Saturday, June 21, 2014

Who Might The Avalanche Target In 2014

It's been raining for what feels like 3 weeks straight and my potential golf game for today got cancelled.  So now that I am locked indoors for the afternoon, I figured I would put some thought into an Avalanche-themed 2014 NHL Mock Draft.  

I was doing some digging the last few days about themes that the Avalanche have seemed to follow over the past 10 years or so at the NHL Draft.  Now, the scouting staff and management has changed a few times within that span, but it still was interesting to break down some of the tendencies.  I guess we'll start there.

The first thing I noticed is just how much the Avalanche have favoured the CHL over the last 6 years or so.  At the last 6 NHL Draft's the team has used 28 of their 40 selections to take players who played in the Canadian Hockey League.  That's 70% of their picks and I would imagine there aren't too many teams with a percentage higher than that.  It's even more predominant over the past 4 years, with the Avalanche using 20 of their 26 picks to take CHL players.  That's an astounding 76.9%.  

I really think that's been a strategy that has paid off, too.  

Looking back between 7 to 10 years ago, the team only used 8 of their 33 picks in those 4 drafts to take CHL players.  That's 24% and the remaining 76% of players taken from outside the CHL featured a ton of misses.  Included in those misses were top 3 round names like Victor Oreskovich (55th overall in '04), Ryan Stoa (34th overall in '05), Tom Fritsche (47th overall in '05), TJ Hensick (88th overall in '05), Nigel Williams (51st overall in '06) and some others.  Keep in mind that I'm fully aware drafting is not a perfect science, and the team also had some misses on CHL guys over the years, as well as some nice "hits" on guys outside the CHL, too.

To take that CHL note just a small step further, the Avalanche have also used their first pick to take a CHL-bred player in each of the past 6 NHL Drafts.  That strategy has also been true in 8 of their past 10 drafts overall.  Sure, that doesn't mean they'll stick to that in 2014, 2015 and beyond, but it is worth noting.

Another thing that I have noticed over the years is that the Avalanche tend to lean to forwards when talking about their first pick in a given draft.  They've taken a forward with their first pick in each of the past 5 NHL Drafts and in 8 of the past 10.  The last time they didn't take a forward with their first pick was in 2008 when they took Cameron Gaunce 50th overall.  Gaunce never got a great shot at making the big club in the subsequent years, eventually being dealt to Dallas for Tomas Vincour.  

Over the past 10 years the Avalanche have selected 36 forwards, 27 defencemen and 10 goaltenders.  Breaking that down, it obviously works out to roughly 4 forwards, 3 defenceman and 1 goalie per draft, give or take a bit.  

The team has also tended to select no more than one player per draft from outside of North America over the last number of years.  That trend should be interesting to track going forward, given some apparent changes to Colorado's European scouting since Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic have taken over.  The team always seemed to avoid Europeans for the most part, but the new regime has made a point to reach out this spring and sign a handful of them to entry level deals.  They've inked Borna Rendulic, Dennis Everberg and goaltender Roman Will. We'll see if that translates to a willingness to scour Europe more for the NHL Draft.

Along with forward Samuel Henley, who was signed to an ELC as well, the two European forwards signed (Rendulic and Everberg) also seem to fit another trend the Avalanche have confirmed they like to follow, and that is the addition of more size to the lineup and prospect pool.  It's no secret that the current roster has a bucket full of top end skill, but is lacking the size and depth you need to be a true contender.  That size factor is another trend that I'm sure we'll see maintained in 2014, given Roy's recent comments before the draft.

With all of these trends in mind, here is a (somewhat) educated guess on what the Avalanche might look to do come the 2014 NHL Draft.

2014 NHL Draft

Colorado Avalanche picks:  1st round (23rd overall), 3rd round (84th overall), 4th round (93rd overall - from Toronto), 4th round (114th overall), 5th round (144th overall), 6th round (174th overall), 7th round (204th overall)

23rd Overall Selection: Conner Bleackley - C - Red Deer Rebels

- The Avalanche check off a number of different boxes when taking Red Deer Rebels captain and centre Conner Bleackley.  He's got size, he's a forward, he plays in the CHL, he has character and leadership and he also provides skill with versatility.  For me, he's a perfect type of pick for how the Avalanche have drafted over the last number of years and also fits into the lineup nicely when looking ahead to the next few years.  I think he has the potential to be either the team's future number 3 centre in the mold of a Brandon Sutter (also a former Red Deer Rebel) or also would have the ability to transition to the right-wing to play in the team's top 6.  Oh yeah, plus he's an Avalanche fan.

