Avalanche 2005 draft evaluation

By John Canario

Despite having no picks in the first round, the 2005 NHL entry draft was an overwhelming success for the Colorado Avalanche, as it featured more hits than misses. These hits include prospects like Ryan Stoa and Justin Mercier, who continue to ply their trade in the AHL, and players like Paul Stastny and Kyle Cumiskey who have not only cracked the NHL but have become integral contributors for the Avalanche. The average NHL games played per pick from the Avalanche’s 2005 draft class works out to an impressive 57.1, with just three of the nine selections having yet to suit up for an NHL game. All nine of the picks played in North America in their draft year. The 2005 draft group is an important part of a young, yet competitive Colorado team going forward.

Ryan Stoa, C/LW – 2nd round, 34th overall – USNTDP 
NHL Games Played: 12
Status: NHL Prospect

Stoa was ranked 12th among North American skaters by Central Scouting. Though it has taken four years of hockey at the University of Minnesota and another playing mostly in the AHL, Stoa appears ready to make the jump to the NHL ranks.

In 2008-09 in his final NCAA season, Stoa recorded personal highs in goals, assists, points and penalty minutes. He followed that up with 23 goals and 40 points for the Avalanche’s affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, this season in just 54 games. He also played 12 games for Colorado this year, posting a pair of goals and an assist. Limited ice time did not deter Stoa from creating scoring opportunities during his brief NHL stint, as the power forward launched an impressive 26 shots on goal.

Stoa played in the final three regular-season games for the Avalanche and even laced up his skates for a playoff game, which bodes well for his future with the parent club in 2010-11.

Paul Stastny, C – 2nd round, 44th overall – University of Denver [NCAA] 
NHL Games Played: 274
Status: NHL Player

Avalanche scouting evidently saw more in Stastny than Central Scouting did, who had the pivot at 74th in their final ranking of North American skaters. With his dazzling offensive abilities, Stastny’s shown over the past five years that he was no reach at 44th overall.

With 264 points in 274 regular-season games, Stastny has more than doubled the offensive output of any other player drafted in the second round in 2005. In fact, Sidney Crosby and Anze Kopitar are the only players from the 2005 draft class to compile more points than the Avalanche’s top pivot.

The one knock on Stastny is that he has been prone to injury so far in his young NHL career. He missed 16 games during the 2007-08 season due to an appendectomy as well as groin and knee injuries, and 37 games during the 2008-09 season with a broken arm.

Tom Fritsche, LW – 2nd round, 47th overall – Ohio State University [NCAA]
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: Bust

Perhaps Central Scouting had a more accurate read on Fritsche’s NHL potential than Avalanche management, ranking him 93rd among North American skaters. Fritsche’s play thus far has not been deserving of an NHL call-up like some of his Lake Erie teammates.

It appears Fritsche may have been drafted at the peak of his hockey career. In college, his numbers decreased in the three seasons following his draft year. His AHL season point totals of five, 20 and 10 leave much to be desired from the former USNTDP player. The 2010-11 season marks the final year of Fritsche’s entry-level deal with the club, and his likelihood of being re-signed remains slim.

Chris Durand, C – 2nd round, 52nd overall – Seattle Thunderbirds [WHL]
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: Bust

Durand did not live up to the lofty expectations placed on him by the Avalanche and Central Scouting. The center was ranked 28th among North American skaters by Central Scouting.

Though described by scouts as an industrious center with good puck skills and a great wrist shot, Durand did not come close to developing into the power forward he was projected to be. In the three seasons of WHL hockey following his draft year, he failed to contribute offensively and become more of a gritty third-liner than a scorer.

Durand now plays hockey at the University of Saskatchewan.

T.J. Hensick, C – 3rd round, 88th overall – University of Michigan [NCAA]
NHL Games Played: 99
Status: NHL prospect

Hensick, who was drafted as an overage player, was ranked 78th among North American skaters by Central Scouting. He followed up a 55-point output during his draft year with 52 and 69-point seasons in his final two years with the Wolverines.

The product of the USNTDP made a quick transition to the AHL in 2007-08, earning 12 goals and 33 assists for 45 points in just 50 games. The Avalanche took notice of his strong play, bringing him up for 31 games that season, where he scored six goals and added five assists. In 2008-09, Hensick spent most of the season with the parent club, though he struggled to have the same offensive impact he had at the collegiate and AHL levels, producing just four goals and 17 assists in 61 games.

