The Colorado Avalanche will be selecting at 10th overall at this year’s NHL Draft for the second year in a row. While there is definitely a significant drop in talent level after the top three players, there should still be a few very intriguing options for the Avalanche to look at. The Avalanche pipeline needs help in a few different places; the Avalanche need to continue to build up their defensive prospects but also need to continue to replenish their stock of offensive players. So what players should the Avalanche look at when they are on the clock?
The Avalanche need more help on the blue line, but the system isn’t completely devoid of talent. Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov will be up with the Avalanche next season, which thins this pipeline a little bit. Still, the Avalanche do have guys like Duncan Siemens, Sergei Boikov, Mason Geertsen, Nicholas Meloche, and Will Butcher in the system, each of whom have some good promise. So which defensemen should the Avalanche look at?
In my book, the Avalanche only look at a defenseman if one of the top three defensive prospects are available. By this I mean one of Jakub Chychrun, Olli Juolevi, or Mikhail Sergachev. All three of these players have exactly what the Avalanche want in a defender. They are excellent passers with exceptional vision, they are outstanding skaters, they can join the play and contribute offensively, and are solid, big bodies that play responsible defense. Of these three, I feel like the one that has the best possibility of being available to the Avalanche is Sergachev.
#12 Mikhail Sergachev
Top-pairing defenceman. Workhorse that can be used in all situations, that has confidence.
— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) November 16, 2015
#12 Mikhail Sergachev
Made a seamless transition to North America. Can contribute at both ends of the ice.
— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) October 19, 2015
McKenzie on Mikhail Sergachev: "He's unbelievable. World class, elite level skater with elite shot. Some say he's the best D in the draft."
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) April 5, 2016
The sad fact of the matter is that it just isn’t very likely to have one of these three players fall to the Avalanche at 10. If one does, then that’s who the Avalanche should take, without question. Each of those three players has the potential to be a top-pair defender that can play in any situation, and those types of players don’t just grow on trees. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the Avalanche will get a shot at one of these young defenders. Jake Bean and even Charlie McAvoy are other options, but neither are players that I would take at 10.
With the possibility of getting one of the top defensemen n0t looking that great, the Avalanche should still be happy at the possibility of getting a very talented forward. This shouldn’t be a big surprise, the last time the Avalanche took a defenseman with their first-round pick of the NHL Draft was Duncan Siemens, but he was selected after Gabriel Landeskog. The last time the Avalanche selected a defender as their top first-round selection was back in 2007 when they selected Kevin Shattenkirk. The Avalanche definitely won’t have a shot at the likes of Auston Matthews or Patrick Laine, but there are a couple of names that stick out and that will almost definitely be available when the Avalanche select.
Julien Gauthier is a behemoth of a man at 6’5″ and 225 pounds at the tender age of 18. He’s already got the body necessary to play in the NHL and has the shot to go with it. He has been a goal-scoring machine with Val-d’Or and it’s hard to not salivate at the idea of a huge player like that who will only get better at the top of the Avalanche lineup and you could do a lot worse than Gauthier. That being said, I don’t think Gauthier will be the player the Avalanche draft.
When you think about many of the previous Avalanche draft picks, they all tend to have similar characteristics coming out of junior. Great skaters, always playing 200 feet of the ice, constant engine, and a tendency to have a leadership position on their team. The guy that fits this description better than almost any of the player likely to be available to the Avalanche is Michael McLeod.
McLeod has earned a great amount of praise this season, and for good reason, but he probably hasn’t gotten as much as he deserves as his line mate, and fellow top prospect, Alexander Nylander has also drawn a great amount of attention from scouts. Both players are fantastic and definitely make the other better, but Nylander has risen higher in the rankings. This has allowed McLeod to go a little bit under the radar. Michael McLeod could end up being the steal of the draft and he will be sitting there, ripe for the picking when the Avalanche go to the stage with the 10th pick.
McLeod does everything. He scores, he sets up teammates, he wins faceoffs, he kills penalties, he can skate like the wind, and he has good size which he uses well. He’s an offensive weapon that could also be one of the better defensive forwards for the team. The Colorado Avalanche will select Michael McLeod with the 10th overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft.