Avalanche 2005 draft preview

By David A. Rainer

Avalanche Top 10 Prospects

1. Wojtek Wolski, LW
2. Marek Svatos, RW
3. Peter Budaj, G
4. Johnny Boychuk, D
5. Sean Collins, C
6. Cody McCormick, C
7. Denis Parshin, RW
8. Brad Richardson, C
9. Brett Hemingway, LW
10. Tomas Slovak, D

Team Needs

What does an organization that has an NHL roster packed with super stars and an organization that is ranked dead last in prospect strength have in common? No single draft will be much aid to the organization in either scenario. The Colorado Avalanche have the dubious distinction of being in both situations simultaneously. Ranked No. 30 by Hockey’s Future in prospect strength and yet at the same time icing an NHL team replete with current all-stars and future Hall of Famers, the Avalanche will not be looking to this year’s Entry Draft to fill any roster spots.

In 2003-04, the Avalanche were one of the few that could ice a second line that was as good if not better than most teams’ top scoring line. But free agency and cap restrictions are really going to dig into that depth. With Joe Sakic coming back and Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay expected to resign as restricted free agents, the Avs will still be one of the most formidable offensive teams in the NHL even if Peter Forsberg walks. The loss of Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya can be offset by an increased reliance on more efficient role-players like Ian Laperriere and youngster Marek Svatos.

Losing Adam Foote to free agency would hurt any team. It still remains to be seen whether the Avs can resign Foote, but even his loss is softened by the presence of Rob Blake on the blueline. Coupled with Ossi Vaananen and the emergence of John-Michael Liles, the Avs should be sound on the blueline without having to look to their farm system or the draft. Look for them to sign two free agent defensemen if they cannot retain Foote.

One area where the Avs farm system has been productive recently is in net. The addition of David Aebischer and the development of Philippe Sauve mean that the Avs could conceivably enter the 2005-06 season without having to address any concerns in net. If the right opportunity presents itself, they might look to pick up a veteran backup goaltender to aid in the duties with Aebischer and act as an insurance policy vis-à-vis Sauve.

Organizational Strengths

What kind of strength can be said of an organization dead last in our prospect rankings? The Avs do have forward Marek Svatos ready to compete for NHL playing time and last year’s top pick Wojtek Wolski looking solid. Maybe the strength of their farm system is the fact that the little they have had to rely on it, the farm system has at least delivered. The retirement of Patrick Roy was softened by the promotion of David Aebischer. The desire for an additional defenseman provided John-Michael Liles with an opportunity and the need for a spot start at forward was filled by Marek Svatos.

The Avs do have decent depth on the blueline and some forwards with potential. But anything else would be too optimistic for an organization depleted in legitimate elite prospects. With the strength of the NHL roster, they have not had to aggressively look to their farm system in recent years and have traded away the bulk of their picks for immediate help during playoff runs.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Avs need help everywhere except perhaps in net. With Aebischer in net for Colorado, Sauve still relatively young and Peter Budaj still developing, the Avs are fairly sound in net but require depth at this position.

Beyond Svatos and Wolski, the Avs are nearly empty of legitimate forward prospects. As stated, they do have solid depth on the blueline but each are still miles away in development from sticking on any NHL roster. It can be said that the Avs farm system suffers from the two most fatal flaws: lack of overall depth and lack of high-end, elite prospects. A single draft year will not go very far in turning this around, but a string of solid drafts in a row would turn it around.

Draft Tendencies

Trading away picks has really impacted any draft philosophy the Avs hoped to have had. Usually drafting late in the round with few picks, the Avs have basically had to search for diamonds in the rough. They have leaned recently towards European players and the selection of Wolski with their first pick last year continued the trend of selecting OHL players. General Manager Pierre LaCroix has never shied away from a good deal and can either be a major player in the draft or quietly select the best player available looking to rebuild the system one pick at a time.

Drafting near the bottom of the first round at No. 27 and with needs at nearly every position, look for the Avs to take the best player available irrespective of position or immediate need. They could address their lack of top defenseman prospects by leaning towards the blueline in the first round. With the draft being a snake draft and possessing Phoenix’s second round choice in the Derek Morris trade, the Avs will select three times between picks 27 through 44 and should be able to land three solid prospects to their beleaguered farm system.

Player most likely to be taken with first selection (Hockey’s Future mock draft result): Jakub Kindl, D, OHL Kitchener

The choice of Kindl will add that superstar caliber prospect on their blueline which is sorely lacking. One of the youngest players in the OHL, he is already a solid defenseman and is developing an offensive game to complement his tremendous potential.

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