Colorado Avalanche: Should They Choose Defense First Round?


The Colorado Avalanche have the #10 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Will they use that pick to select a defenseman? Should they?

The Colorado Avalanche have a much-maligned defensive corps. The negative reputation is somewhat deserved — the Avs have a terrible shots differential (-301, which is “good” for 27th in the NHL), and all the defensemen were in the minus category last season. To be fair, almost all the players were in the minus category.

In fact, that last statement highlights a problem with the Colorado Avalanche — none of them play well enough defensively.

Well, the 2016 NHL Draft is coming up June 24 and 25, which is a time the team could potentially fill any vacancies in the roster. The Avalanche have the tenth-overall pick, in addition to #40, #71 and #131. (Nothing in the fourth round because they traded the pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for winger Shawn Matthias.)

There are a lot of talented players in this year’s draft. However, this year’s crop has several defensemen who could go around the tenth-overall pick. Could the Colorado Avalanche use the selection to choose a defenseman? Let’s look first at who they could get.

Defense Prospects for the Colorado Avalanche

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Jakob Chychrun, Olli Juolevi, Charlie McAvoy and Mikhail Sergachev are the top-rated defensemen in the 2016 NHL Draft. All skating in North American leagues, Central Scouting has them rated #s 4,5,6 and 8 respectively, which means they can go as high as sixth-overall and as low as 12th-overall once you account for skaters from the European leagues. (Indeed, the projected top three — Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi — are all playing in Europe.)

We have already written draft profiles for two of these four defensemen:

However, let’s run through all their qualities.

Jakob Chychrun is a left-shooting defenseman currently serving as an alternate captain for the Sarnia Sting. He’s good-sized at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds. He has a strong two-way game with excellent skating and physicality. He’s a puck-moving defenseman with a potent shot and great first pass. He was one of the players who received an A grade at the scouting combine. He’s projected to go in the first five picks, though he could fall as low as #7.

Right behind Chychrun is Ollie Juolevi. Another left-handed shot, Juolevi is about the same size (6-foot-2, 183 pounds) and currently playing for the London Knights. He’s less physical than Chychrun, but he dazzles with his skating and stick work. He plays all 200 feet of the ice. Juolevi might still be available at #10, though he’ll probably go at least a couple picks earlier.

Charlies McAvoy is far more likely to still be available at #10. Playing NCAA hockey with Boston University, the 6-foot-1, 211-pound right-shooter is a level-headed player with superb skating and puck skills. He loves to jump into plays and hit.

Mikhail Sergachev could also still be available at tenth-overall. He’s another left-hand shot with good size — a beefy 6-foot-2, 221 pounds. He plays a dominant two-way game with an off-the-charts compete level. He displays the fluid skating typically of Russians as well as creativity with the puck. Currently playing for the Windsor Spitfires, he served as an alternate captain for his native Russia’s under-18 IIHF team.

Colorado Avalanche History of Drafting Defensemen

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It’s not that the Colorado Avalanche don’t draft defensemen — obviously they do. They simply rarely do so in the first round, and with good reason. remember Peter Ratchuk and Kevin Grimes? Yeah, neither do I — they were first-round defenseman picks (#25 and #26) in 1996 and 1997 respectively. They never played for the Colorado Avalanche.

And then there was poor Duncan Siemens, chosen 11th-overall in 2011. A hard-nosed defenseman, he’s played exactly one game with the Avalanche in five years.

The best defenseman first-rounder the Colorado Avalanche got was, of course, Kevin Shattenkirk. He went 14th-overall in 2007. The Colorado Avalanche traded him for current cornerstone defenseman Erik Johnson.

So, the Colorado Avalanche haven’t had good luck selecting first-round defensemen who fit the team. Indeed, head coach  — and VP of hockey operations — Patrick Roy has stated more than once that he doesn’t believe in drafting defensemen too high because they take too long to develop.

Related Story: What the Avs Really Need on Defense

Possibility of the Colorado Avalanche Picking a D First Round

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It’s highly unlikely the Colorado Avalanche will select a defenseman with their tenth-overall draft pick. They haven’t had good luck selecting d-men in the first round, and coach Roy doesn’t believe it’s a good idea — and he has final word when it comes to player personnel.

That said, it could also depend on who’s still available at #10.

I don’t see the team spending their tenth-overall on Charlie McAvoy. For whatever reason they tend to shy away from college players lately. Plus, they currently don’t need another right-hand shot.

I somehow don’t see them selecting Mikhail Sergachev either. While it’s true his size, skating and leadership abilities make him fit with the Colorado Avalanche mold, I think they might consider him too high-risk.

If by some happenstance Jakob Chychrun or Jesse Puljujarvi were still available, I think they’d be hard-pressed to pass the player by. Both of them could potentially make an impact in the NHL within a year or less.

Next: Would Jacob Trouba be Good for the Avs?

However, as it stands, the Colorado Avalanche have decent defensive prospects. With the likely regular addition of Nikita Zadorov and Chris Bigras, the Avs’ blueline is going to be very young. I think the team is far more likely to acquire a defenseman via trade or free agency than the draft, though second round is a distinct possibility.