Earlier, we put out a long interview with Jérôme Bérubé of Hockey Prospect about the NHL Draft in general, but I left out the part of our discussion where we talked about some names that the Colorado Avalanche might target in the first round.
Going off their past tendencies, two names jumped out immediately for the Director of Scouting at HP.
“If we talk about skating, a guy like Tanner Molendyk would be very interesting for them,” Bérubé said. “He fits the bill of a fast, puck moving defenseman. His skating is pretty incredible, he’s a top 2-3 skater in the draft.”
Quite frankly, Colorado needs a little bit of everything, but good defensemen are hard to come by. When the organization traded away Justin Barron and Drew Helleson, they traded away two of their top three defensive prospects. Sean Behrens is all that remains, and he’s arguably their best prospect. The Avalanche do have a type, and love defensemen that can skate.
Concerns about Molendyk’s size are legitimate, but as I noted in his prospect profile, he did grow over the course of last season.
“Molendyk has the attributes that smaller defensemen need to have, with the skating and the compete level,” he said.
In the past, Colorado has not been afraid to draft out of the BCHL. They did it with Tyson Jost in 2016, and again in 2019 with Alex Newhook. Could they do it again in 2023?
“I think a guy like Bradly Nadeau could be a good find for the Avalanche there,” Bérubé said.
Nadeau led the BCHL in scoring, and is headed to the University of Maine in the fall. While the previous BCHL picks were not exactly slam dunks, they did produce two NHL players. At 27th overall, getting an NHL player is absolutely necessary.
Every year, players fall in the draft that no one expects. Some names to keep an eye on in that category? Oliver Moore is one, although he’s unlikely to make it to 27. He’s also one of the best skaters in the draft. Brayden Yager is not quite the skater that Moore is, but had a really strong draft year in the WHL.
“I know NHL staffs are kind of mixed on him,” Bérubé said. “He might go 15, or he might go late first.”
Axel Sandin Pellikka is another player to keep in mind, but a sub-par defensive class works in his favor.
“I feel like he’s going to go a bit higher than that based on the lack of defensemen available in this class,” he said.
And then you come to the ultimate boom or bust pick – Eduard Sale. Rankings for him are all over the map, and it has nothing to do with his skill level. Bérubé compared him to former first round pick, Oskar Olausson.
“We talk about compete level, that’s his main issue,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s almost like he’s falling asleep.”
Speaking of Olausson, the last time the Avalanche picked in round one, they went to Sweden. They could do it again.
“Maybe a guy like David Edstrom is still there at 27. We have him 30, but I imagine he might go a bit higher than that,” Berube said. “Otto Stenburg might be an option too. He’s a bit of a wild card as far as where he’s going to go. We have him 20. Maybe a guy like Anton Wahlberg. We have him later, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s an option in the top 32 for a team. Fisker Molgaard could be an option. He’s a bit like Edstrom, but we think the chances of him (Edstrom) becoming an NHL player are better.”
We’ll have a lot more on some of the Swedish prospects soon, as I spoke to a Swedish scout about a handful of them. Look for that soon.
All of this is assuming the Avalanche keep the pick, of course. There’s still a lot that can change in the next couple of weeks, but it’s always possible Colorado moves that pick for immediate help. For now, we’re keeping close tabs on some prospects who could very well be a part of the Avalanche system very soon.