2011 Colorado Avalanche Draft Primer: Colorado First Round Recap

With two selections in the first 11 picks, the 2011 NHL Draft could be a historic event for the Avalanche.

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2011 Colorado Avalanche Draft: First Round Recap

After a long and controversial first day of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche have a completely different team for next season.

First, the surprising news. John-Michael Liles was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second round selection in 2012. There will obviously be mixed feelings on this trade, but it had been rumored for several seasons at the trade deadline. Colorado was able to extract a second round selection in 2012 -- a much deeper and higher quality draft than 2011. Liles was unlikely to stay past this final year of his contract, and was coming off a career offensive year for Colorado. They swapped him for maximum value in the 2012 Draft, making room for another puck-moving defenseman like rookie top prospects Stefan Elliott or Tyson Barrie.

Once the draft started, Colorado held the second overall selection. They selected winger Gabriel Landeskog, the only NHL-ready forward available in this draft. Landeskog is a physical winger that holds plenty of intangibles and projects as an easy 25 goal per season player. He's the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year this season, and fills a desperate need for a power wing. Pair him with Matt Duchene and David Jones? That is an extremely skilled and physical second line that would force any team to refocus their defensive resources.

With the 11th overall selection -- acquired from the St. Louis Blues -- the Avalanche selected defenseman Duncan Siemens. An extremely physical defenseman, Siemens has an Adam Foote ceiling in his physicality and aggressiveness. He still needs to develop his puck-handling skills in the Juniors for now, but he's a dramatic change from recent Avalanche drafts where undersized defensemen like Barrie, Elliott, or Kevin Shattenkirk were the norm. Siemens has a top pairing ceiling, and his physicality should stand out in the Avalanche system.

Overall, this draft was a success for the Avalanche. Landeskog fills a need for a physical winger and is NHL ready. The Avalanche passed on players with higher ceilings (like Jonathan Huberdeau or Sean Couturier) and selected a player that will provide immediate offensive help. What does this pick suggest? The Avalanche are going to be aggressive in the free agent market this offseason and may sign a goalie and multiple veteran defensemen. The Landeskog selection suggests that the Avalanche believe they can compete in the very near future.

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2011 Colorado Avalanche Draft Primer: Final Draft Predictions

The wait is finally over. Colorado Avalanche fans that suffered through a dreadful spring finally get their reward: two of the first 11 picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. With so many mixed reports out, including mock drafts that have connected Colorado to as many as four different players with the second overall pick alone, it should be an exciting event.

SB Denver is throwing their hat into the ring, as we predict the first round action for the Avalanche.

With the second overall selection, the Colorado Avalanche will select...

C Jonathan Huberdeau

Huberdeau has become the hot name on NHL draft boards this spring with his meteoric rise into a top five selection. He has elite offensive center upside, works hard, and creates great offensive opportunities for his linemates. There are concerns about his defensive focus and overall size, but he projects as a future All-Star and 30+ goal scorer.

It's a pleasantly difficult decision that Colorado is faced with at second overall. Top prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is likely to go first overall, either to the Edmonton Oilers or via trade to the Florida Panthers, leaving defenseman Adam Larsson and center Huberdeau on the board.

Flash back to 2009: Colorado holds the third overall selection. The New York Islanders take center John Tavares first overall, leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning to decide between NHL ready defSwedish defenseman Victor Hedman or high upside (but undersized) center Matt Duchene.

In that 2009 draft, the Lightning selected Hedman second overall and Duchene fell to the Avalanche. Hedman has been a solid player tor Tampa Bay, but has not yet developed into the shutdown defenseman they had hoped. Colorado, on the other hand, couldn't be happier with the results of 2009.

Huberdeau may have more question marks than Duchene, but it winds up being a similar choice. By all accounts, Huberdeau is a hard worker and is committed to improving his game. His overall offensive ceiling may actually be higher, as he projects as more of a goal scorer.Colorado has built substantial depth at center, and there's no reason to believe they won't continue building down the middle of the ice.

