2013 NHL Draft: Grading the Colorado Avalanche Selections

The 2013 NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, and teams will now look to free agency to start re-tooling their rosters for next season. But while we wait for the free agent frenzy that comes along every year, let’s get to know the newest members of the Colorado Avalanche organization and see how the Avalanche did in this year’s draft.

First Round – #1 Overall – Nathan MacKinnon (C) – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

It turned out the Avalanche were staying true to their word yesterday as they selected Nathan MacKinnon with the top pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. MacKinnon will bring explosiveness and an exciting offensive game to add to the already talented offensive roster of the Avalanche. With young stars like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, the addition of MacKinnon to the lineup should be one that makes the top nine forwards for the Avalanche something very exciting to watch. How will MacKinnon’s addition affect the Avalanche roster? Far too early to tell, but he will be an exciting player to watch for years to come in Colorado.

Grade – A+

Second Round – #32 Overall – Chris Bigras (D) – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)

Colorado turned to defense with their second pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and snatched Chris Bigras from Owen Sound. The big word that keeps coming up to describe Bigras is “smart.” We’re not talking smart just in the hockey way either, apparently Bigras has received scholastic awards from his team for being the player on his team with the highest GPA. His hockey intelligence is also praised in scouting reports, as is his patience and poise with the puck. He’s positionally solid and is used in all situations with Owen Sound.

His size is nothing to shout about, but he isn’t undersized either. He may still need another year to mature physically, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bigras move his way up through the Avalanche system in the next couple of years. The thing that jumped out the most to me in researching Bigras is the way his coach describes him in the video below. Saying how Bigras is constantly seeking to understand and learn what he can do better. This kid is a mental powerhouse and has potential to out-think his opponents as he moves up to the next levels. I look forward to seeing what he can do.

Grade – A

Third Round – #63 Overall – Spencer Martin (G) – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)

The first real head-scratcher for the Colorado Avalanche came in the third round when they selected Spencer Martin, a goaltender with Mississauga. The Avalanche already have a lot of organizational depth in the crease. Young depth, but depth nonetheless. With Sami Aittokallio, Calvin Pickard, Keiran Millan and Kent Patterson all in the system, this selection doesn’t make too much sense.

Ryan Boulding gives a solid breakdown of Martin during his draft coverage here. He also gets a good scouting report on Martin from Justin Goldman, a goalie scout of McKeen’s Hockey.

“Spencer is a very athletic goalie with quick feet and an ability to make the highlight-reel, reaction-based save. He did well behind a very average blueline for Mississauga this season as a 17-year-old. I like the fit for Colorado because his style meshes well with what Francois Allaire can bring in terms of developing Spencer into a pro-level goalie,” said Justin Goldman, a goalie scout for McKeen’s Hockey. “Martin’s a confident goalie with good raw skills and lateral movements, but it does lead to juicy rebounds or over-pursuing pucks.”

“Learning how to manage pucks better and using his size to his advantage will be the next step in his development over the rest of his junior career. Good pick at a good spot to add to their goalie depth chart.”

It’s obvious that J.S. Giguere won’t be around forever and may even be in his final year as a professional this season, but with all the depth the Avalanche have in goal, this pick seems a bit wasted to me.

Grade: C-

Fourth Round – #93 Overall – Mason Geertsen (D) – Vancouver Giants (WHL)

The Avalanche returned to defense with their next pick and boy did they go right with the selection of Mason Geertsen of the Vancouver Giants. Geertsen is a big, physical defender that likes to lay the body, is solid defensively and has an incredible mean streak. He knows his role on the team and embraces it. He’s not the type of defender that is going to score a lot of points, but he is also not a defender who is going to be a liability in his own zone.

Cody Nickolet, from WHL Up Above, tweeted this about Colorado’s selection of Geertsen:

https://twitter.com/WHLFromAbove/status/351491720866832384

I then asked him when he thought the Avalanche might see Geertsen work his way up into the NHL ranks:

In the fourth round you’re expecting a bit of a project. This kind of mean defenseman is exactly the type of intense player that the Avalanche have been needing. Love this pick.

Grade: A+

Fifth Round – #123 Overall – Will Butcher (D) – USA – Under 18 Program

The Avalanche continued to select defense as they took Will Butcher with their fifth round selection. After going after some larger players, Butcher stands out for the opposite reason. Butcher is one of those undersized, puck-moving defenders that the Avalanche love to use. His size will likely keep him out of the NHL for a while, but that’s fine. Avalanche fans will still be able to see his progress as he will be attending Denver University next season.

Grade – B-

Sixth Round – #153 Overall – Ben Storm (D) – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

The Avalanche continued to bulk up their defense and boy did they add to the size with 6’6″, 215 pound defenseman, Ben Storm. Storm actually used to be a forward when he played in high school, but was switched to defense during his junior year in high school, a move he was very happy with. Storm was initially going to follow in his brothers’ footsteps and play college football, but he decided to tread his own path by sticking with hockey.

With the football pedigree, I think it’s pretty safe to say we shouldn’t be afraid of his ability to get physical on the ice; and at his size, Storm likely will be  a force to be reckoned with. Storm will play college hockey with St. Cloud State next season, so Avalanche fans will be able to follow his progress there. As if you could miss him.

Grade – B

Seventh Round – #183 Overall – Wilhelm Westlund (D) – Farjestad-Jr. (Sweden-Jr.)

Another defenseman for the final pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and it is a bit of a reach. Westlund hasn’t done much for his team in Sweden and definitely needs some time to develop both his game and his physique. Short of breaking out as a scoring dynamo, it’s hard to see too much happening out of Westlund in the next couple of years.

Grade – C-

Overall Grade – A-

The Colorado Avalanche clearly wanted to address the fact that the defensive depth in their system is lacking, and managed to do that. Nathan MacKinnon will hopefully be able to jump into the lineup right away and help the Avalanche finally begin to move up in the standings. His familiarity with Patrick Roy and the system that he plays will likely help to ease his transition to the Avalanche.

I still think the Avalanche missed the boat on Seth Jones, as defense happens to be the greatest short-term need for the Avalanche as well. I don’t see MacKinnon as an incorrect pick, but more like one of those test questions that you see on the SATs. The one that’s right but you also know there is another selection out there that is “more correct.”  MacKinnon will no doubt have a positive impact on the Avalanche, and that is good enough for me. All in all, this draft was a very positive one for the Colorado Avalanche.