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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.
The Colorado Avalanche made a long suspected move just hours before the 2011 NHL Draft, sending veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a second round selection in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Liles has been a common trade-deadline target for several years, including rumors of a trade to the Maple Leafs for a third round selection at this year's deadline. The long-time Avalanche defenseman has played all seven years of his career in a Colorado sweater and scored 46 points last season in one of his better years. He'll provide offensive punch to a Toronto blue line that is desperately in need of scoring assistance.
It;s not surprising that the Avalanche obtained a second round pick -- they've had great success in recent years in the second round with Ryan O'Reilly, Calvin Pickard, and Stefan Elliott, among others. Considering the shallowness of the 2011 draft, a pick in 2012 may provide better long term value to the franchise.
Does this mean that Colorado is likely to select Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson with the second overall pick? This move could possibly pave the way towards a more responsible blue line. It could also allow the Avalanche to spend heavily on quality free agent defensemen this offseason.
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...
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...
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.
SB Nation Denver is pleased to welcome a very special guest, Mile High Hockey writer and draft guru, AJ Haefele. AJ was kind enough to give us his thoughts before the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
AJ Haefele: This class has been touted as a weaker class in terms of overall depth. I think in previous years you're looking at getting some talented prospects in rounds after 1 but this year there seems to be more of an interest in teams to move up and make something happen. For example, there's an awful lot of chatter about teams with picks later in the first who feel they have to get into the top 20 to get a prospect they like otherwise they'll be forced to pick from a big group prospects that don't really excite anybody in the scouting community.
The guys at the very top even have far more question marks this year than the ones in previous seasons. Two years ago you had a hierarchy of Tavares/Hedman/Duchene and those three were clear-cut top of the draft board. Last year it was all about Taylor vs. Tyler and the second tier started after that. This year, the draft seems to start with tier 2 prospects with the guys like Nugent-Hopkins/Larsson/
AJ Haefele: I have a gut-feeling the Avalanche are very high on Huberdeau and will likely draft him when they get the chance. As for personal preference, I'm a defense-first kind of guy so Adam Larsson is the guy I would love to see Colorado draft. It really says a lot to me that Larsson is still a top prospect despite having been under the heavy scrutiny of scouts for two years whereas a guy like Huberdeau wasn't prominently featured in the top 15 of most scouting services draft boards as late as February. His Memorial Cup run was excellent and has been the catalyst for his meteoric rise to the top of so many draft boards but I feel the Avalanche would be making the better choice in drafting Larsson.
AJ Haefele:This is something we won't have any idea about until the night of the draft because it all depends on how the board shakes out. Rick Pracey & Co. have recently stated in interviews they have a tiered prospect system and they are looking at drafting two prospects within the top two tiers of their board. I think if that somehow is unable to happen 11, there will be plenty of suitors looking to take advantage of the fact the Avs will not pick again until pick #92 - the top of the fourth round.
If they do draft at 11, there's so many viable prospects to choose from that I couldn't reasonably list all of them in this space.
AJ Haefele: Using the answer to question 3 as a springboard, I can absolutely see the Avalanche making a move. The 11th pick is very hot property because teams all have their top 10 prospects and if one of them drops, NHL GMs start getting jumpy and want to make a move. Teams sitting in the 12-16 range are the ones I expect to make the strongest push for the 11th pick as they are the ones who can move up without giving up too many pieces.
Personally, based on the idea that this draft thins out in quality talent relatively quickly, I'd be happier taking two of the 11 best prospects in the entire draft instead of moving back and trying to take a swing with more flawed prospects.
Thanks again to AJ Haefele for his time and excellent work. You can read his writing -- and get in depth coverage of the Avalanche's selections -- over at SB Nation's Colorado Avalanche site, Mile High Hockey.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Love: Composure, size, skating, mobility, very high floor, good hockey IQ.
Red Flags: Unknown offensive potential, very good (but not elite) ceiling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It's a huge week for the Colorado Avalanche franchise, as they hold their highest selection in the upcoming 2011 NHL Entry Draft (at least since moving to Colorado).
Perhaps you have never followed the draft, or maybe you stopped paying attention to the Avalanche during their painful slide in February? It's possible that you have been spending your nights at Coors Field instead of poring over draft boards.
Don't worry -- SB Denver has you covered with the Colorado Avalanche Fan Draft Primer. Consider this a crash course so you can at least sound like an expert when the first names start dropping off the board.
The 2011 NHL Entry Draft will be held over two separate days. The first round will begin on Friday, June 24 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on Versus from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Rounds two through seven will begin on Saturday, June 25 at 11:00 a.m. EDT and should last most of the day.
This is a deep draft that should have quality players available through several rounds, with a consensus top tier of five players. There is no surefire top overall selection, leading to rumors of possible trades early in the draft as teams try to move up to grab the player they love.
This draft has been compared to the 2003 NHL Draft in depth, where players such as Patrice Bergeron, Jimmy Howard, and Corey Crawford were all selected in the second round and Joe Pavelski lasted until round seven. This draft won't have the immediate impact of 2003 simply because most of the players are not as physically developed as their 2003 counterparts.
There are only two players in this current draft that are viewed as NHL ready: winger Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Adam Larsson (maybe). Everyone else is likely to spend at least another year adding body mass and developing their game.
Make lots of popcorn, as this is the most important draft in Avalanche franchise history. Colorado holds the second overall selection (much like their Denver Broncos counterparts did in April) due to a very poor January and February this past season. This is the highest draft pick in Avalanche history, narrowly beating out 2009 when they drafted center Matt Duchene. That draft turned out alright, I guess.
Colorado also holds the 11th overall selection in this draft, received as part of the trade that sent Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement. This pick originally belonged to the Blues, but was top-10 protected. Since St. Louis finished 11th in points (thanks in large part to Stewart and Shattenkirk's performance in a Blues sweater) and did not win the draft lottery, this pick now belongs to the Avalanche.
As part of that same trade, Colorado's second round selection this year goes back to St. Louis. Colorado also traded their third round pick in this year's draft to the New York Islanders during the 2010 Draft in order to draft defenseman Stephen Silas in the fourth round. With both of these picks gone, Colorado will not select on the second day of the draft until Round Four. Still, with two selections in the top 11 picks of a deep draft, Colorado is looking to make a splash and find two franchise-type players.
Stay tuned for more coverage, including recent Avalanche draft history, players to watch for, and a draft Q&A.
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