Colorado Avalanche Roundtable: 2018 NHL Draft Hopes and Advice

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: General manager of the Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic attends the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: General manager of the Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic attends the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche will be heading to the podium for the #16 pick at the 2018 NHL Draft. We roundtable who we think Colorado should select.

The Colorado Avalanche are headed into the 2018 NHL Draft tomorrow. Naturally, the team’s scouts and front offices have their strategies. And, naturally, they’re not going to share the details.

However, this year ahead of the draft, Avs scout Alan Hepple did share some information with longtime Avs writer Rick Sadowski:

"“The one thing that we’ve looked at in conversations with [GM] Joe Sakic], he likes hockey sense, he likes speed. That’s kind of what we’re kind of pushing. Size has become a little bit of a different thing now in the National Hockey League … you have to have speed, you have to have hockey sense to compete.”"

He also shared that the Avalanche are going to choose the “best player available” when their #16 pick comes up. That’s nothing new.

In preparation for the draft, I asked some of our Mile High Sticking writers what they thought the Avs should and shouldn’t do.

Ross Kleppe starts out by questioning whether teams should draft “best available” or for need. However, he adds:

"“I am a big believer in drafting the best player available, and especially so in the case of the Avs. The most glaring weakness in this teams’ prospect pool is goaltending, and there isn’t a 1st round caliber goalie in this draft. Sure, take some flyers in the later rounds on a goalie or two, but not in the 1st round.”"

He sums up what kind of players he wants the team to select:

"“This draft is petty defense heavy in the first round, so it’s possible a highly skilled forward who should have gone before pick number 16 falls into Colorado’s lap. I will say, I don’t mind if they take a defenseman either. I just want them to take the best player available. I want the Avs to draft a scoring winger, mostly because that’s been a problem in Denver for as long as I can remember. A couple of those stand out to me. Joel Farabee is someone who if I was GM and he was available at 16, I would be tripping over myself running to that podium.”"

That said, Ross has special interest in another winger — Grigori Denisenko:

"“Grigori Denisenko is a player I think has a good chance to be available at 16, and I really like his game. To me, he fits exactly what the Avs are looking for. He’s a speedy winger who has crazy good puck skills. He didn’t put up big number playing in Russia and he’s undersized; this is a perfect recipe for teams to pass on a player with his skill set. As mentioned in his draft profile on The Hockey Writers, he’s easily a top-10 talent. The Avs are a fast team, and Denisenko is a player who can showcase his puck skills even at high speeds. He’s also a right handed shot, something that the Avs have none of up front besides Nathan MacKinnon and J.T. Compher. This isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but variety is always nice!”"

Anthony Noga has some clear ideas about what kind of player he’d like to see the Colorado Avalanche take:

"“Keep targeting skill and especially hockey sense, the things that are most valuable and hardest to teach. Speed is fun too, but should be secondary. It’s infinitely easier to teach a smart player like John Tavares to skate better than it is to teach a fast player like Matt Hunwick to read theplay well.”"

He does see where Colorado’s needs are:

"“The prospect/ young player base is filling up nicely, so the Avalanche can go for a nice even distribution of positions, maybe a bit heavier on forwards and goalies.”"

Anthony hasn’t done a deep dive into this year’s draft, so he’s not sweet on any of the players in particular. However, there are a couple natural standouts:

"“There are a few interesting names, notably Joel Farabee, Oliver Wahlstrom, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joe Veleno. Farabee looks like a great all-around winger, Wahlstrom has the makings of a top notch sniper. Veleno is intriguing because of his exceptional status in the CHL and how he took off after being traded this year, while Kotkaniemi looked like a decent option around 16 until rumours came out that Montreal is willing to trade back for him, or even take him at 3rd overall.”"

More from Mile High Sticking

Ross and Anthony definitely have some good points. I’d say I concur with some of those points. For example, I agree that speed is easier to teach than high-end hockey smarts are much harder to teach than speed otherwise Nail Yakupov would be our star winger next year.

On the topic of star wingers, I hope a scoring winger is who the Avs select. I feel like that’s a greater need than defense or even centermen for Colorado. I agree with drafting best available. However, past, say, the top eight, there are strengths and weaknesses to every player. Therefore, I’d like to see the Avalanche draft best player available for need.

In that vein, I have done a deep dive into the top 40 or so of this year’s draft class. Of the players who could potentially fall to the #16 selection, my order of preference is as follows:

  1. Vitali Kravtsov (RW)
  2. Joel Farabee (LW)
  3. Ty Smith (D)*
  4. Grigori Denisenko (LW)
  5. Joe Veleno (C)**

*I don’t think the Colorado Avalanche need to select a defenseman in the first round. However, if Ty Smith is available, the Avs will probably think they need to select a defenseman in the first round.

**Joe Veleno isn’t higher up because I sincerely doubt he’ll still be available at #16.

Vitali Kravtsov is my dream pick at #16. However, I think Colorado is more likely to end up with Joel Farabee, and that’s aces with me. Grigori Denisenko would be a lovely addition as well.

Next: Mock Draft for the 1st Round

The 2018 NHL Draft takes place in Dallas. The first round is June 22 at 5:30 PM MT. Rounds 2 to 7 take place June 23 starting 9 AM MT.