That's what you are supposed to do when drafting so high -- you grab the potential home run selection instead of the safe pick. Larsson may turn into a sturdy defenseman and a potential All-Star, but his ceiling is nowhere as high as Huberdeau's ceiling. A future core of Matt Duchene, Joey Hishon, Ryan O'Reilly, and Jonathan Huberdeau is too tempting for GM Greg Sherman to pass up.

With the 11th selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche will select...

G Jonathan Bernier, as part of a package trade with the Los Angeles Kings.

There are not a ton of top prospects in this draft, as many agree there are only 12-14 NHL-likely players available. The Avalanche's 11th pick (received from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart) may hold more value to other teams than to Colorado. The Kings have made waves this year, trading their top prospect center Brayden Schenn to Philadelphia in exchange for center Mike Richards. As it currently stands, they no longer have a pick in the first two rounds of the draft. (Their first round pick went to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Dustin Penner as a deadline deal.) WIth Jonathan Quick settled into the starting goaltender role, the value of top prospect Bernier is diminished significantly -- in LA.

Bernier (rated as the #3 overall prospect in the NHL by Hockey's Future) is ready to become the #1 goaltender right now. Colorado happens to be in severe need of a goalie of the future. The Avalanche get their netminder for the next five years, and the Kings get to turn a diminishing asset into a quality prospect that will hopefully offset the cost of obtaining Richards.

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2011 Colorado Avalanche Draft Primer: What To Do With The 11th Pick?

The Colorado Avalanche currently hold two of the top 30 selections in the first round of this year's NHL Entry Draft: the second overall, and the 11th overall they received via trade from the St. Louis Blues.

The Edmonton Oilers (#1 and #19) and Toronto Maple Leafs (#25 and #30) also hold two first round selections this year. The Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, and Blues do not own a first round selection this year.

We've already covered the likely prospects that could be selected with the second overall pick, but what happens at #11? Colorado has three options, all of them with their own unique advantages.

Pick At #11 Overall

Colorado wanted this pick in their trade with the St. Louis Blues as a way of evening out the swap. The Avalanche got the best player in the trade (Erik Johnson) while the Blues got two quality players drafted in the first round (Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart). This pick represents a redraft, an opportunity for Colorado to add young talent.

At 11th overall, the Avalanche are in a great place. Quality defensemen like Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murphy, Oscar Klefbom, and Nathan Beaulieu are projected to be available around that pick. Any of these players would make for an immediate influx of talent into their future blue line (if Colorado selects Adam Larsson second overall) or quality balance in the first round (if Colorado selects a forward first). Two of the top 11 picks in the draft will almost always give you a quality draft. The Avalanche wouldn't mind taking a player at both spots.

Move Up Into Top Ten

With such an odd draft this year, as no two scouts can agree on the top players, it's possible that a player that Colorado really desires begins to fall out of the top five or six selections. Here's a distinct possibility:

The New York Islanders are said to covet defenseman Dougie Hamilton. If they select Hamilton with the fifth overall pick, then a player like Sean Couturier or Gabriel Landeskog (both have been mentioned as top three talents) could slip down to between eighth and 10th in the draft. If that happens, the Avalanche are likely to make a move up several spots in the draft to select that player. A draft haul of Landeskog and Larsson? Couturier and Huberdeau? Sign me up.

The cost to move up a couple of positions wouldn't be too major (potentially a second round pick in next year's draft) and the Avalanche could wind up with two top five talents out of the same draft class. It's a dream scenario, certainly, but not completely unheard of in the NHL draft world.

Trade Down, Gain Assets

Of course, the opposite could also be true. There could be no players at #11 that the Avalanche covet. With this draft class, most talent evaluators conclude that the top tiers of quality NHL caliber talent end around picks 12-14 -- giving Colorado the catbird seat.

