As we approach the 2017 NHL Draft, everybody is looking into their crystal balls trying to predict what will happen. Before diving neck-deep into mock drafts, it is important to take a look at the current pool of prospects. So let’s take a look at the Colorado Avalanche pipeline.
The Avalanche have drafted well since Joe Sakic arrived in Denver, and the team is just beginning to see the fruits of its labor. This past season, the Avalanche had three young rookie forwards step into the lineup and show that they belong.
Mikko Rantanen actually led the Avalanche in goals this season, with 20, and was the most consistent player on the team for long stretches. It was great to watch him go from a player always looking to pass to an all-around threat who could score in a variety of ways. J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost both showed tenacity, speed, and an ability to put the puck in the net. These three top Colorado’s prospects and should be expected to make bigger contributions to the big club next season.
A.J. Greer and Rocco Grimaldi are both forwards that spent a little bit of time with the main roster but ended up spending the majority of their time in the AHL. Both players also showed a skill set that the Avalanche need, and should have a chance of making the roster out of training camp.
The Avalanche also have a few prospects that are new to the professional side of the game and need some more time for growth. Julien Nantel had a tough time in his first AHL season but just won the Kelly Cup with Colorado’s ECHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles. Nantel’s teammate in junior, J.C. Beaudin, will be entering his first professional season this fall and has a good deal of hype surrounding him, as he was a dynamic scorer with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Cameron Morrison had a good freshman season with Notre Dame and Travis Barron had a strong season as he took on the captaincy for the Ottawa 67’s.
The Avalanche have made strides in addressing the depth of their forwards but need to translate more of that into success on the defensive side. The Avalanche have been notorious for missing on picks and poor asset management when it comes to defensive prospects. That being said, there is some promising talent in the pipeline.
Topping the list of talent for the Avalanche are the likes of Duncan Siemens, Chris Bigras, and Anton Lindholm. Colorado seems to have no idea how to manage Siemens and have never given him an extended amount of time in the NHL. At this point, it is difficult to predict if Siemens will even be a part of the Avalanche next season. Bigras suffered a setback after a concussion this season and will be looking to bounce back in the fall. Big things are expected from Bigras and it would be terrible for the Avalanche if Bigras’ progress is stunted by this injury.
Anton Lindholm was the big surprise last season. Lindholm was called up late in the season but showed he could do everything necessary to stick around with the big team. His game needs to be refined but his decision-making, zone responsibility, and physical play all stuck out as positives.
An X-factor for the Avalanche defense will be the addition of Russian prospect Andrei Mironov. Mironov has been an all-star in the KHL and shows a great deal of promise. There are questions about how his skating ability will translate to the NHL but his collection of hip checks are sure to make Avalanche fans and the NHL take notice.
There aren’t many defensive prospects for the Avalanche that I would call in-between. The rest of the pipeline on the defensive side is just breaking into the professional level and has a ways to go. At the top might be Sergei Boikov, who stood out because of his skating ability from his first prospect camp. Boikov joined Nantel down in the ECHL as part of their Kelly Cup run. Mason Geertsen was also part of the ECHL championships, as he spent most of this past season jumping back and forth between the AHL and ECHL.
The Avalanche only have one defenseman that will be making his professional debut this season: Nicholas Meloche. Meloche is another player with a lot of hype surrounding him. His size, skating ability, and offensive prowess make him a player to watch in the AHL. Josh Anderson will likely be back in the WHL again in 2017, and it is anybody’s guess whether or not this year’s Hobey Baker Award winner, Will Butcher, will end up signing with the Avalanche. Things have improved for the Avalanche on the blue line, but there is still work to be done.
As thin as the Avalanche have been with their defensive pipeline, goaltending might be worse. Calvin Pickard remains the top Avalanche goaltending prospect, and he is still figuring out the life of a full-time NHL goalie. After him, things get shaky. Spencer Martin got his first taste of the NHL this season and showed promise but spent the majority of the season being the top guy for the San Antonio Rampage.
The Avalanche do still have the rights to Sami Aittokallio and Maximillian Pajpach, but neither seem to have any long term picture with the franchise. The only other goalie in the Avalanche system is Adam Werner, a young prospect playing in Sweden. The Avalanche will need to do something to address their goaltending depth. Fortunately for the Avalanche, they will have the opportunity to begin addressing all those shortcomings in just over a week at the NHL Entry Draft.
I’m a Denver native who has been a fan of the Avalanche since they came to town and a fan of the game before that. I started writing my own blog a couple years ago before moving to Bleacher Report and becoming a Featured Columnist there. You can also find me the Burgundy Brigade Podcast