Avalanche 2006 draft preview

By Courtney Wagner

Avalanche Top 10 Prospects

1. Wojtek Wolski, LW
2. Ryan Stoa, C
3. Paul Stastny, C
4. Peter Budaj, G
5. Chris Durand, C
6. Brad Richardson, C
7. Tom Fritsche, LW
8. Johnny Boychuk, D
9. T.J. Hensick, C
10. Denis Parshin, RW

Team Needs

The Colorado Avalanche possess a solid lineup of superstars in Joe Sakic, Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk, but there is a need for more size up front. A physical player who can score might be a summer acquisition.

The loss of Adam Foote was felt on the blue line as is evidenced in the decline of plus/minus numbers on the team. Tanguay led the team in 2003-04 with a plus-30 rating and four other players had ratings over plus-15. In 2005-06 Hejduk had the highest rating at plus-13 and only two other players, Sakic and Ossi Vaananen, were in the double digits at plus-10. This could also be an area the Avalanche look to improve on, especially if they lose veteran Rob Blake, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Like last year, the Avalanche seem to be secure in net with Jose Theodore, a late-season acquisition, and Peter Budaj. If Theodore is able to return to his Hart trophy winning form of 2001-02, something he showed he may be capable of in the playoffs, Colorado should not have to worry about goaltending for a while.

Organizational Strengths

In the system, the Avs have a number of forwards with top six potential. Prospects Wojtek Wolski and Brad Richardson have already shown the ability to excel at the NHL level. Wolski, who tore up the OHL with the Brampton Battalion during the regular season with 47 goals and 128 points in only 56 games, had a strong debut with the Avs where he had two goals and six points in nine games. Richardson saw lots of ice time due to injuries suffered by Tanguay and Svatos. In 41 games with the Avs he had three goals and 13 points in 2005-06. He also scored a goal in nine postseason appearances with the team. Both players should be able to step in next season and play full-time for the club, which will be a benefit to the organization for future years.

Most of the remaining forwards of note play in the NCAA, which means the Avalanche can wait for them to develop and not use up valuable years of pro experience under the new CBA.

Organizational Weaknesses

The Avalanche blue line is woefully thin, with Johnny Boychuk the only prospect who is anywhere close to making the jump to the NHL. The Avalanche will need to upgrade their prospects on defense, especially with an aging blue line in the NHL.

Colorado still lacks depth in the prospect department, and indeed lacks blue chip prospects beyond Wolski. With the 18th selection in this year’s draft, it will take some serious drafting skill to come out with a blue chip player. Fortunately, this is a franchise who has done very well in the late rounds.

Draft Tendencies

In the past, GM Pierre LaCroix has had to search for good players who may have gone unnoticed, due to having later picks in the draft, and also did not shy away from making a deal to pick up good talent. The Avalanche have had some strong European picks in Marek Svatos, Hejduk and the recently departed David Aebischer. Look for new general manager Francois Giguere to maintain the status quo in drafting, at least for the foreseeable future.

Hockey’s Future mock draft result:Chris Stewart, RW, Kingston

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.