If there are no players they truly want to select, the Avalanche would likely find plenty of suitors willing to part with quality assets in exchange for that pick. Considering Colorado's recent success at discovering undervalued quality talent in the second and third rounds (Ryan O'Reilly, Calvin Pickard, Tyson Barrie, Stefan Elliott), it wouldn't be surprising to see the Avalanche move down in the first round and gain a second or third round pick in this draft or 2012. With plenty of holes in their farm system currently, it could be a good value to add multiple high-upside players instead of one player they don't completely love at #11 overall.

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2011 Colorado Avalanche Draft Primer: Meet The Top Five Prospects

The Colorado Avalanche have the second overall selection in this year's 2011 NHL Entry Draft -- their highest pick since moving to Denver in 1995. With essentially the entire board at their disposal, whose name do you want to hear when the Avalanche are on the clock?

Let's go shopping for the next Colorado superstar!

Do you love elite playmaking centers?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Bio: Born April 12, 1993. Center, WHL Red Deer. 6'0", 170 pounds with a wiry frame. Shoots left.

Nugent-Hopkins is as close to an unanimous top talent as you'll find in this draft. He has been praised by every talent evaluator in the game for his vision, which has been called the best seen in the draft since Wayne Gretzky. He has okay speed, but great skating and could develop a lethal shot.

Hockey Prospectus

Nugent-Hopkin's puck skills are elite and you can't say enough good things about what he does with the puck. His combination of vision, hands, and passing ability are the best in the draft and truly separate him as a prospect from the rest of the class.

Love: Vision, playmaking ability, puck handling skills. Favorable comparisons to Joe Sakic.

Red Flags: Size. He'll always be a below average sized forward and will have to learn to play without a physical presence.

Do you love mobile, advanced top-tier defensemen?

Adam Larsson

Bio: Born November 12, 1992. Defenseman, SEL Skelleftea HC. 6'2", 200 pounds and a solid physical frame. Shoots right.

The top defenseman in this draft, and by quite a bit. Larsson is near NHL-ready and has been playing in the SEL against much older men since he was 16. He is rated as above average in almost every scouting metric and is praised for his advanced hockey sense. He plays older than his years and should become a good to very good NHL defenseman.

Hockey Prospectus

The hockey sense as a whole is an above-average tool as he shows a very calm approach to the game and thinks it well. His defensive game is multi-dimensional in that he uses his positioning, stick and physicality to stop forwards.

Love: Composure, size, skating, mobility, very high floor, good hockey IQ.

Red Flags: Unknown offensive potential, very good (but not elite) ceiling.

Do you have a passion for defensively responsible centers and obtainable quality offensive ceilings?

Sean Couturier

Bio: Born December 7, 1992. Center, QMJHL Drummondville Voltigeurs. Good body size at 6'4" and 195 pounds, still growing. Shoots left.

Couturier was viewed as a potential first overall selection in this year's draft prior to the regular season, but he was weakened by a bout with mononucleosis, limiting his playing effectiveness as he merely repeated his numbers from the previous year. Now he's viewed as a player who can go anywhere between second and 10th overall in this draft as other players have passed him up. He has a good frame and should grow into becoming a physical player. Responsible defensively, he is above average at most skills -- though not elite in any of them.

Hockey Prospectus

He does so many little things right and at a quality level, be it on the forecheck, positioning, play in front of the net, on defense that's it's hard to imagine him needed a significant amount of coaching at the technical level when he goes pro.

Love: His overall game, potential to become a very good physical forward. Great hockey IQ, good passing. Safe pick for a quality NHL forward.

Red Flags: Below average skater. Very good offensive ceiling, but not elite.

Do you want a full grown winger who can crash the net?

Gabriel Landeskog

Bio: Born November 3, 1992. Winger, OHL Kitchener Rangers. NHL ready frame at 6'0" and 207 pounds. Shoots left.

Landeskog is the most NHL-ready player in the entire draft and used his fully developed frame to physically dominate defensemen in the OHL this past season, scoring 66 points in 53 games. He is a very strong skater and has an extremely high work ethic. Good defensive abilities and has no trouble playing at both ends of the rink effectively. High intangibles and leadership skills, and many scouts see him as a potential future NHL captain.

