We’re Back, Baby!
The second and final edition of my “Mining The Draft” series will he focused on forwards and a couple of goalies that I view as potential value pickups for the Colorado Avalanche at the 2023 NHL Draft.
This thread will be a little lighter than the defensive edition, to not overwhelm. But I could write 10,000 words, honestly. Let’s keep this one short and sweet.
The 2023 forward class is a B-E-A-U-T-Y. There should be a smattering of value ‘falling’ first-time eligibles and improved overagers available between picks 155 and 219.
With the Avalanche scouting staff and management having a tendency to swing on talent that has fast-trackable, pro-hockey traits in the later rounds, it makes sense to write about such forward prospects. To not leave myself out, I’m going to throw in some personal favorites and draft bolsters as well.
Here we go! In no particular order…
Erik Påhlsson – Centre – HV71 J20 #33
An April, 2004-born overager, who in my eyes was rather hard done by in 2022 in not getting selected. He went back to U20 this past season and totally tore it up. He added to his game, finding more dynamic skills and the production really picked up.
There’s so many layers to his game offensively, so much so I find it hard to see him not have name called this time around.
In terms of speed and creativity, you could argue that his pace and IQ is at a pro-level already. Has an insane ability to read and find space, either to create a scoring chance or extend plays to work others open.
He shows really good anticipation in his own end, using his speed and puck reading abilities to pounce on loose pucks and create transition.
In order to be considered an NHL chance, he’s going to have to add to his frame and work on adding some mongrel to his game. Just a bit to easy to play against at times.
Tom Leppä – Centre – Jokerit U20 #9
Versatile and reliable two-way centreman that does a bit of everything. What I value is the way he can leverage with his body and play above his size, with smarts, at both ends of the ice. Backcheck and forecheck pressure is his forte. He’s got a nice, long, clean stride that sees him cover ground deceptively well.
Leppä is a natural when it comes to defending the small areas. He is totally relentless in engaging his opponents, constantly challenging their sticks and forcing them away from dangerous areas with his angle and body usage.
Offensively, Leppä is very versed at using his small area skill to find involvement. Be it sourcing chances for himself at the net front, pulling pucks from corner battles or using his leg-frive to cut through varying channels, there’s some solid tools to build around.
He’s played predominantly fourth and third-line roles for Finland internationally, however I think there’s more offence to come as I REALLY like the flashes of offence he has produced at various moments. He’ll have plenty of time to work on it, the NCAA is his prefered pathway. Kid has genuine NHL potential.
Lukas Hes – Left Wing- Berani Ziln U20 #48
A big and strong rangey winger, He boasts a very pro-style, two-way game. Seems to be ranked very unfavourably publicly, something that doesn’t sit all that well with me.
For one, there’s not many that possess the same speed on and off the puck at his size and reach. But it’s just not all speed and size, he’s is a very capable playmaker. He has a great understanding of when to turn the jets on and create at speed or simply delay, extend plays and let plays develop around him. There’s a great brain between his ears, no doubt.
Defensively, he’s able to use his length and speed to cause havoc on the backcheck and when defending the cycle. He backchecks and shows strong wall play, making him a dependable asset defensively.
I believe he’s a guy that comes with low risk, high reward. He could develop nicely into an all-situations bottom-six forward at minimum, in just a few years.
Ty Halaburda – Centre – Vancouver Giants #7
High-end motor and speed is the staple of Halaburda’s game. Somewhat a mini-breakout this season, Halaburda really grew from just a speedster with grit to an offensive playmaker and goal scorer for Vancouver.
Whilst the up-tick in production was a bonus, it is his smart, fast paced game, both on and off the puck that’s the selling point. Be it pressuring opposing players on zone exits, attacking passing lanes with purpose or simply collecting pucks in swift motion, Halaburda showcases just how well he can procees and play the game at speed.
I’m not sold his offence is at a pro-level, but the foot and game pace, energy and higher-end hockey senses he brings to the ice are. Type of player you can mould into a smart bottom-six forward. Think Logan O’Connor-ish.
Artyom Kashtanov – Centre / Left Wing – Avto Yekaterinburg MHL #76
At six-foot-six, Kashtanov isn’t what you’d probably expect. Puck control, hand speed and mobility are what makes this player tick, the height and reach is just a bonus.
