Avalanche 2010 draft review

By John Canario

Colorado Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman and his scouting staff were fairly busy at the 2010 NHL entry draft, making a total of eight selections. After highly touted goaltending prospect Jack Campbell went to the Dallas Stars six spots before the Avalanche’s 17th overall selection in the first round, Sherman made several adjustments, still ensuring himself NHL Central Scouting’s top ranked North American and European netminders.

Sherman also conducted three trades on the second day of the draft. First, the GM sent their second round pick (47th overall) to the Los Angeles Kings for the 49th and 109th overall selections. Next, Sherman would pair that 109th draft pick with the Avalanche’s 77th selection to move up to the 71st spot in the third round and swipe Michael Bournival. Finally, Sherman would conclude a busy day of trading by sending the Avalanche’s third round pick in 2011 to the Islanders for their fourth round pick (95th) in this year’s draft.

Going in a similar direction as they have the past five years, the Avalanche opted to draft mostly North Americans, taking five Canadians, two Americans and only one Finnish player. Sherman also addressed the team’s need for goaltending prospects, selecting two. Recognizing their depth at defense, Sherman drafted only two blueliners. The other four picks were spent on a left winger, a right winger and a pair of centers.

Joey Hishon , C – Owen Sound (OHL)

Drafted: 1st Round, 17th Overall
Height: 5’10 Weight: 170 lbs

Joey Hishon, who was ranked 55th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, was considered by many to be a day two selection at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but not to Avalanche GM Greg Sherman.

Players like Hishon – who honed his craft in the modest Owen Sound community of under 22,000 residents – do not get the same kind of exposure that other OHL stars like Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner receive playing in larger markets like Windsor and Kitchener. Add a somewhat diminutive stature and two groin strains, a broken foot, and a torn MCL to the fold, and you begin to see why Hishon may not have been targeted by other teams as a mid-first-rounder.

Injury troubles aside, Hishon is a definite talent. A wizard with the puck, Hishon has a deep repertoire of slick stick-handling maneuvers and can creatively produce scoring opportunities out of seemingly harmless plays. He is an elusive skater, and can leave defenders behind with good change of direction speed. He has tremendous energy and plays hard at both ends of the rink. In 2008-09, Hishon demonstrated his offensive prowess as a 16/17-year-old, compiling 81 points and finishing in the top ten in OHL scoring. In an injury-plagued 2009-10 campaign, he managed 40 points in just 36 games for the lowly Owen Sound Attack. Notably, he was plus-10 on a team with a minus-55 goal differential this past season.

With young stars like Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny centering the Avalanche’s top two lines, Hishon is likely another OHL season or two away from joining Colorado’s roster. If he can stay healthy, expect Joey Hishon to contend for the OHL scoring title in 2010-11. If he can pack on a few pounds and strengthen his lower body to avoid further injury, Hishon could very well anchor a scoring line pivot position on an NHL club within a few years.

Calvin Pickard , G – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Drafted: 2nd Round, 49th Overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 195 lbs

After missing out on the Jack Campbell sweepstakes, the Avalanche still managed to snag Calvin Pickard more than halfway through round two. He immediately becomes the top goaltender in Colorado’s system.

Pickard was one of the lone bright spots on a struggling Thunderbirds squad in 2009-10, compiling a record of 16-34-12 with a goals against average of 3.09 and a .914 save percentage. He was relied upon heavily this past season as a 17-year-old, leading the WHL in minutes played (3688) and saves (2207). Pickard is not an enormous backstopper, but he is quick, technically sound and is always in position, allowing him to play bigger than his size. The larger than average workload he has received playing junior hockey thus far could better prepare him for the rigors of an 82-game NHL season.

Following another couple seasons in the WHL, which will likely include appearances for Team Canada at the Under-20 WJC, Pickard will make the move to either the AHL or NHL, progress pending.

Michael Bournival
, LW – Shawnigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Drafted: 3rd Round, 71st Overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 179 lbs

Michael Bournival, arguably the hardest working player in the draft, is coming off his best season in the QMJHL with 24 goals and 38 assists for 62 points in 58 games. International Scouting Services had the versatile winger ranked 53rd.

Bournival is a strong skater which enables him to play a variety of roles – at both ends of the rink. He has a good shot, decent vision, and a tremendous compete level. Your typical gym-rat, Bournival impressed at the NHL draft combine, leading all prospects in push-ups.

Michael Bournival‘s unparalled work ethic almost guarantees him a future in the NHL at some point, though his role is less clear. Capable of scoring at the junior level, he is not the flashiest player, and he may be more suited to third line duty at the professional ranks. In all likelihood, Bournival will spend another couple seasons in the QMJHL, and will likely given the opportunity to crack Team Canada’s roster at the Under-20 WJC in 2011 and 2012.

Stephen Silas
, D – Belleville Bulls (OHL)
Drafted: 4th Round, 95th Overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 183 lbs

On a young, rebuilding Belleville Bulls team, Stephen Silas accumulated 4 goals and 45 assists in 66 games in 2010-11. This 49 point output was good enough for second on the team, next to defense partner and the Chicago Blackhawks‘ third round pick in 2008, Shawn Lalonde. With Lalonde’s departure for either the AHL or NHL next season, the 18-year-old Silas will be expected to shoulder much of the load for the Bulls from their back end in 2010-11.