Hockey Prospectus

He's a plus physical player along the boards, in the crease and in open ice with a frame that is filled out way beyond the average teenager and the physical maturity will be able to transition to the pro game next year and be a threat in that aspect.

Love: NHL ready, strong skater. Profiles as a 25 goal per season scorer with good defensive skills, quality work ethic.

Red Flags: Near his NHL ceiling already. Dominating physical style may not translate to NHL effectively. Profiles as solid player, but not a game changer.

Do you want the wildcard -- a hardworking center with great stick skills and top line All-Star potential?

Jonathan Huberdeau

Bio: Born June 4, 1993. Center, QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs. Room to grow at 6'1" and 170 pounds. Shoots left.

Huberdeau wasn't on many draft boards at the beginning of this season. He made a name for himself with a great regular season, but really shot up as a top five selection after an incredible playoff run as QMJHL playoff MVP. He may have the most offensive upside of anyone in this class not named Nugent-Hopkins, and is likely the best potential scorer on the board. A fantastic slasher with the puck and a great finisher, he would benefit from a play-making center on his line.

Hockey Prospectus

He shows unique creativity on the ice and can make plays with the puck that most pros even can't, be it making mid-distance passes from awkward angles or maintaining control of the puck while deking through the tightest of spaces. He regularly makes above-average passes and shows no signs of selfishness.

Love: Offensive upside may be unmatched in the draft. Great passer and finisher. Excellent puck handling skills.

Red Flags: Can be irresponsible on defense, meteoric rise makes him the riskiest pick but with the most potential offensive upside.

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These are the top five options in this year's draft class. One of the above players will hear his name called by the Colorado Avalanche during the first round; one of these players will hopefully become the next franchise player that Colorado can build around in the future.

Based on these descriptions, who do you want to see Colorado select?

Check out SB Nation Denver's preferred choice on Draft Day.

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2011 Colorado Avalanche Draft Primer: Recent Draft History

Before we discover who the Colorado Avalanche will take in the 2011 NHL Draft, it makes sense to look at who the team has taken in recent years. Here's a brief history of the team's drafts since the Salary Cap Era began in 2005.

The first three years of the Cap Era (2005-2007) were a mixed bag, as Colorado tried bolstering an expensive and aging roster by borrowing against their future. These drafts suffered from a lack of commitment to a full rebuild, setting the franchise through a painful period of mediocrity. Not good enough to draft young talent, not wealthy enough to continue spending via free agency.

In 2008, the Avalanche finally learned from years of struggling to maintain their success in a salary cap world and hired new scouting personnel, including new Director of Amateur Scouting Richard Pracey. The following three drafts were under his watch and more accurately reflect the current draft strategy of the Colorado front office.

2008

First Round: None. This pick was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Adam Foote during the 2008 season.

Second Round: Cameron Gaunce -- The Avalanche made their first pick of the draft count, as they selected a big, physical defenseman in Gaunce. He made his debut during the 2010-2011 season, and will be a strong candidate to make the Opening Night roster this fall.

Fifth Round: Mark Olver -- Olver is an undersized forward who saw limited time in an Avalanche sweater this past season. He is a strong candidate to make the team as a bottom six forward this upcoming season.

Sixth Round: Joel Chouinard -- This defenseman has made his way steadily up the Avalanche prospect list, being ranked #5 in Hockey Future's organizational ranking. He played in AHL Lake Erie last season with the possibility of an injury replacement next season.

Sixth Round: Jonas Holos -- This Norwegian defenseman was a regular fixture on the Avalanche blue line the second half of last season, and played well enough for a rookie. He should be penciled in as one of the final defensemen to make the team next season.

A solid first draft from Pracey that selected multiple quality defensemen for the long term. The organization is now starting to reap the benefits of this defense-centric draft. 

