In order to predict the future we must take lessons and recognize patterns from the past. While each draft is unique and the pick selection availability may change from year to year, an organization’s approach and philosophy typically shines through.
As shown below there are noticeable patterns in the Colorado Avalanche’s 12 year draft past through their last two Directors of Amateur Scouting however each of Alan Hepple and Rick Pracey had their own hallmarks. Now a new era begins with the newly promoted Wade Klippenstein as he gets to run the 2021 draft for the organization.
First, a history on Avalanche draft trends under Hepple in drafts from 2015-2020. A couple notes: Top 100 does not include the aforementioned first round, Sub 100 are picks 101 and higher, USHL includes the US National Team Development Program.
Junior A 3
Major Junior 28.5%, NCAA Path 43%, Europe 28.5%
Since the Avalanche still have yet to find much success outside of the first round it is these selections which will define Hepple’s tenure. The two Europeans, Mikko Rantanen and Martin Kaut, agreed to play immediately in the AHL before they were selected. If there were any indication of forward thinking and calculated risk for the Avalanche it was Hepple investing high first round picks in those from Junior A (Tyson Jost, Cale Makar and Alex Newhook).
Junior A 1
Finland 1 (goalie)
Major Junior 53.8%, NCAA Path 38.5%, Europe 7.7%
Here’s where that risk taking begins to subside with a more conservative approach in rounds two through the early fourth. The CHL (major junior) rockets back up and only one European in six drafts. Also, more emphasis on the USHL than Junior A which had been a source of competitive advantage in the first round.
US High School 2
Russia 5 (goalie)
Czech Republic 1 (goalie)
Major Junior 27.2%, NCAA Path 31.8%, Europe 41%
This group is where the “Avalanche draft from everywhere” perception originates from but the reality is that variety came from selections made in the back half of the draft. Much more even distribution and several sources that were only tapped in the late rounds (Russia, Sweden, US High School).
Previously Rick Pracey was at the helm as Director of Amateur Scouting from 2009-2014 and was well known as someone who focused mostly on the OHL, which bears out in the numbers.
Major Junior 100%
Here’s where the Avalanche’s conservative reputation began and justifiably so with all of Pracey’s first rounders selected from the CHL.
Major Junior 92.3%, Europe 7.7%
As safe as Pracey was here’s the only non-goalie European selected outside of the first round in all 12 drafts, one Joachim Nermark. He never signed with the Avalanche so apparently they decided to avoid the talent pool altogether since. The exact same one Top 100 European pick at in six drafts coming in at 7.7% overall for both Hepple and Pracey. Of course an enormous difference is Pracey didn’t touch the NCAA path guys here either.
US High School 1
Finland 1 (goalie)
Slovakia 1 (goalie)
Major Junior 50%, NCAA Path 30%, Europe 20%
This group looks fairly similar to Hepple’s picks. As much as Pracey refused to leave the CHL in the first three rounds, this array shows how it’s much easier to go out of the box and take players from different areas when investing end of the fourth round and later picks. Hepple did lean into Europe a bit more than Pracey but their NCAA quotient in the back half was similar despite Hepple’s greater affinity for the NCAA cohort.
It is clear the Avalanche broadened their horizons to the NCAA path players, and in particular those from Junior A and USHL under Hepple. They managed to find mostly Canadians in this subset which makes it even more quirky. What is clearly lacking however is still any investment in Europe beyond the prearranged AHL commitments from the two first rounders. What happens after pick 100 is basically noise and dart throwing over the 12 years.
Klippenstien hails from Alberta and has been involved in many of the WHL and Western Canadian Junior A picks (Cale Makar, Bowen Byram, Alex Newhook) since his tenure with the Avalanche began in 2017. Though a scout’s origin doesn’t necessarily predict their favor as a head scout as Hepple’s OHL roots only led him to only draft four players from the league in six years and none in the first round.
One final interesting wrinkle is that 30% of the Europeans selected in 12 years were goaltenders and Hepple only drafted one non-European goaltender at all. There’s certainly room for Klippenstien to change this up or any of the aforementioned strategies. As an internal replacement there’s still the same influences from management and the other scouts as well but he will no doubt make his own stamp on Colorado’s draft process.