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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