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.