Silas is an intelligent player, with good hockey sense. He understands that he has somewhat limited upside, and admits that his skating stride and quickness need further development. However, he does moves the puck well and is adept at running the offense. He lacks the blistering shot of a true powerplay quarterback. Like Bournival, Silas has international experience having represented Team Canada at the 2010 Under-18 WJC in Belarus.

Stephen Silas has an admirable work ethic, and his ability to stay positive during a frustrating season for the Belleville Bulls should be noted. He will probably spend another two seasons in the OHL before turning pro.

Sami Aittokallio, G – Ilves Jr. (Finland)
Drafted: 4th Round, 107th Overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 174 lbs

Sami Aittokallio was the top-ranked European goaltender by NHL Central Scouting. He split the 2009-10 season between Ilves’ Under-18 and Under-20 teams, spending most of his time with the latter. In 23 games with the Under-20 squad, Aittokallio registered a 3.20 GAA and an .899 save percentage. The 17-year-old really picked up his game during the playoffs, lowering his GAA to 2.26, while sporting a stifling .925 save percentage en route to a bronze medal win in the Jr. A SM-liiga.

Aittokallio is perhaps the most athletic goaltender in this year’s draft class. He moves exceptionally well and has lightning-fast reflexes. He dropped in the draft due to uncertainties stemming from an ankle injury that kept the Finn out for part of the season, and also forced him to miss the Under-18 WJC.

Avalanche management has said they are in no hurry to bring the Finnish netminder along quickly, and intend for the 17-year-old to spend another couple seasons in Europe rounding out his game in the Finnish SM-liiga.

Troy Rutkowski , D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Drafted: 5th Round, 137th Overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 208 lbs

Including Troy Rutkowski, the Portland Winterhawks had eight players selected in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and most, if not all, are expected back in 2010-11, which could make them the early favorites for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, and perhaps even the Memorial Cup. With Portland, Rutkowski helps to move the puck in a high-flying offense that ranked sixth in the WHL in goals scored last season (266). Rutkowski’s favorite player is Mike Green, and their games’ bear some similarities. Rutkowski moves the puck well and loves to join the attack. His accuracy from the point helped him tally six powerplay goals this past season. He plays a somewhat physical game, occasionally using his generous frame to rub out opposing forwards along the boards. At 18 years old, has room to improve with his defensive zone play and positioning though, which Avalanche management hope will come with extended time in junior.

During the 2009-10 season, Troy Rutkowski led all Winterhawks’ defensemen in goals (12) and assists (31) for a total of 43 points in 71 games. Rutkowski led all Winterhawks players during the playoffs with a plus-6 rating. As the top offensive blueliner on the team, Rutkowski could feasibly net upwards of 60 points next season.

He will spend another two seasons with Portland, working on his skating and the defensive aspects of his game. He projects as a third or fourth defenseman at the NHL ranks. The Avalanche have a plethora of talented, offensive-minded defensemen in their system, so Rutkowski will have time to develop.

Luke Walker
, RW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Drafted: 5th Round, 139th Overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 174 lbs

Luke Walker, an overage draftee at 20 years of age, was pleasantly surprised to discover that he had been selected by the Avalanche on day two of the draft, claiming that he only discovered his good fortunes following a congratulatory text message from fellow Portland Winterhawks’ teammate Brad Ross. Also a teammate of the previously mentioned Troy Rutkowski, Walker is coming off his best season in the WHL, where he posted career highs in assists (30), points (57) and penalty minutes (103). He tied Ryan Johansen, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, for second on the Winterhawks in playoff goals, finding the net six times in just 13 postseason games.

Walker improved from a minus-37 rating in his rookie season in 2007-08, to a minus-17 rating in 2008-09, to a plus-17 rating this past season. Walker was also a member of the United States team that won gold at the 2010 Under-20 WJC.

Though his two-way play has gotten better, he needs to continue to develop his defensive play including back-checking in his own end. His skating also has room to improve.

Luke Walker projects as a gritty checking-line winger in the NHL. The energy he displays throwing his body around on the forecheck is likely what caught the eye of Colorado’s scouts. He is hopeful to crack the Lake Erie Monsters, Colorado’s AHL affiliate, this season, but may have to settle for another season on what should be a dominant Winterhawks team.

Luke Moffatt , C – USA U-18 (USHL)
Drafted: 7th Round, 197th Overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 187 lbs

Luke Moffatt is more of a homerun swing for the Avalanche – he is a hit or miss prospect, with a style of play that does not leave a lot of middle ground. Unlike many of the other forwards being drafted in the seventh round for their ability as role players (penalty killers and enforcers), Moffatt’s game is based primarily around his abilities as a point-producer.

With his current skill-set, he is unlikely to develop into a checking-line player. A good skater with a variety of elusive dekes, Walker can be dangerous in the offensive zone, but needs to effectively use his teammates better. He has had no problem fooling opposing defenders and goaltenders at lower levels of competition, but struggled to produce at the same rate with the United States’ NTDP the past two seasons. In 2009-10, Moffatt scored five goals and added 10 assists in 28 games.

The native of Paradise Valley, Arizona was the second overall pick in the WHL’s 2007 draft, but Moffatt declined to play for the Kelowna Rockets, opting instead to go the college route, committing to the University of Michigan for 2010-2011. As Moffatt believes that college should be an important part of everyone’s life, he will likely play four years for the Wolverines. If he has enough offensive success there, the Avalanche will likely sign him and bring him through their system.