He has a knack for being able to build up speed with his long, clean stride and just destroy defenders, inside and outside, with flashes of one-on-one brilliance. He can deke as fluently as anyone on the ice at anytime, his cuts and subtle fakes to freeze a defender are first class and his finishing from inside the hashes is super clean.
As expected, he’s great around the net front and is super handy at collecting pucks at or around the goal-line, extending play and maintaining puck retention.
Off the puck, he needs work. He can get caught cheating positionally and being disengaged defensively. His deep attacking patterns and lack of puck management can also cost him defensive positioning. All stuff that can be ironed out however with coaching and patience. He is the type of pick you make at 219, some healthy risk here never hurt anyone. Good potential ceiling.
Emmanuel Vermette – Left Wing – Chicoutimi Sagueneéns #28
If there were a player after my own heart in this class, it would be Emmanuel Vermette. Not overly flashy, not a big strapping six-foot-three prospect with elite wheels, or just a guy that wows you with a certain skill. Vermette just gets hockey, man.
He’s a true 200-foot, two-way winger who does whatever it takes to win any shift in any zone. Of all the later round forwards, I don’t think there’s a more selfless or team first/determined forward quite like Vermette.
The amount of effort and willingness spent applying pressure on the forecheck and backcheck, seeking to be a secondary stick in scrum battles probably takes away from some individual offence. But it is what drives him.
In terms of his offence, he works his tail off for his points: lots of dirty area 50/50 battles, 50/50 wall battles and takeways from his own stick. There’s no cherry-picked scraps or reliance on others for space and creation, it is his hard work and hockey senses that yield significant results.
If I want a guy that will defend like a bull, lifting sticks and applying pressure in all three zones ontop of having some really nice yet subtle offensive zone habits and skill, I’d take Vermette all day long.
Jimmy Clark – Centre/Left Wing – Green Bay Gamblers #18
Incoming University of Minnesota forward Clark has a relatively high ceiling according to his average rank in my opinion.
He’s a zippy, playmaking forward that has really grown within himself over the last 12 months. Whilst he doesn’t boast a huge variety of tools or variance in his craft, he still manages to find ways to produce and do it eye-catchingly well.
The features of his game that draw me in are his general pace and ability to adapt to the game as it plays out in front of him. Be it crashing the net and timing his motions in order to make a play on a loose puck or slicing through a defence in transition on his way to the net, Clark just sees the ice so well and seems to have great rhythms offensively. He’s an A-level skater too, that always helps win those battles for positions.
The downside to his game would be away from those strengths I mentioned, there’s not a whole lot of depth to the rest of his toolkit. He shows some good defensive understanding but lacks consistency and he is yet to really showcase higher-end puck management and physical traits.
Why I buy into his stock? The NCAA and it’s stylistic demands should do wonders for him in all three-zones. I love the college placement too, heaps of potential here to round his game out in good time. Great upside.
Filip Eriksson – Centre – Växjö Lakers HC J20 #24
MY BIGGEST SLEEPER in the later rounds. Lost most of his season to a scaphoid fracture and couldn’t really garner any consistency and didn’t get the chance to earn any international looks by way of bulk playing time and views.
Eriksson is a smart, up-tempo elusive centreman that oozes class through the neutral and offensive zones.
His skating, puck control and offensive vision are at high levels already. There aren’t many in the J20 league that can keep up with him once he’s in a lane in full stride. The top-end speed, acceleration and control at his top speed is a great watch, honestly.
The ability to extend plays, recover to soft areas and find his own scoring chances is also a mouth-watering feature.
Although not a huge man, he uses his speed and anticipation to great use, finding a hardness to his game. Beating defenders and forwards alike to battles, gaining inside positional leverage and usually skating his way from danger.
There’s some refinement needed defensively, but that will come with reps. He’s inked with Växjö in the SHL this upcoming season, I love what that league will do for his defensive development and confidence.
But in terms of what he brings, have teams haven’t had the chance to fully see what his arsenal is equipped with? I’m not sure. But I hope the Avs’ have. Could be a home run pick at 155.