Avalanche 2000 draft evaluation

By Janine Pilkington

Though the Boston Bruins exercised their right to take Colorado’s first pick, the Avalanche still managed to grab an NHL player in the first round of the 2000 Entry Draft. The Avalanche walked away with 13 picks that have played a total of 266 NHL games between them, for a class average of 20 games per pick. Czech forward Vaclav Nedorost successfully navigated his way to an NHL career, but only after he was traded to the Florida Panthers. In fact, of 13 picks, Colorado traded five, and three of their remaining prospects were busts. The hunt for depth at the goaltender position was also unsuccessful. The two goaltending prospects the Avalanche selected, though talented, have failed to develop as the team had hoped.

The bright side to the 2000 draft for Colorado has been the development of two NHL defensemen, Kurt Sauer and John-Michael Liles, who have both found regular roster spots. Of the three remaining prospects still associated with the team, not one has played a NHL game.

Vaclav Nedorost, C – 1st round, 14th overall (Ceske Budejovice/ Czech league)
Status: NHL player (traded to Florida Panthers)
NHL games played: 99

After giving up their first pick to the Boston Bruins, Colorado picked up Czech center Vaclav Nedorost with the 14th pick. Nedorost was a highly ranked prospect who helped the Czech Republic earn gold at the 2000 World Junior Championships and displayed NHL level talent early on. He came to the U.S. for the 2001-02 season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears where he grabbed 34 points in 49 games, and was subsequently called up to the Colorado for a much less productive four points in 25 games. The following season, Nedorost played 42 games with the Avalanche, but the club appeared to be losing patience with the development of the young center.

Prior to the 2003-04 season, he was traded to the Florida Panthers. Nedorost was re-signed by the Panthers, but because of the lockout, spent the season with HC Liberec of the Czech league. Panthers’ fans may want to note his progress, the Czech center made himself at home with a 33-point campaign in 48 games and a +20 rating.

It’s too soon to tell if Nedorost will be the one that got away for the Avalanche. He’s had injury-related problems that have kept him out of many games, so Nedorost could really benefit from a healthy season to make his mark in the NHL. Like many other European players, he’s an exceptional skater, and Colorado was attracted to his clean, relatively mistake-free game. They saw the potential there for a playmaking center, which, judging by the 2004-05 season in the Czech League, appears to be accurate.

Jared Aulin, C – 2nd round, 47th overall (Kamloops Blazers/WHL)
Status: NHL prospect (traded to the Los Angeles Kings, now with the Washington Capitals)
NHL games played: 17

Aulin impressed scouts by his performance with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, most notably with his 2000-01 season performance of 108 points in 70 games. Colorado traded him to the Los Angeles Kings in 2001, and he began the 2002-03 season with the Manchester Monarchs. He appeared to thrive in the AHL and after scoring 44 points in 44 games, was called up to the NHL for 17 games, but was plagued by injury. In March of 2004, he was sent to the Washington Capitals in a trade with Anson Carter. Since jumping on board with the Capitals Aulin has played with their AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. He only saw ten games in the 2003-04 season because of injury, but came back healthy during the 2004-05 season to score 39 points in 65 games.

Aulin’s biggest obstacle on the road to the NHL has been injury. At 23 years of age, and with the NHL lockout allowing another year of development in the minors, it’s reasonable to believe Aulin will be on a NHL roster in the next couple of years. Colorado traded the prospect early, which so far has not proven to be a mistake. But if he stays healthy, Aulin could have a successful future with the Capitals.

Sergei Soin, F – 2nd round, 50th overall (Krylja Sovetov / Russian Superleague)
Status: NHL Prospect (traded to the Nashville Predators)
NHL games played: 0

Sergei Soin has yet to cross the ocean and play on the American continent. The 23-year-old forward played for Krylja Sovatev of the Russian Hockey League during the 2001-02 season. He finished that season with 12 points in 40 games and a +2 rating. His output faltered slightly the next year with 14 points in 49 games, but he scored two goals for gold medal winning Team Russia in the 2002 World Junior Championships. Soin was traded from Colorado to Nashville in June of 2003, and spent the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons playing for CSKA Moscow of the Russian Superleague.

A fluid skater with a great hockey sense, Soin was not expected to be a prolific scorer, and has so far followed that path. He’s proven most effective in penalty-killing situations, which appears to be where he is used the most. Soin is yet another prospect that may have a future in the NHL, but ultimately didn’t have what the Avalanche was looking for.

Agris Saviels, D – 2nd round, 63rd overall (Owen Sound/OHL)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 0

The Latvian defenseman was playing for Owen Sound of the OHL when he was drafted by the Avalanche, and it is perhaps his performance with that club that best demonstrates his offensive capabilities. In 2000-01, he was the top scoring defenseman for the Sound with 51 points in 68 games, while also finishing with a team-high +14 rating. This was by far his best year in the OHL, as his success wavered slightly during the 2001-02 season with 32 points in 60 games. During 2002-03 he began his pro career with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, where he was only able to capture three points in 40 games before suffering an injury and going down to the ECHL for rehabilitation. Saviels continued his low scoring play with Hershey during the 2003-04 (67 games, 7 points) and 2004-05 (47 games, 5 points) seasons.