2009

First Round: Matt Duchene -- Colorado was able to select the best forward in the draft with the third overall pick (the franchise's highest selection since moving to Colorado). They have not regretted the pick, as Duchene made the team the first season after being drafted and has performed at an All-Star level.

Second Round: Ryan O'Reilly -- Two rounds, two home runs. In the second round, Colorado selected O'Reilly who was projected as a defensive-oriented forward. Like Duchene, he made the Opening Roster and became the team's best special teams forward his first season -- unheard of for a rookie. This past season, he saw time as a winger and began discovering his offensive touch. The ceiling may have been raised on O'Reilly, and he has become one of the team's franchise players.

Second Round: Stefan Elliott -- The hits keep coming. Elliott was named WHL Eastern Conference Defenseman of the Year this past season after scoring 81 points in 71 games as a defenseman. He is a major reason that Colorado was willing to let Kevin Shattenkirk go as part of the Erik Johnson trade.

Third Round: Tyson Barrie -- Barrie is another top defensive prospect. He was named WHL Western Conference Defenseman of the Year (sweeping the conference awards for Colorado prospects). Barrie scored 58 points in 54 games, giving the Avalanche plenty of depth with offensive-minded defensemen on the farm. 

While it usually takes several seasons to evaluate NHL drafts, it's difficult to find another team that did better than Colorado in 2009. They found two starting centers (including one All-Star), and two potential quality defensemen who can play both ways and contribute on the power play. This is the type of draft that can turn a franchise completely around, and Colorado has already profited from this class.

2010

First Round: Joey Hishon -- Hishon wasn't viewed as a first rounder heading into the draft. Talented? Sure. The center had suffered through multiple injuries the previous season and his draft stock slipped. Colorado caused many to scratch their heads when they selected him in the middle of the first round, and Hishon has produced. The undersized center scored 86 points in 50 games in the OHL, then led his Owen Sound Attack to the league championship with 24 points in 22 playoff games. He recently signed an entry level contract with the Avalanche, and could see some time on the roster this season.

Second Round: Calvin Pickard -- The Avalanche have always struggled to develop goalies. They may have their long-time solution in Pickard. Though he's only 19, he is showing quite a bit of promise in the WHL. Pickard faced 500 more shots than his closest competitor and still tied for third in the league with a .916 SV%. He recently signed an entry level contract with Colorado and could see some playing time in net for the Avalanche in a couple of years.

Third Round: Michael Bournival -- Another undersized center, Bournival had an excellent season in the QMJHL, scoring 64 points in 56 games. Colorado traded him this past season to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who added stability to the Avalanche blue line.

Another quality draft, as the Avalanche selected players that may have fallen on other team's draft boards for various reasons. The Hishon selection demonstrates a trust between the Avalanche front office and their scouting department -- and a willingness to take a chance on a high-quality player that may have slipped.

What Have We Learned?

The current Colorado scouting team really knows how to scout and develop undersized centers. They value players with speed and vision, and the ability to create opportunities for other players. Unfortunately, the organization is short on those playmakers. The lack of quality wingers on the team and within the farm system is a disturbing trend, and one that the Avalanche need to correct.

One of their greatest assets is a greater willingness to dig deeper in the draft. The Avalanche have shown a knack for finding diamonds in the rough (O'Reilly, Pickard, Barrie) and by going off the standard draft board with riskier picks in the middle rounds. The Hishon selection in particular suggests that we may see a complete unknown drafted at #11 in the first round.

Colorado also loves to draft smaller, offensive-minded defensemen who can move the puck beyond the blue line. With the emphasis on offense, there are few prospects that are comfortable sitting back in the zone. Combined with a lack of quality goaltending, this can be disastrous (see: 2010-2011).

Recent trades have shown the Avalanche front office moving away from the smaller defensemen model -- especially the acquisitions of Erik Johnson and Ryan O'Byrne -- and represent a significant philosophical shift that will likely continue on Draft Day.

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