NHL Draft: What If Avalanche Had Picked Vlasic Over Ryan Stoa?


The 2005 NHL Draft mainly featured one very big name: Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first overall selection. Just a few days ago, Crosby joined the Triple Gold Club — the group of players and coaches that have won an Olympic Games gold medal, a World Championship gold medal and the Stanley Cup. That achievement ultimately made Crosby one of the big hockey legends. But there were 229 other players selected as well.

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With the 34th pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, the Colorado Avalanche selected center Ryan Stoa out of the US NTDP. Stoa went on to play four seasons of NCAA hockey at the University of Minnesota, before joining the pros. He only appeared in 38 games for the Avalanche, recording a total of seven points. After two seasons with the Washington Capitals organization, Stoa decided to cross the Atlantic and play for Metallurg Novokuznetsk in the Russian KHL.

The Avalanche’s pick was sandwiched by 33rd overall pick James Neal, who was drafted by the Dallas Stars and is now with the Nashville Predators, and the 35th overall pick Marc-Édouard Vlasic, who was drafted by the San José Sharks and is still with the team. Both Neal and Vlasic are having great successful NHL careers, just like some other players that were later selections in the draft.

Feb 5, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) warms up against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The San Jose Sharks won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

A question that is hard to talk about but should be talked about is this: where would the Avalanche be today, if they had selected defenseman Marc-Édouard Vlasic over Ryan Stoa in the 2005 NHL Draft? As opposed to Stoa, Vlasic has spent nine full seasons in the NHL so far. In 2014, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound defenseman added an Olympic gold medal with Sidney Crosby and Team Canada in Sochi.

As if having a player like that on your team wasn’t awesome enough, a left-handed top-pairing defenseman happens to be the biggest need on the Avalanche roster right now. Erik Johnson has had Jan Hejda as his partner for quite some time now and for the most part, they have been very solid. But imagine a Vlasic-Johnson pairing instead. A whole different level.

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So where would the Avalanche be, if they had another No. 1 defenseman instead of, well, nothing? Quite possibly, the team would be much better. As we all know, the Colorado Avalanche are one of the worse possession teams. It was like that last season and again this season. According to NHL.com, the Avalanche are 29th in shot-attempts with -984 — only the Buffalo Sabres are worse (-1,789).

Marc-Édouard Vlasic, however, is one of the better possession-players. In 2013-14, Vlasic was first in SAT among teammates at 420. This season, he was nowhere near those numbers, mainly because the whole San José team struggled throughout most of the season. Still, he is seventh in SAT among teammates at 89.

A player like Vlasic can be enough to change the outcome of a game.

Furthermore, Vlasic is simply a great player offensively and defensively. Coming out of junior hockey as an offensive defenseman, he gained a lot of muscle mass and changed his style towards a more defensive game. Today, he is a well-rounded player that contributes in every situation. Along with Brent Burns, Vlasic is arguably the best Sharks defenseman.

A player like Vlasic can be enough to change the outcome of a game. For example, that game could be a game seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the rivaled Minnesota Wild. In 2014, that game was lost in overtime. Ryan Stoa was thousands of miles away and Marc-Édouard Vlasic was a member of the San José Sharks.

In the 2014-15 season, Vlasic could have been a huge improvement of a team that is mainly lacking defensive quality, especially on the left side. He could have been the one improvement that it takes to get the ten points Colorado was missing to reach the playoffs.

Beside Sidney Crosby, there were 229 other players selected in the 2005 NHL Draft. One of them was Ryan Stoa, another one Marc-Édouard Vlasic. While Vlasic is at least somewhat close to Crosby’s success, Stoa is not even in the league anymore.

The Colorado Avalanche could have selected Vlasic, but they didn’t. However, looking back at what could have been does not help. What Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy have to do now is to find other defensemen and ways to win.

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