This year’s version of the Draft Plan looks a lot different than previous extensive dives into the Colorado Avalanche’s draft possibilities. With scant draft capital available the specific players are not as much the focus as it is areas of need and strategic targets following. Still, the organization has an opportunity to add talent and give young players a shot at a professional career, which is always exciting. The NHL entry draft will be held on July 7th and 8th this year in Montreal.
The 2022 Avalanche draft class took a major hit when the first round selection went to the Arizona Coyotes for Darcy Kuemper. The second round pick was sent to the New York Islanders for Devon Toews in another successful transaction many moons ago. The fourth rounder was the return for last year’s ill-advised Patrik Nemeth reunion, however. What remains for the Avalanche 2022 draft class is their natural pick in each of the third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds; 97th, 161st, 193rd, and 225th overall to be exact (and one position lower than expected due to Minnesota’s compensatory second round pick).
With only one top 100 pick, and barely clinging to that fact, this is not the draft to rebuild the prospect pool. With still very real questions on graduations of non-blue chip prospects spending significant time in the development system the reality is there’s very little chance any of these picks see even one game with the NHL club let alone lock down a regular roster spot. Still, there’s always hope as each pick is a lotto ticket and an asset with at least some short term value.
Candidates at 97th Overall
There’s been a lot of talk about focusing on a defenseman with this pick since the Avalanche traded two of their better prospects away at the deadline in Justin Barron and Drew Helleson, who happen to both be blueliners, and their only signed prospects at the position now are low upside hopefuls in Nate Clurman and Danill Zhuravlyov. Keeping the torch of hope alive on the back end is NCAA champion Sean Behrens but he’s still a few years away and might be one of the organization’s few remaining trade chips. The reality is the Avalanche won’t be rebuilding their prospect pool until they rebuild themselves likely needing multiple high first and second round picks in the process. A low third rounder isn’t going to do it even if they hit on a great selection.
The goal unequivocally this year should be talent over story. That sounds like common sense but the last several years the Avalanche have been romanced either by sons of familiar fathers, major injury triumphs and fun stories like Andrey Buyalski from Kazakhstan. It’s also easy to get talked out of pure talent and skill for attributes such as work ethic, defensive ability, competitiveness and leadership. Those attributes have value too, of course, but will never be enough alone to overcome a skill deficit with regards to impressing enough at the AHL level to get an opportunity in the NHL. Take the most talented player available, period.
One exception to the aforementioned warning is Marek Hejduk who has worked himself into position as a likely top 100 selection with a successful two-year career at the NTDP and invitation to the NHL scouting combine. There he admitted his interview with the Avalanche was his favorite. As a forward standing at six feet tall and 187lbs with a mix of style and grind he could be a future fit as a role player in Colorado after a college career at Harvard.
Definition: this shorthanded goal from Marek Hejduk 🤢 pic.twitter.com/nRbJKqVt2a
— USA Hockey’s NTDP (@USAHockeyNTDP) November 10, 2021
Those rooting for defensemen could hope left shot blueliner Mats Lindgren is still on the board by the time Colorado joins the party. He’s a smart, smooth skating and efficient puck mover. No single standout trait but does well in all areas for his team Kamloops in the WHL where he scored 44 points in 68 games. In the right system he could flourish much like Devon Toews.
Now if there is a position specific player to focus on with the lone top 100 pick this might be the place to select a goaltender and get the most return on investment. Justus Annunen is currently holding most of the hopes and dreams for the Avalanche in net. Though he was selected at 64th overall Annunen still was a part of the third round and adding a talent of his calibre in would instantly strengthen and improve the Avalanche future in goal. Perhaps they wouldn’t need to trade for NHL needs down the road.
Courtesy of our resident WHL expert and AJHL scout Nathan Chapman, a draft profile of Prince George Cougars goaltender Tyler Brennan. He is the number one ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting yet is pegged for around the second or third round, thus still a possibility for the Avalanche.
It is a weak goalie class but Brennan is underrated simply because of his numbers. Had a very young team in front of him who went through growing pains and the odd bad game to knock his SV% down to an .899 but had a dominant playoffs. He is a 6-foot-4 goalie who is very athletic and cuts angles down well. Brennan will make jaw dropping saves routinely and has the ability to steal games for his team. It’s tough to project goalies but has starting upside and should be the starter for Canada at the next WJC. Also as a late birthday he will play only one more year of junior until he’s in the AHL. Comp: John Gibson
Candidates at 161st, 193rd, 225th Overall
This is where my plea to look for market inefficiencies comes into play. Considering a severely compromised draft class the Avalanche have to think more strategically to get the most out of their selections. With the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine the already existing bias on Russian players will only strengthen as a new layer of uncertainty clouds young players in Russia. This is the time to take advantage of other teams passing over talented players. Colorado has had decent success at least getting young Russians to sign an NHL contract with Zhuravlyov as the most recent example. Taking into account the non-existent success turning out any players drafted in this range means no opportunity cost to take a gamble by selecting Russians.
Hoping that the top ranked Russian forwards such as Danil Yurov and Ivan Miroschnichenko drop as first round candidates all the way to the end of the third round is a pipe dream, even considering the latter’s battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But if there’s rooting interest in a steal it would be those two dynamic talents.
Some more realistic options are also forwards such as in the next tier down at 14th on Central Scouting’s European list is sniping right shot winger power forward Alexander Perevalov. There’s always room for a heart-and-soul with skill type sleeper Viktor Neuchev, too.
Alexander Perevalov (2022) has been skating under the radar for much of this season but trails only Michkov and Trikozov in U18 points-per-game in the MHL
He rips his 24th of the season here. pic.twitter.com/XZUYyHNmWM
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) March 7, 2022
Despite the thin draft class there is still the chance for a couple gems with upside and hopefully a few are available for live viewing at development camp the week after the draft!