Diamonds In The Rough: The art of Colorado Avalanche draft picks

By Jonathan Litterine
Drafting well is a major part of any hockey league. 1st round draft picks
are supposed to be the players that turn into the stars. Some do, many don’t.

Picking players very late in the draft is like a lottery many
times. Pick a few players and hope they turn into decent players. Yet the
Colorado Avalanche are gifted. Not only do they have stars like Joe Sakic,
Peter Forsberg and Rob Blake, but they have many young stars. Young stars who were taken late in their respective draft years. The Avs
dynasty seemed to start in 1994. That year with the 72nd overall pick they
drafted Chris Drury out of Boston University. Then just 15 picks later they
dug up some guy playing for Pardubice in the Czech Republic. His name Milan
Hejduk. Obviously no one thought he was worth the time with the 86 picks
before that. Pretty embarrassing 1997 rolls around and the Avs notice they
have the 78th overall pick. With that pick they draft Ville Nieminen. Don’t
be shocked if you see Nieminen turn in Hejduk or Drury type of play in the
next few years. He is already putting in goals left and right off Forsberg
passes. Now for the two guys you may not have heard of. Not yet at least.

Jordan Krestanovich was given the honor of being selected 152nd overall in
the 1999 draft. Krestanovich who is now with the Calgary Hitmen of the
Western Hockey League, leads that team in scoring. By the way that team
features players like Kris Beech and Pavel Brendl. Krestanovich averages more
points a game then Brendl and is just slightly behind Beech. Expect him to
arrive in Hershey in the next year. Maybe even in time for this years Calder
Cup Playoffs, depending on how Calgary does in the WHL playoffs. Then there
is Radim Vrbata. Colorado selected him with the 212th overall pick in 1999.
Vrbata is currently in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the
Shawinigan Cataractes. Vrbata is putting up huge numbers for one of the
QMJHL’s best teams. Also don’t be surprised if you see Vrbata in Hershey this
year. So as you look towards the 2001 draft it may not be Spezza and
Kovalchuk who turn into the stars. It may be someone you never heard of,
someone I never heard. But you can bet the house, the Colorado Avalanche have
heard of him.