Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Conner Bleackley poses for a photo with team officials after being selected as the number twenty-three overall pick to the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche 2014 Draft Picks Analysis

So, Brendan Lemieux has gone on record as stating he’s going to come gunning for the Colorado Avalanche:

“There are a few teams there — Colorado — that really stung, but like I said, I’m definitely going to love going in their arenas and making it hard on their guys because they decided to pass me over.”

Brendan, of course, is the son of the pricklier of 1990s Lemieux — Claude, not Mario — and by all accounts he’s a chip off the old nettle tree. So, let’s see what the Avalanche got for their (future) trouble.

Conner Bleackley, center, #23 (first round)

“Obviously, I’m ecstatic (about being drafted). For a while now, I have really been thinking about that pick. If there is one place I had to go, that was the place I would want to go. Now that it has happened, it’s really a dream come true.” — Conner Bleackley
The Bleackley pick caught a lot of the Avs Nation by surprise. Not one analyst outside of the Avalanche organization had him picked as a possibility for Colorado’s first pick. In fact, NHL Central Scouting prospected him to go second round.

Well, sometimes the Avalanche make the obvious choice (Nathan MacKinnon), and sometimes they look for the diamond in the rough (Ryan O’Reilly). Bleackley’s shaping up to be a diamond for sure.

During a press podcast, Avalanche chief amateur scout Rick Pracey said of Bleackley that he’s a competitive player with good leadership abilities who’s strong on the puck. In fact, he stated that the Avalanche organization had some “anxious moments waiting” for their #23 turn in case somebody else chose Bleackley. Pracey explained:

“We put a high amount of prominence on the character of a player.”

Well, young Bleackely became captain of his Red Deer Rebels at 17 years old, and that’s a rarity for major junior teams. That shows character.

While Brendan Lemieux went 31st overall, to the Buffalo Sabres, earlier than the following players, they still represent some of the young talent the Colorado Avalanche organization put their faith in.

Kyle Wood, defense (#84, third round)

Wood’s a tall boy — 6-foot-4, so Erik Johnson height — but a bit on the willowy side at 195 pounds. Ok, willowy for a defenseman. (Johnson’s always been listed at 230 pounds.)

Wood’s another potential diamond in the rough, but Pracey has faith in him, too:

“He’s a great big, two-way defenseman who I think at the next level probably projects into that defensive (type) player. We like that he’s a bigger guy who takes his time and thinks with the puck.”

“(Wood) is a player that’s a little unheard of, simply because he was injured the first half of the year.”– Avalanche chief amateur scout Rick Pracey
One of the bonuses of Wood is that he’s a right-handed shot, which is prized in hockey. Except the Avalanche’s cornerstone of defense, Erik Johnson, and their prize rover, Tyson Barrie, are also right-handed shots. Since right-on-right action generally is not ideal, that’ means Wood may eventually be slated for the third defensive pairing — if and when it gets to that point.

Nicholas Magyar, right wing, (#93, fourth round)

Magyar played for the Kitchener Rangers — captain Gabriel Landeskog’s old team — in the OHL. He led those Rangers in scoring with 20 goals and 26 assists for 46 points in 66 games. Another big boy at 6-foot-2, 194 pounds, Magyar also represented the United States in the 2012 Youth Olympic Games.

According to Central Scouting, Magyar has good hockey IQ. He’s a physical player with an effective forecheck. And he’s got game — cycle game, that is, which is an under-appreciated aspect of a player’s skill.

Alexis Pepin, left wing, (#114, fourth round)

Pepin is a bona fide big player at 6-foot-2, 229 pounds. That’s some power forward size, impressive in an 18-year-old. Indeed, Central Scouting uses the term “hulking” to describe Pepin.

As hulks usually are, Pepin’s a mite slow on skates so far. He’s been making up for it with physical play and a bomb of a shot. The Avalanche, of course, play “run and gun” hockey, so Pepin will probably focus on the “run” aspect of his game. (Though “hit and gun” has worked for teams such as the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.)

Anton Lindholm, defenseman, (#144, fifth round)

Lindholm is not a big boy — in fact, he’s Matt Duchene size, which is small for a defenseman. Actually, he’s lighter than Duchene — lighter even than Barrie. That’s ok, though — he still needs some maturing.

The Swedish Lindholm — and Swedes do tend to work out for the Avalanche — has been moving up in the Swedish hockey system. He recorded six points with his hometown junior team, Skelleftea. He also played in seven professional games last season.

Maximilian Pajpach, goal tender, (#174, sixth round)

The Avalanche took a time out before selecting Pajpach. No one was sure they were allowed to do that, but Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy looked confident of their right, so no one argued with them.

Pajpach’s probably an outlier. Central Scouting ranked the Slovak as ninth best among European goalies. Of course, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, another European, went even later in his draft, and look how that worked out for them.

The Avalanche are indicating a surprising faith in European goalies, what with the Russian Semyon Varlomov, Swiss Reto Berra, Finnish Sami Aittokallio, recent prospect acquisition Czech Roman Will and , now, Pajpach. Pretty much unless the Avalanche acquire someone new, a European is going to be behind the Avalanche mask — unheard of in Avalanche history, but interesting.

Julien Nantel, forward, (#204, seventh round)

Nantel’s young — just 17. Central Scouting states he has good skating ability, a two-way game and ability to protect the puck. Apparently he needs to improve on his consistency, but, heck, what 17-year-old doesn’t. (Besides Nathan MacKinnon — he’s a once-a-generation guy.)

Nantel didn’t think he was going to get drafted this year, but he stuck around just in case. He admitted, though, that he started “getting anxious,” so he’s happy the Avalanche picked him up.  He compares his play to winger Michael Bournival, whom the Avalanche drafted but eventually traded to the Montreal Canadiens.

So, it’s unlikely Lemieux or any of the Avalanche’s 2014 picks will make their teams for the 2014-15 season. It’s more likely the Avs Nation will finally get a good look at 2010 pick Joey Hishon.

Respect to Lemieux junior, but the Avalanche did pretty well with their 2014 NHL draft haul. They’ll be just fine the couple times a year the Avs and Sabres meet.

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