3 Prospects the Avalanche Could Target at the Draft

With the NHL Draft quickly approaching (it’s held June 28 and 29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville), the Avalanche have to be thinking about the future. As the club faces a lot of offseason decisions and a ton of pending free agents, the first-round draft selection could be an important chip for the future. There are already some pretty significant gaps in the roster that could be filled with prospects, but even more could be created as free agency takes its toll on the Avalanche lineup. With all of that said, here are three prospects that the Avalanche should target at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

Luca Pinelli Could Spark the Avalanche’s Interest

As the younger brother of Los Angeles Kings prospect Francesco Pinelli, the Ottawa 67s former player of the week certainly knows what to do to get himself NHL-capable. According to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), “Pinelli attended the CHL Top Prospects game in January and was listed as the 49th-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting’s midseason rankings.” But, his stock has risen since, and he is touted as one of the potentially highest-valued prospects on the list this year.

Luca Pinelli Ottawa 67's
Luca Pinelli, Ottawa 67’s (Robert Lefebvre /OHL Images)

He’s something the Avalanche aren’t used to, in that he’s a relatively small body, weighing in at just 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, but that could work in his favour, as the team has no shortage of size and players with his frame (like Andrew Cogliano, for example) have found success on the roster. What sets Pinelli apart is his goal-scoring prowess, which the Avalanche will need as the current superstars in Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar carry the offensive workload. He could be just what the Avalanche are looking for in terms of skating and scoring, and could be a solid (if not unexpected) pick.

The Avalanche Could Draft Calum Ritchie

Calum Ritchie is built like the players that have found success on the Avalanche roster of late: the Canadian-born forward currently plays for the Oshawa Generals, where he’s known to make big plays. “Ritchie is a skilled, offensive centerman with pro size and top-tier hockey IQ,” wrote THW’s own Devin Little. “When he is at his best, he’ll dazzle fans and his opponents with silky-smooth stick work, allowing him to maneuver through crowds and into the scoring areas of the ice.”

Of course, that write-up sounds oddly reminiscent of superstar Nathan MacKinnon, and the pair are roughly 10 years apart. If Ritchie can put the work in, he could easily slot in to fill the Avalanche’s second-line center spot in a few years, and then learn from his Canadian counterpart to eventually take over and play the invaluable role MacKinnon plays for the Avalanche, ushering in the next generation of talent.

Related: Avalanche Prospect Pool in Question As Ranta Signs in Sweden

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His point totals this season are a reflection of his unselfish play, which could be improved upon, and he could stand to put on a few pounds of muscle to be able to win puck battles in the corners, but his potential could really fit in with the Avalanche’s style of play. He’ll need to show more consistency and learn from MacKinnon as he progresses, but he certainly has the potential to be a top-tier, second-line center, which is exactly what the Avalanche need.

Otto Stenberg’s Versatility is Perfect For the Avalanche

Just like captain Gabriel Landeskog, this Swedish forward plays both center and left wing, and he is also his country’s captain at the World Men’s Under-18s where he is thriving. He’s ranked 28th in TSN Insider Bob McKenzie‘s draft selection, placing him in the Avalanche’s selection range, and he has a solid offensive vision and superior puckhandling and shooting skills, giving him the exact hockey IQ the Avalanche look for in prospects.

Otto Stenberg Team Sweden
Otto Stenberg, Team Sweden (Photo by Jari Pestelacci/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Stenberg stands at 5-foot-11 and 181 pounds, and the left-handed shooter also possesses a team-friendly mindset and speed in spades, which is the style the Avalanche play with now. He could be effective as a second-line center sooner rather than later, and his offensive versatility means he can slot in as injuries arise on the roster—something particularly attractive to the Avalanche as Landeskog’s injury looms heavy in the organization’s collective mind. As he continues to improve, the team could select Stenberg and start him in the lineup right away.

Drafting a Center is a Key Takeaway

If the Avalanche cannot solve the most glaring roster hole—the second-line center position—in free agency, the club could look to have a prospect slot into the role right away. This means that Chris MacFarland and the management staff are likely to target centers in the draft, and Stenberg, Ritchie and Pinelli all fit the bill.