as his desire to compete.

“He plays a lot bigger than his stature, never stops and he’s a smart player,” said Hampson. “There’s always room for guys with his heart and character.”

Tessier led the Quebec Remparts in scoring last season with 81 points in 68 games. He added to those totals with eight goals and 15 points in 11 playoff games.

Mark Olver, C – Northern Michigan (CCHA)

140th overall
Jan 1, 1988, 5’10, 155

This Canadian-born center has played most of his competitive hockey south of the border, starting with the Omaha Lancers (USHL) and now playing college hockey with Northern Michigan University.

Olver possesses a knack for scoring timely goals in pretty much every type of situation and can break a game wide open.

Colorado’s scouting staff compares his style of play to their fourth round selection Tessier.

“Olver is a good competitor and a smart player, so he fills the same role (as Tessier),” said Hampson. “He maybe has a little more finesse than Tessier, who likes to work the boards a little harder.”

Olver earned the CCHA’s Rookie of the Month award for February after recording seven goals and four assists in nine games that month. He finished the year with 38 points in 39 games.

Joel Chouinard, D – Victoriaville (QMJHL)

167th overall
Apr 8, 1990, 6’1, 186

Chouinard was selected with a pick acquired from the Boston Bruins at last year’s draft. He’s an offensive player who finished second in defensemen scoring on the Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL) and 23rd leaguewide last season, with seven goals and 28 assists in 69 games.  He also collected 95 penalty minutes, including three fights and has decent size at 6’1, 186 pounds.

He played well in the playoffs with two goals in just six games and has compared himself to Islanders defender Bruno Gervais.

Jonas Holos, D – Sarpsborg (Norway)

170th overall
Feb 27, 1987, 5’11, 186

Holos is a 21-year-old defender who comes with a very impressive international resume. He’s represented Norway at three World Championships, three World Junior Championships and two Under-18 World Championships.

He plays his league hockey with Sparta Sarpsborg of the Norwegian Elite League, recording two goals and 20 assists in 40 games last season, which is a drop-off from his 11 goals and 19 assists the year before.

Nathan Condon, C – Wausau (USHS)

200th overall
May 29, 1990, 6’0, 180

Condon is a playmaking center who just finished playing his senior year of high school hockey and will be attending the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2009. He plans to play a year with the Fargo Force (USHL) before reporting to college.

His varsity coach described him as an electrifying offensive player with deceptive top-end speed. Condon was named to the Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association All-State team in 2008 after leading his team to the Marathon and Kuehlman Cup.

Ted Hampson is stepping down as Colorado’s chief scout. Rick Pracey will take over as head scout with Hampson remaining on board to do some scouting for the team.

DJ Powers contributed to this article.