Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Nathan MacKinnon puts on a jersey after being introduced as the number one overall pick to the Colorado Avalanche during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NHL Draft: Grading The Avalanche

The 2013 NHL Draft marked a big moment for the Colorado Avalanche as a franchise.

For the first time since 1991 (when they were the Quebec Nordiques), the team held the first overall pick in the draft and couldn’t have picked a better year to do it. Three, four, maybe even five can’t-miss players at the top of the draft? Score.

So what did they do? How did they fair? Luckily for you, I’m here to fill you in (or just reiterate what you already know. Whichever):

1st Round (1): Nathan MacKinnon, C Halifax – This was the pick to make from the start.  I understand that Seth Jones might be a franchise defenseman but history says that you take the franchise center when he’s there. And MacKinnon is just that.

He’s an elite skater, arguably the best in the draft, who draws a ton of penalties with his speed. Strong on his skates, he combines excellent balance with elite skill to form the ultimate package.

MacKinnon will be an elite, franchise center for the Avalanche and was not only the safe pick, but the right one.

2nd Round (32): Chris Bigras, D Owen Sound – A steady riser in the North American rankings, Bigras is a sound two-way defender who uses positioning and an active stick over physicality to take care of things in his own end.

Bigras is very smart and picks his spots well, realizing what his skills are and never trying to do too much. He projects out to a solid defender, one whom you rarely notice. For a defenseman, that’s a good thing.

3rd Round (63): Spencer Martin, G Mississauga – This could wind up being a tremendous value pick for the Avs. Martin became the go-to guy inMississauga last year and, with most of the top OHL goalies on the outs, could be amongst the best himself.

He’ll have a full workload next year and could even find himself onCanada’s WJC team if he continues his rise. He’s big, challenges well, and plays the butterfly well. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on in the near future.

4th Round (93): Mason Geersten, D Edmonton –  Geersten is a simple guy: he uses his 6’4” 200lb frame to be physically imposing in front of the net and along the wall, mashing the opposition into submission.

He’s not the greatest skater even for a big guy, but he’s mobile enough to be dangerous and could be an effective stay-at-home defenseman in the NHL who provides a big physical edge.

5th Round (123): Will Butcher, D US-NTDP – Seems like the Avs recognized their need for defense after all. Granted, aside for Bigras and MAYBE Geersten, you’re not getting anything close to guaranteed in this draft.

Still, Butcher is the total opposite of Geersten – he’s smaller (5’10”) and more of a puck-mover, using his skating and offensive game to his advantage as opposed to just smashing everything to dust.  Definitely needs time to develop.

6th Round (153): Ben Storm, D Muskegon – And back to the big bodies. He’s huge (6’6”) but a relative unknown as he was unranked in the final ISS rankings. The Avs look like they’re definitely trying to get bigger and tougher on the back end. The selections of Storm and Geersten, should they pan out, will help that.

7th Round (183): Wilhelm Westlund, D Farjestad Jr – Another from the unranked list.  Turns out he was the 15th ranked European skater. How the hell did the Avs get him this late?

Aside from having an extremely cool and villainous sounding name, there’s not a ton known about him other than he plays a head’s up game. Not big or physical, not an offensive dynamo. Sounds like most other Swedish defensemen, no?

The Avalanche didn’t need to do anything fancy, make a lot of trades, or deviate from the plan of attack. They got the best player available, added a potential top-six defenseman in the second round, and maybe even got a potential roster goaltender in the third.

Taking a risk on your later picks is alright and understandable – you’re not even close to getting a guaranteed commodity so why not take a risk on some potential?

Plus, when you got the best player in the draft, you can get a little cute towards the end. The Avs made themselves a better team today because MacKinnon will play this year and Bigras could potentially join him. Good, quiet draft by the Avs.

Grade: A-

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