As Colorado is no longer affiliated with the Hershey Bears (they now share the Lowell Lock Monsters with the Carolina Hurricanes), things might be shaken up a bit next season. Colorado plans to send its best prospects to Lowell, and it remains to be seen whether or not Saviels will be included on that list. Though his scoring has gone down since his time with the OHL, it is reasonable to believe he’s still feeling his way around the pros. He has success in power play situations, and is a good-sized player. Consistency has been a problem in the past, and the 23-year-old will have to continue making strides if he is to see a NHL roster.

Kurt Sauer, D – 3rd round, 88th overall (Spokane Chiefs/WHL)
Status: NHL player
NHL Games played: 149

Kurt Sauer, Colorado’s fifth pick in the 2000 NHL Draft, entered the NHL after three years with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. His final season with the Chiefs saw the big rearguard pick up 23 points in 61 games, along with 73 penalty minutes and a +24 rating. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks following the completion of his junior career signed Sauer as a free agent. In his first season with the Ducks (2002-03), he played 80 games with 74 penalty minutes, but finished with just three points. During the 2003-04 season, he played 55 games with Anaheim, totaling five points and 32 penalty minutes before he was traded back to the team that originally drafted him. The remainder of the 2003-04 season, Sauer played only 14 games with the Avalanche, picking up one point and 19 penalty minutes.

Sauer hasn’t exactly put up impressive statistics since his transition to the NHL, but his size and physical game make him valuable to a team’s defense. He’s been used extensively in penalty-killing situations and, at only 24 years of age and with just three NHL seasons under his belt, Sauer still has the chance to make an impact on the team.

Sergei Klyazmin, LW – 3rd round, 92nd overall (Dynamo Moscow-2/Russia 3)
Status: NHL prospect
NHL games played: 0

Klyazmin started strong on the American continent with his two seasons of play with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJL. During the 2000-01 season, he produced 61 points in 65 games along with 76 penalty minutes, and followed that performance up in 2001-02 with 61 points in just 46 games. The following season he was picked up by the AHL Hershey Bears, where he played eight pointless games before suffering a knee injury and subsequent surgery that cut his rookie pro campaign short. He then missed the entire 2003-04 season after re-injuring the knee during camp. He played seven scoreless games with Hershey during the 2004-05 season before being sent to the CHL’s Colorado Eagles for five games. Klyazmin then bounced to the ECHL’s Long Beach Ice Dogs for another seven games.

The young prospect’s biggest enemy has been injury, which unfortunately has been damaging to his progress as a pro. He’s proven he’s enormously talented, and obviously Klyazmin needs a full injury-free season in order to gauge where he’s at developmentally. The 6’4 forward was last listed at 195 pounds, and, if anything, needs to gain some strength and a good ten to 20 pounds if he’s to climb his way onto an NHL roster. The verdict is that Klyazmin is still a prospect for Colorado, but needs to stay healthy if he’s to make anything of it.

Brian Fahey, D – 4th round, 199th overall (U. Wisconsin/NCAA)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

Fahey played four years at the University of Wisconsin, with his most successful year for statistics coming during his 1999-00 freshman season (41 games, 17 points). Following his college hockey career, he spent the 2003-04 season with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, where he accumulated 37 points in 55 games and was named to the ECHL’s All-Rookie team. He was loaned to the AHL’s Worcester IceCats and Hershey Bears on two different occasions for a total of 14 games during that season. During 2004-05 he played 46 games with the Bullies (26pts, 47 PIM) and was again loaned to the Worcester IceCats for a total of 18 games.

At 24 years of age, Fahey is looking less and less like a viable prospect. This isn’t to say he couldn’t make it to the NHL, but realistically he looks to be a career minor leaguer. The majority of his pro career has been ‘AA’ minor pro, where he has found a great deal of success. The frequent recalls to the AHL could point to an AHL roster spot in the next couple years, however, which would be ideal if he hopes to make an impression on a NHL club.

John-Michael Liles, D – 5th round, 159th overall (Michigan State/NCAA)
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 79

Liles looks to be the steal of the 2000 class, and proof that you can’t rule out potential at any position in the draft. He’s on the small side, but he’s a strong offensive defenseman that can hold his own. He had a successful career in the NCAA with a team-best career goals scored for defensemen with 44, and finished third overall for team-best career points for a defenseman at 138. His performance earned him a five game tryout contract with the Hershey Bears at the end of the 2002-03 season. He went directly to the NHL during the 2003-04 season, where he played 79 games that culminated in 34 points, a +7 rating and 28 PIM. During the lockout he played in Germany (17 games, 11 points) for the Iserlohner EC Roosters (DEL) and competed in the IIHF Men’s World Championships for Team USA.

