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Colorado Avalanche

Best, Worst Drafts in Colorado Avalanche History



Ryan O'Reilly Avalanche

It might be a while until the Colorado Avalanche have a draft that makes it into the “best” category of a ranking again. But boy, could they ever use one.

After picking just twice last year, they have a combined eight draft picks over the next two NHL drafts. And even those numbers could dwindle, depending on what they do this summer to improve the NHL squad. Arguably the worst prospect pool in the league isn’t likely to get a whole lot better any time soon.

Quite frankly, it’s tough to put any recent draft in a “best” or “worst” position, simply because picks take time to develop. For example, the 2018 draft isn’t looking too hot, but a Justus Annunen or Nikolai Kovalenko could save it. That’s why, with something like this, you have to go back a while, because enough time has passed for us to truly assess the players taken.

The majority of the “best” drafts from the Avalanche came 20+ years ago. In the 90’s and early 2000’s, Colorado went with the volume approach. The draft was nine rounds back then, and Colorado always made 10+ picks up until 2003. Having two extra rounds makes you grade on a bit of a curve, as there were more chances to hit back then.

Let’s start this look back with the good, and then get to the bad (or, some might say, ugly).

Best – 2009 Draft

Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly both might have forced their way out of the Avalanche organization in different ways, but there’s no denying they were tremendous picks for where they were selected. Next season, each of them will likely cross the 1,000 game mark, and to date, both have amassed over 700 points each in the NHL. As they’re both in their early 30’s, those numbers will continue to go up.

In addition to those two, the Avalanche also snagged Tyson Barrie in the third round. That might be the last time the Avalanche have truly hit on someone outside of the first round in recent years. Barrie had some tremendous seasons in Colorado, before being dealt to Toronto for Nazem Kadri. He’s still trucking in the league, and will likely cross both the 800 game and 500 point marks next year.

They even got some NHL games out of Stefan Elliott, who had a wicked wrist shot from the point. He’s still a productive player over in Europe.

Worst – 2014 Draft

It is extremely rare for a first round pick to not even get a contract offer from the team that drafted them. That’s what happened with the Avalanche and the player they selected 23rd overall, Conner Bleackley. I still remember Bleackley’s first training camp after being drafted. He was given a great chance to shine, playing with Duchene and O’Reilly in scrimmages. Instead, he showed up out of shape, and got blown up multiple times throughout camp. He never topped a point-per-game in the WHL, and was even stripped of his captaincy with Red Deer. Colorado cut ties with him completely before he turned pro.

Not hitting on your first round pick is bad enough, but Colorado didn’t get anything out of the draft. Anton Lindholm is the only player that saw NHL games, playing 66 for Colorado over a four year span before being dealt to Chicago. 66 games out of a seven player draft is rough.

Best – 1998 Draft

It’s crazy to think that the Avalanche, in the middle of some of the best years of the franchise, managed to hold seven of the first 53 picks in a draft. Four of those were in the first 20 picks. If you hold that many high picks, you should have a good draft.

They did.

With the 12th overall pick, Colorado took Alex Tanguay. That worked out. Tanguay played nine seasons for the franchise, and finished his career with 863 points in 1,088 games. His biggest moment came in Game Seven against the Devils back in 2001, when he scored two goals, including the Cup clincher.

Just a few picks later, Colorado took defenseman Martin Skoula. Now, Skoula took a lot of heat over his time in Colorado, as he never quite replicated his rookie season, but he went on to play nearly 800 games in the NHL. And just two picks later, the Avalanche took Robyn Regehr. He never played a game for Colorado, but went on to play over 1,000 games in the league, and won a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings.

With their fourth and final first rounder, they took Scott Parker. He was one of the last true enforcers in the game, and racked up nearly 700 penalty minutes in 308 games.

In total, the Avalanche drafted 10 players that totaled a combined 3,431 games. Hard to beat that.

Worst – 2012 Draft

Colorado didn’t have their first round pick this year, as they moved it to acquire Semyon Varlamov. So without a first rounder, that second round pick meant a little bit more. And the Avalanche went ahead and used it on…an overager. At 41st overall, Colorado took Mitchell Heard, who as a 19/20 year old in the OHL, only managed to put up a point-per-game. Usually not the best sign moving forward, and it wasn’t. He barely produced in the AHL, and never played a single NHL game.

Colorado got 102 NHL games out of this draft, and 101 of those came for different organizations. Colin Smith played one game for the Avalanche, and that was it. Not having a first round pick hurts, but Colorado got nothing from this one.

Honorable Mentions For Best – 2013, 2007

Sure, getting Nathan MacKinnon at first overall looks like a slam dunk in hindsight, but back in 2013, it wasn’t a slam dunk to everyone. There seemed to be a lot of disagreement with who the Avalanche should take, with some wanting Seth Jones, some wanting Alex Barkov, and some even wanting Jonathan Drouin. Ultimately, Patrick Roy convinced everyone MacKinnon was the right pick, and he was correct. Beyond MacKinnon, four other players have played NHL games, with Will Butcher having gotten over 250 as a fifth rounder.

In 2007, they hit with Kevin Shattenkirk in the first, and managed to find players later in the draft like T.J. Galiardi and Brad Malone, who have played a combined 538 NHL games.

Honorable Mention for Worst – 2010

The Joey Hishon pick didn’t pan out, but there’s some real bad luck involved with that one. He looked like a very promising prospect until Brayden McNabb delivered a pretty dirty hit that gave him a concussion. Those issues lingered for the rest of his career, and he never established himself. Calvin Pickard got off to a real promising start, but faded quickly once NHL shooters figured out his weaknesses. He’s managed to carve out a respectable professional career in the AHL, though. Overall, the Avalanche got just 244 NHL games out of this draft, and again, most of those games were played for other organizations.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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