This past season, Hensick led the Lake Erie Monsters in assists (50) and points (70) in 58 games. He played in just seven games with Colorado, scoring once and adding a pair of assists.

Hensick is a scoring line player but the Avalanche currently have better options up the middle in Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene, so Hensick, who is a restricted free agent this summer, might not be re-signed.

Raymond Macias, D – 4th round, 124th overall – Kamloops Blazers [WHL]
NHL Games Played: 6
Status: NHL Prospect

Central Scouting had Macias placed at 71st in their final rankings of North American skaters. The California native followed up a 47-point output in his draft year with a respectable 38 points in 2005-06, before exploding offensively with 30 goals and 40 assists in 2006-07. He spent the next two seasons between the Lake Erie Monsters and the Johnstown Chiefs (ECHL). The Avalanche gave him a six-game trial at the end of the 2008-09 season, in which he tallied one assist. He spent the entire 2009-10 season with Lake Erie, netting seven goals and 10 assists in 52 games.

While Macias has not been a liability for the Monsters, he also has not done anything to set himself apart from other capable AHL rearguards.

Macias is a restricted free agent this summer, and with Kevin Shattenkirk, Colby Cohen, Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie and Cameron Gaunce in the system, the Avalanche may choose to let him go.

Jason Lynch, D – 6th round, 166th overall – Spokane Chiefs [WHL]
NHL Games Played: 0
Status: Bust

Lynch was a long shot; in 2005, Lynch was a stay-at-home defenseman with grit and size, who the Avalanche were hopeful could develop moderate offensive ability and a better skating stride. While Lynch’s penalty totals took a steep jump following his draft year, his point totals did not. He recorded just nine points in 132 games over the next two seasons, falling far short of the potential that Avalanche saw in him.

Lynch is now playing hockey at the University of British Columbia.

Justin Mercier, LW – 6th round, 168th overall – USNTDP
NHL Games Played: 9
Status: NHL Prospect

The Avalanche were thrilled to grab Mercier as late as they did. Central Scouting ranked him 114th out of North American skaters. Mercier has proven to be a great value pick. The grinder tallied 104 points in 157 games during his four years at Miami University (Ohio) before turning pro with the Monsters this season.

In 64 games this season with Lake Erie, he had 13 goals and 10 assists. His even plus/minus rating was especially telling of his strong two-way play, as many veterans on the team featured ratings in the negative double-digits. His strong play as a shutdown winger earned him a nine-game stint with the Avalanche, during which he posted a goal, an assist and a plus-two rating despite averaging just over seven minutes of ice time per game.

Mercier could earn a full-time spot with the Avalanche next season, and form an effective penalty-kill pairing with center Ryan O’Reilly for years to come.

Kyle Cumiskey, D – 7th round, 222nd overall – Kelowna Rockets [WHL]
NHL Games Played: 114
Status: NHL Player

Cumiskey went unranked by Central Scouting, but the Avalanche were smart enough to spend a seventh-round pick on the undersized, offensive-minded rearguard. Of all of the other seventh-round draft choices from 2005, only Anton Stralman (161) and Sergei Kostitsyn (155) have played in more NHL games than Cumiskey.

Cumiskey’s knack for finding streaking forwards with crisp passes has helped him to overcome his smallish stature (5’10, 185 lbs). He posted 30 points in just 51 games with the Kelowna Rockets following his draft year, which earned him AHL duty with the Albany River Rats in 2006-07. Cumiskey made a smooth transition, accumulating 33 points in 69 games as an AHL rookie. He even played in nine games that year with the Avalanche, tallying his first NHL goal and assist.

He split the next two seasons between Colorado and Lake Erie, missing games in 2007-08 with a nagging groin injury, and then opting for season-ending shoulder surgery in 2009. He spent the entire 2009-10 season with the Avalanche, though he missed games in November and December with a foot injury. He finished the season with a career-high seven goals and 13 assists in 61 games. He was, however, somewhat of a defensive liability for the Avalanche in the playoffs, with a -7 rating in a six-game series with the San Jose Sharks.