Should he continue his on his current path, Liles will be a fixture on the Colorado defense for many years to come. With just one NHL season under his belt, he’s hardly had the time to show what he is capable of at the pro level. He’s represented Team USA on two separate occasions, in the fall of 2004 at the World Cup tournament, and in the spring of 2005 at the World Championships.

Chris Bahen, D – 6th round, 189th overall (Clarkson University/ECAC)
Status: NHL bust (traded to the Carolina Hurricanes)
NHL games played: 0

Bahen began a successful college career during the 1999-00 season with 18 points and 54 penalty minutes in 34 games, and was honored as Clarkson’s rookie of the year. Statistically speaking, it was his best year. Bahen’s offensive production wavered slightly during his sophomore and junior seasons, before improving in his senior year in 2002-03. He finished third in scoring (defensemen) with 17 points and 45 penalty minutes in 34 games, and was awarded the Paul J. Pilon Award for excellence in hockey and academics. Following his college career, Bahen headed overseas to play for Landshut of the German Bundesliga. During the 2003-04 season, he accumulated eight points and 40 penalty minutes in 35 games, with his rights being traded to Carolina in the spring of 2004. Bahen played the 2004-05 season for Landshut as well, and finished with 15 points and 38 penalty minutes in 48 games.

Since he went straight to Europe after college, it’s difficult to place his ability as an AHL or NHL player, but there’s always the chance that Carolina will bring this kid over for a shot sometime in the near future.

Aaron Molnar, G – 7th round, 221st overall (London Knights/OHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

Molnar had a promising run in the OHL, particularly in 2000-01 with the London Knights where in 68 games he compiled a 3.75 goals-against average and was that club’s MVP. In 2002-03 he joined the St. Thomas University Tommies (CIS), where he’s kept an even pace and made the majority of starts each season. During 2003-04 he finished with a 3.36 goals-against average and a .884 save percentage in 24 games, and a 3.10 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage in 21 games for 2004-05.

Molnar will have one more season with STU. While it is hard to gauge where his career will go from there, he appears to be a very capable goaltender, and perhaps more importantly, consistent in his level of play. Unfortunately he hasn’t performed enough for the Avalanche to lure him in for a shot at a roster spot, which has hurt his status as a prospect with the team. At the very least, however, Molnar should find himself with a minor league team following his time at STU.

Darryl Bootland, RW – 8th round, 252nd overall (Toronto St. Michael’s Majors/OHL)
Status: NHL prospect (Detroit Red Wings)
NHL games played: 22

Bootland is a player that was chosen surprisingly late in the draft, and another that the Avalanche was quick to unload. He was picked up from Toronto St. Michael’s Majors of the OHL, where his most productive season included 97 points and 137 penalty minutes in 61 games. He spent part of the 2002-03 season in the ECHL before finding a roster spot with the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL). In 2003-04, he played 54 games (14 points, 175 PIM) with the Griffins before being called up to the Wings for 22 games (2 points, 74 PIM). Bootland was back with the Griffins for his third pro season in 2004-05, where he finished with 34 points and 336 penalty minutes in 78 games.

Bootland is a tough, physical forward whose only drawback has been his skating. Still, his powerful presence and ability to score are valuable, and following the 2004-05 performance, the Wings may very well give him another shot in the NHL. Detroit signed him as a free agent in 2002.

Sean Kotary, C – 9th round, 266th overall (Bowling Green University/NCAA)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

Kotary saw only limited time (five games) on the ice at Bowling Green University during 2000-01, and the following season played for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. He played 46 games for the Buccaneers (26 points, 39 PIM), then returned to University hockey in 2002-03. With the University of Findley Oilers, Kotary played 34 games with an 11-point total and 34 penalty minutes. He’d transfer yet again, this time to the Oswego Lakers of the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) where he finished out his junior and senior years. In 2003-04, he played 30 games for Oswego and earned a total of 22 points and 34 penalty minutes. During 2004-05 he played 26 games and rounded off his college hockey career with 12 points and 63 penalty minutes. Kotary is nearing the end of his run as a prospect and will need to hook himself up with a minor league team if he is to get more exposure.

Blake Ward, G – 9th round, 285th overall (Tri City Americans/WHL)
Status: NHL bust
NHL games played: 0

The young goaltender played in the WHL, starting with the Tri-City Americans where he capped off the 1999-00 season with a 3.59 goals-against average and .877 save percentage in 37 games. In 2000-01 he played just eight games with the Americans before he was moved to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, where he would play the remainder of the season and all of the next. Ward spent the 2002-03 season with the Seattle Thunderbirds where he finished with a 3.17 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in 24 games. He went on to play his first year for the University of Lethbridge during 2004-05, where he played in just eight games.

Ward is still young, and he’s made some decent runs as a goaltender. That he began University play so late, however, appears to signify that he won’t be headed for the NHL.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.