Other options that fit the team's "trends" at this spot might include names like Alex Tuch (RW US NTDP), John Quenneville (C, Brandon), Brendan Lemieux (LW, Barrie).  Other options that don't fit the trends, but seem to be solid fits could be Nikita Scherbak (RW, Saskatoon), Travis Sanheim (LD, Calgary), Jakub Vrana (RW, Linkoping), David Pastrnak (LW, Sodertalje), Roland McKeown (RD, Kingston), Adrian Kempe (C, Modo), Ivan Barbashev (LW, Moncton).  I would bet a decent sum of money that Colorado walks away with one of the players mentioned above if they end up keeping their pick and selecting at 23rd overall.  

84th Overall Selection: Emil Johansson - LD - HV71 J20

- The Avalanche surprise a few of their fans by going to Europe earlier than in years past, taking Swedish blueliner Emil Johansson in the 3rd round.  Rated higher than this spot in the draft by some, the Avalanche are happy to take this poised and smooth-skating defenceman at this spot.  He's not overly physical but is calm and patient with the puck and fits what the Avalanche need in defencemen going forward.  

Other options that might also draw attention from Colorado with this pick might include Brandon Hickey (LD, Spruce Grove), Ben Thomas (RD, Calgary), Josh Jacobs (RD, Indiana, probably off the board by now)

93rd Overall Selection:  Jacob Middleton - LD - Ottawa 67's 

- The Avalanche opt for a CHL-trained defenceman with their third pick of the 2014 NHL Draft by taking 6'2 defender Jacob Middleton of the Ottawa 67's with the pick acquired from Toronto in the Ryan O'Byrne trade a couple years back.  Middleton has fairly solid mobility for his size, can move the puck well, but projects more as a defensive blueliner.  He has good gap control and does a good job playing physical along the walls and in front of his net.  He might not scream top pairing potential, but could end up being a guy that fits in nicely with how the Avalanche look to be apparently slowly building up their blueline depth overall through the draft.

Other options that might also draw attention from Colorado with this pick might include Nelson Nogier (RD, Saskatoon), Ben Thomas (RD, Calgary), Aaron Irving (RD, Edmonton)

114th Overall Selection: Dylan Sadowy - LW - Saginaw Spirit

- The Avalanche stick with their go-to theme of adding character players at the draft by taking winger Dylan Sadowy. He's got ok size at 6'1, but lots of room to get stronger as he's listed at only 180 pounds.  He's a guy that had a good second half of the season, moving up to 33rd on NHL Central Scouting's list from 89th at midterm.  He scored 4 goals in 5 playoff games for Saginaw after a 27 goal and 9 assist regular season.  He's good on the forecheck, pressures the puck and goes to the net.  

Other options that might also draw attention from Colorado with this pick might include Darby Llewellyn (LW, Kitchener), Dominic Turgeon (C, Portland), Clark Bishop (C, Cape Breton)

144th Overall Selection: Cody Donaghey - RD - Quebec Remparts

- The Avalanche take what will be their last defenceman of the day, getting offensive blueliner Cody Donaghey in the 5th round.  Donaghey plays for Roy's Quebec Remparts, so he's obviously  going to be familiar with his game, which has a puck-pushing lean to it.  He's a puck mover, skates well and can run a powerplay.  Colorado sees the value and takes a player who also has some decent size at 6'1.

Other options that might also draw attention from Colorado with this pick might include Alex Lintuniemi (LD, Ottawa), Brett Lernout (RD, Swift Current), Brandon Montour (RD, Waterloo)

174th Overall Selection: Keven Bouchard - G - Val d'Or Foreurs

- Colorado fills their familiar quota of one goalie per draft by taking 6'2 puckstopper Keven Bouchard.  The product of Quebec was a junior teammate of Avs prospect Sam Henley on the Foreurs.  While not being ranked by some scouting agencies, Bouchard comes in as the 10th ranked North American goalie on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings.  He offers good size and athletic ability.

Others options that might also draw attention from Colorado with this pick might include Ty Edmonds (G, Prince George), Matthew Mancina (G, Guelph), Jonas Johansson (G, Brynas J20)

204th Overall Selection: Henrik Tornqvist - LW - Linkoping J20

- The Avalanche finish off their 2014 NHL Draft by adding another Swede to the mix in Henrik Tornqvist.  He's known primarily as a defensive minded forward, coming in at 50th on the Central Scouting final rankings.  He's 6'1, is a fast skater, has some offensive tools and likes to play physical.  Had a decent season internationally, including putting up a pair of points at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this spring.

Others options that might also draw attention from Colorado with this pick might include David Kampf (C, Chomutov), Adam Brodecki (RW, Brynas), Luca Fazzini (LW, Lugano)

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