For the first time in a while, the Colorado Avalanche are not relying on the draft for an immediate impact player.
The Colorado Avalanche are in unfamiliar territory — unreliant on the results of this year’s draft.
I have always gotten a kick out of any sports draft. I enjoy them probably more than most and like everyone else I am waiting on the edge of my seat to see who my teams, namely the Colorado Avalanche, will select to be the newest member of their franchise.
The past few years the Avs have been at the top of the board when it comes to making their selection. Some of that was due to mediocrity and some of that was due to the crafty GM skills of Joe Sakic (thanks Ottawa). However, this year the Colorado Avalanche can sit back and let their draft board and the players they have ranked come to them, and in the end the Avs will get what Joe Sakic loves, a piece of the puzzle.
Drafts, no matter the sport, is a celebration of the worst teams. We dissect and nitpick what the worst team in the league is going to do to try and make themselves better with the overall #1 pick and when they eventually make that selection we dissect and nitpick how this newly acquired teenager will suddenly turn around the fortunes of the lower class of the league from the previous year.
As each pick goes by, our analysis slowly turns from the up and coming prospects and future stars to the teams that made the playoffs and made a run for the Cup and how they are acquiring pieces to the puzzle that will make them even better in the years to come.
That is where the Colorado Avalanche are, finally.
Despite making the playoffs the previous three seasons (including this year’s playoffs if they indeed happen), the Avalanche have been a busy team when the draft rolls around because they have been at the top of the draft board and have been that team acquiring new talent to make them the team they are today. When this year’s draft rolls around the Avs will have a late round pick somewhere in the late 20’s and have no pressure upon them to make a deal to send them up the draft board and possibly stretch for a player they might need.
This is not a position the Avs find themselves in often. Look at their draft history and the majority of the time they are selecting in the top half of the first round. With the exception of a smattering of late first round picks, the Avs are usually in that mid to top pick category. Once this year comes to an official end, we know this season the Avs will be towards the end of the first round.
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You know who loves this more than anyone? Joe Sakic. Sakic has proven to be a master at finding not only talent, but talent that meshes with the type of team he wants to create and cultivate. Not only that, he can now sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor and let a player fall to him in the late selections of the first round that he can place into his bag of prospects and say ‘no rush, take your time’.
Teams picking late in the draft don’t normally get the coverage the teams picking early in the draft do and with good reason. For example, look at the draft class of 2013 when Nathan MacKinnon was selected #1 overall. We all know him, we all love him, he’s a superstar.
Now take a look at the names at the bottom of the first round in that draft. Since the Avs will most likely be picking somewhere in the 25-31 range, here are the players taken from picks 25 – 30 in that draft: (side note: Andre Burakovsky was selected 23rd in this draft by Washington)
25: Montreal Canadiens – Michael McCarron
26: Anaheim Ducks – Shea Theodore
27: Columbus Blue Jackets – Marko Dano
28: Calgary Flames – Morgan Klimchuk
29: Dallas Stars – Jason Dickinson
30: Chicago Blackhawks – Ryan Hartman
Not exactly names that jump off the page, and with the exception of Hartman and Theodore none have made much of a respectable impact for their respective teams. In fact only Dano and Dickinson are still with the team that drafted them (after a brief sojourn with the Avs).
If you look at the drafts that follow the pattern seems to remain the same. Good pieces of a puzzle going to teams that need to fill a need to plug a hole or for later use. However, sometimes teams strike gold. Names like David Pastrnak (#25 to the Bruins in 2014), Travis Konecny (#24 to the Flyers) and Yevgeni Kuznetsov (#26 to the Capitals) are a few names found at the bottom of the first round that have become household names.
This is the position the Colorado Avalanche are in. They will do their due diligence, pick the player they feel best suits their needs and see what happens in a couple years. That isn’t off the mark from how picks in deep in the first round go, but the difference for the Avalanche here is if the player doesn’t pan out to be what they thought, no real harm done. They have built up their talent pool that they can afford a miss. If he turns out to be a Pastrnak, however, we’ve added to the arsenal.
I won’t go into a prediction of exactly who I think the Avalanche will select in this draft. It’s way too early for that and we aren’t locked into where the Avs will pick yet. But, I will say I have all the faith in the world in Joe Sakic’s ability to find quality in every acquisition he makes, so while getting the next David Pastrnak is always a longshot, getting someone who will contribute to this hockey club in future seasons is completely feasible.
Either way, the Colorado Avalanche and Joe Sakic are in a place they have not been in a while when it comes to the draft and it’s all thanks to what the Avs GM has accomplished in previous years. Now he can take somewhat of a breather knowing the team he has assembled is having success on the ice while he starts to take a look at the next possible prospect to add in his sea of talent.