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.