After a disaster of a 2016-17 season, wrapped up by losing even the draft lottery, the Colorado Avalanche had a big off-season ahead of them. Step 1 was the NHL Entry draft, which overall was very successful. They had a total of seven picks, and got good value with most of them relative to where they were ranked by scouting services. They seemed to have a theme of selecting strong skaters to match today's more agile game, which will translate to more fantasy value down the road. With a few strong prospects knocking on the NHL's door (notes below), the team did a good job at stocking some future talent for the barren AHL franchise that will be desperate for an influx over the next few years. Without further ado, let's take a look at the picks:
Round 1 – 4th overall: Cale Makar, D
Amid the second-tier players available after the first two picks of the draft, Makar stood out as the defenceman with one of the highest offensive ceilings. This makes him both a prime real-life piece and fantasy piece, and should be the first d-man taken off the board in keeper/dynasty leagues. Comparisons to Erik Karlsson can get out of hand quickly, especially considering his outstanding play came in a weaker league than other draftees, but Makar’s hockey IQ and skating skills are exceptional and he still has lots of time to grow physically. He won't push for an NHL spot this season or (probably) even 2018 – the team really has no reason right now not to be patient and let him become as well-rounded and grown-up as possible before he makes that jump.
Round 2 – 32nd overall: Conor Timmins, D
Many rankings had Timmins in the first round, so this pick is almost universally accepted as a good one. Timmins is another strong skating defenceman with more of a two-way game than Makar, but still has shown offensive upside after a 61-point OHL season. His smarts will likely put him on a quicker development path than others, but he will still require a few years seasoning before pushing for a roster spot. Recent picks showing strong two-way and offensive games haven't had much success doing both in the AHL so hopefully Conor's smarts help him make that jump more smoothly when the time comes.
Round 4 – 94th overall: Nicholas Henry, RW
Henry is a skilled winger with shooting and puck cycling abilities. The Avalanche got great value in Henry relative to where he was expected to be taken by international rankings (in the hundreds). Henry is a goal-scorer with smarts so will find a home in the Colorado system after a few more years in the WHL to work on his skating, which is a significant weakness. Only worth drafting in extremely deep leagues.
Round 4 – 114th overall: Petr Kvaca, G
Kvaca is an overage goaltender who had a very strong season in the Czech league. Other than his international play, he has been relatively unscouted, and since he has already committed to his team for next season, don’t expect him to bolster the organization’s pro depth anytime soon. This was quite an off-the-board pick and, frankly, we know very little other than he's abut average height (6-01), listed as 174 lbs and reportedly in very good shape athletically.
Round 5 – 125th overall: Igor Shvyrev, C
Continuing the Avs’ apparent theme of the draft, Shvyrev is another excellent skater. He also has a pro frame on him already, at 6’00” and 205 lbs, but he needs a stronger and quicker shot release before he will be an offensive threat at the pro level. He isn’t a physical player, so don’t expect multi-category value down the road. There are doubts that he will move to North America even when he is ready, but thats a concern for far down the line.
Round 6 – 156th overall: Denis Smirov, LW
As soon as Smirov was drafted, twitter came alive with gifs of his incredible hands. He had a strong Big Ten rookie season with 47 points in 39 games for Penn State, and has a tendency to wow people with his puckhandling. He is another overage player, likely passed over last year due to his size. Definitely offensive upside here, but he still likely has 3 college seasons to go so hold off drafting until he proves he's adding more dimensions to his game.
Round 7 – 187th overall: Nick Leivermann, D
The Avs’ stuck to their game plan with their final pick – Leivermann is a strong-skating defenceman who likes to have the puck on his stick. He’s committed to junior-A hockey for one more year and then NCAA, so he will be an extended patience project for the team. Don't draft in fantasy leagues, its far far far too soon to pass judgement.
The signings of Nail Yakupov and Sven Andrighetto add depth on the RW, which could mean another year in the AHL for AJ Greer. The team is in no position to rush anybody to the NHL at this point, so this is the safer play on what looks to be a very promising prospect.
JT Compher, who is much more fitting for a bottom-six role until he moves up the lineup, is still a very good bet to make the club in the fall.
Tyson Jost turned pro at the end of last season and will pick up where he left off – as an NHL regular. He didn’t look out of place in his six-game debut, so expect him, just like Mikko Rantanen last season, to hang around until he clicks offensively even if it takes a while.
In Avs development camp, despite the lack of true exercises, Andrei Mironov stood out as a well-rounded pro against the backdrop of several very raw prospects. This bodes well for him targeting an NHL spot next season. Some people have indicated that his contract includes a clause that allows him to return to Russia rather than be assigned to the AHL, which would also serve to essentially guarantee an NHL spot.
For updates on all Colorado prospects, you can check out the DobberProspects team page HERE.
For up-to-date news and random hockey commentary, you can follow me on twitter @soboleskih
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