The Colorado Avalanche don’t have a very good defense. In fact you could say it’s bad. Lucky for the Avalanche, they have a top 10 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. So it might be in their best interest to draft a forward.
Wait, what? It’s true that defense in hockey is like pitching in baseball, you can never have enough. Colorado certainly don’t have enough at the NHL level, but organizationally they have a pretty well stocked cabinet. In the pipeline for Colorado are players like Chris Bigras, the 2013 second round pick that almost made the team that season, Ducan Seimens, Will Butcher, Mason Geertson and Kyle Wood. Players like Butcher and Geertson had exceptional seasons for their College and CHL teams respectively. Bigras and Seimens both seem likely to see time in the NHL this coming season.
None of these prospects are sure things, and the drafting of another defenseman is in no way a bad thing. However, looking at what Colorado have inside their organization at the forward position and things look pretty bad. Outside of 2014 first rounder Conner Bleackley, the Avalanche don’t have much in terms a dynamic prospect that can generate offense. There are some players like Joey Hishon, but his injury history leaves a lot of questions still to be answered. He played well in the few games he played in Denver this year, but he’s not a sure thing either. Overall Colorado’s organizational depth on the wings is awfully shallow.
With the number 10 pick in the coming draft Colorado have a chance to deepen their roster up front. Last year injuries forced Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic to call up AHL forwards who had little to offer in the NHL. With respect to players like Andrew Agozzino and Thomas Vincour they were not able to step in and provide enough to replace injured players like Jamie McGinn and Nathan MacKinnon. Players that were called up from the AHL this year generally fared pretty poorly. Hishon had one goal, but apart from that there was very little offense generated from call ups. Naturally players in the AHL are not going to be as good in the NHL, but the problem for Colorado is that there are very few players in the AHL and beyond that look like they would be ready to produce in the pros on a regular basis
In 2013, apart from Nathan MacKinnon and Spencer Martin, Colorado only drafted defense. It built up their stock in young defensive prospects, and now a few of them, like the aforementioned Bigras and Butcher, look like potential NHL regulars. In 2015 Colorado might need to do something similar with their forward group.
The number ten pick would surely give them a really good player. Players like Matt Barzal, Lawson Crouse and Mikko Rantanen all could be available when the Avalanche pick at number 10, and all three are talented youngsters that would almost immediately be towards the top of Colorado’s prospect pool. More about them can be read here. And here.
If Colorado’s defensive prospects turn out to be good regular NHL players then the Avalanche are already in a good spot. The popular wisdom in the NHL is that the important pieces of building a contender is to work from the goal out, and then up the middle first. Colorado have an elite goalie, and they have a few pieces on defense that could turn into real help for the team’s struggling defense. And of course up the middle of the ice Colorado have dynamic players like Duchene, MacKinnon and O’Reilly(hopefully). On the wings Colorado have aging players in Jarome Iginla, who put up an impressive season, and should be able to do it again next year. He’s not going to be around forever though. Neither will Alex Tanguay.
Colorado’s only long-term option on the wings is Gabe Landeskog. Jamie McGinn too, to some extent, but his recent back problems are definitely a cause for concern. In the next five years Colorado are going to need goal scoring wingers. They will need playmaking wingers. They will also need tough, go to the front of the net wingers. Their immediate concern is their defense, but in a few years, with a barren cupboard right now, their going to need to find some more players that can put the puck in the net. The draft might be a good place to find some of them.