Reviewing the 2016 Colorado Avalanche Draft Class

The Colorado Avalanche came into the 2016 NHL Entry Draft needing to re-stock their cupboards in a big way. Over the past couple of seasons, the Avalanche have either traded away or allowed several previous prospects to leave the organization, leaving a pretty big hole in the pipeline.

The Avalanche have done an okay job rebuilding their pipeline, but they are still in the very early stages and needed a very good draft over the weekend. So how did the Avalanche do?

Round 1 (10th overall): Tyson Jost (F)

With the 10th overall pick, the Avalanche selected Tyson Jost from the BCHL’s Penticton Vee’s. Jost was a bit of a question mark in this draft largely because of the fact that he played in the BCHL rather than moving up to the WHL.

Regardless of that fact, Jost dominated the BCHL with 104 points in 48 games. He also put some critics to rest with his outstanding play at the World U18’s where he not only played against comparable talent, he broke Connor McDavid’s Canadian scoring record with 15 points in seven games.

Jost is a complete player that makes everybody better when he is on the ice; he can also play in every situation. He’s a good mix of size, speed, skill, and persistence which is perhaps why many draft experts believe he is destined to be a captain in the NHL.

Jost has drawn favorable comparisons to Jonathan Toews because of the complete nature of his game and the way he elevates his entire team in crunch time. Jost has some development still to do, but he is in good hands as he will be attending the University of North Dakota next season. A solid pick by the Avalanche.

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Round 2 (40th Overall): Cam Morrison (F)

Cam Morrison is another 200-foot player with excellent size and scoring ability. Morrison spent this past season in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms where he put up 34 goals and 66 points in his rookie year.

Morrison knows how to use his size to his advantage in both the defensive and offensive zones, making him very difficult to play against. His combination of size, toughness, and all-around play makes Morrison an excellent addition to an Avalanche system in desperate need of forwards. Morrison is committed to the University of Notre Dame for next season.

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Round 3 (71st Overall): Josh Anderson (D)

Josh Anderson is an interesting pick for the Avalanche. Anderson is a big body that plays with the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. He isn’t known for his offense, by any stretch of the imagination, but can still skate pretty well. Anderson’s biggest asset is his physical play, which he definitely brings a lot of at 6’1″ and 220 pounds.

Another thing that makes this particular selection a bit of a head-scratcher is that Anderson suffered a pretty severe back injury this past season. In a game in January, Anderson went head first into the boards and fractured one of his vertebrae, which ended his season. Now the Avalanche obviously knew about this and I’m sure did their due diligence from a medical perspective; nonetheless, that is a very sensitive area of the body and you just have to hope that Anderson doesn’t hurt himself in that manner again.

Round 5 (131st Overall): Adam Werner (G)

The Avalanche definitely needed to draft a goalie this season, but when Adam Werner’s name dropped the general consensus was, “Who?”
Not much information exists about Werner outside of his impressive size, 6’5″ and 198 pounds, so I went and did some digging. I had a couple of brief conversations with Erik Granqvist, a former Swedish Hockey League goalie/Video Coach/Goaltending Coach, and Joa Hellsten, who coached Werner in 2014-15. Here is what they had to say about Adam Werner.

I´ve known Adam since he was 16 and I brought him to Farjestad for hockey-gymasium. He is a calm and smart young man. I loved working with him because he was committed to learning every day and very coachable. As a goalie he reads the game well. Great size obviously and uses both cover/block and being reactive and active. He often performs at his best in high-pressure games. Excellent draft-choice by the Avalanche.  – Erik Granqvist

Hellsten’s comments were very similar but were more specific.

His positioning is great. He knows how to use his size. Has been working to improve his hands/gloves. Great work ethics. He has really good mental strength and has the ability to come back after less good games. I think that he will have to change his game somewhat to be successful in North America. He needs to be somewhat more aggressive in order to be accepted in North America, like most European goalies have to do.

I asked Hellsten if he believes the Avalanche got a steal in Werner and what his greatest area of improvement should be:

It’s really cool that Avs drafted him. I thought that he was overlooked last year. He has got what it takes to go all the way. A steal maybe, but at least good scouting.

His gloves. But he knows that and he is working on that already. He also needs to improve in his depth play. He is moderate in his play and has to adapt to the more active North American style.

A huge thank you to both men for taking the time to speak with me on this.

Round 6 (161st Overall): Nathan Clurman (D)

Nathan Clurman is a right-shooting defenseman with a two-way flare to his game. He attended Culver Military Academy Prep this past season and totaled 16 points in 20 games.

Clurman doesn’t quite know where he is set to play next season as he could return to Culver or go to the USHL. The one thing that is certain about him is that he has committed to play at the University of Notre Dame starting in the fall of 2017.

Clurman is a good skater who will be a project for the Avalanche, but if he turns out will be a great late-round selection. It will likely be three years before we know much more about his NHL future.

Round 7 (191st Overall): Travis Barron (F)

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Travis Barron was projected to go in the middle of the third round but falls into the lap of the Avalanche at the 191st overall selection.

Barron is another player described as a 200-foot player with excellent skills in each zone. Barron was a highly touted offensive prospect when he was selected in the OHL Draft by the Ottawa 67’s, but the consistency of this offensive game has yet to materialize.

He has good size at 6’1″ and 187 pounds, and will likely add a bit more size as he gets older. He projects as an excellent middle-six forward that can kill penalties, play solid defense for his team, and contribute depth scoring. If Barron has a coming out party in the OHL next season, the Avalanche could have one amazing steal of a pick.

Other Moves

A couple of days ago the Avalanche traded goalie Reto Berra to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Rocco Grimaldi. It’s a pretty solid move for all parties involved and gives the Avalanche another forward that they desperately need for their AHL affiliate in San Antonio. Berra gets to go to a great situation in Florida behind one of the best goalies in the game in Roberto Luongo. The Avalanche also clear a substantial amount of cap money. It’s hard to not like this trade from any perspective.

Just after the draft concluded, the Avalanche announced that they traded defenseman Nick Holden to the New York Rangers in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2017 Draft.

This frees up more money for the Avalanche and hopefully opens up a spot in the lineup for Duncan Siemens. Holden was a great story from the 2013-14 season where he came out of nowhere to score 10 goals for the Avalanche, but since then he has never been able to find this scoring touch and also brought along some questionable defensive choices. It’s addition by subtraction for the Avalanche in this case and the fact that they managed to get a pick for him has to be considered a huge win.

Final Thoughts

The Avalanche did what they needed to do in this draft and took mostly forwards and added a goalie. I must admit that I am surprised the Avalanche bothered to take two defenseman as there is such a vacuum at forward within the current system.

That being said, if you have a feeling about a guy and you like the scouting report on him, it makes sense to take him. It is impossible to grade this draft class right now as every single player taken is at least a year or two away from being ready to make any sort of contribution to the team, but I think the Avalanche will be very happy with this draft class.