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.