Drafting and developing prospects is one of the most effective ways to improve a franchise. The Colorado Avalanche have been able to find a good balance between drafting and developing, and acquiring players via trades to make their team better. With the constant movement of players increasing with each passing season, the significance of keeping high-end prospects is heightened.
There are very few prospects that can fall into the category of being untouchable because of the uncertainty around the success they may have at the professional level. Although, the Avalanche have been fortunate enough to compile high-level prospects through their recent drafts. Only the following players should classify as ‘untouchable’ because of their high probability of being core pieces for the future that the team cannot afford to lose at any cost.
Although Makar has already completed his rookie season in the NHL, he still fits into the ‘untouchable’ prospect category. The former first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft has taken the league by storm, finishing seventh in scoring among defensemen last season.
The 22-year-old defensive standout possesses all the tools to be an elite blueliner in the NHL. He put up 50 points in 57 games played last season, which was enough to beat out Quinn Hughes and Dominik Kubalik for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
Combining his offensive promise with his responsibility in his own zone and right-hand shooting ability, you have one of the most highly coveted assets in the league. Makar is a potential future Norris Trophy winner and the most untouchable prospect in the entire organization.
Not too far behind Makar is another blueliner in Byram, who, like Makar, was taken fourth overall in his draft year. The British Columbia-native has stood out in all areas of his game and is still getting better as he matures. Byram is another highly skilled defenseman who can perform at an elite level at both ends of the ice.
Playing for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL), the rearguard was able to put together just over a point-per-game pace last season and his plus-19 rating shows he’s not a liability defensively.
With Makar already a staple on the right side of the blue line, Byram can be his future partner on the left side in a few years. The thought of having two young stud defensemen as partners on the same defense corps is a scary thought. That premise alone should be reason enough to ensure that Byram remains in the Avalanche’s long-term plans for the foreseeable future.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies forward is entering his fourth season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and is looking for his third consecutive 70-plus point season. Beaucage was drafted by the Avalanche at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in the third round and is a strong power forward.
The Quebec-native can play a heavier game with a scoring touch and has come a long way in improving his skating and defensive responsibilities. The Avalanche have used much of their recent first-round selections on potential franchise-changing defensemen, so Beaucage carries some pressure in being able to contribute at the pro level when called upon.
Due to the lack of top-end forward talent drafted and some big contract extensions coming up, the team will have to rely on Beaucage to provide some answers offensively for the 2021-22 season. The forward’s potential combined with the need for scoring contributions upfront makes him an asset that is hard for the team to let go of.
The Halifax Mooseheads defenseman was the team’s first-round pick in the 2020 Entry Draft. He is another right-handed shooting defenseman who can be relied upon defensively while still contributing on offense.
With Makar already locked down as the team’s No. 1 blueliner on the right side, Barron becomes somewhat expendable especially at a position so highly coveted around the league.
The Finnish goaltender is the best goalie prospect in the organization’s pipeline. He has excelled at the international level for his native Finland at multiple World Junior Championship tournaments. With Pavel Francouz and Philipp Grubauer holding down the two jobs at the NHL level, Annunen will still have to wait to get his shot in North America. While he remains a high-end prospect, his position on the depth chart makes him an expendable piece, especially with how easy it is to find a capable goaltender.
The Avalanche have compiled a pretty impressive prospect pool for such a deep and competitive team. There should not be many prospects off-limits if other teams come knocking if the return will help the team win now. The Avalanche only own five draft picks in 2021 after trading away their second and fourth rounders last season. With limited draft capital, this means prospects will have to be on the block if the team wants to explore trades to bolster their roster ahead of an expected playoff run in 2020-21.