After finishing dead last in the 2016-17 NHL season, where do the Colorado Avalanche begin when looking at players entering the 2017 NHL Draft?
It's clear the Avs need to shake the tree, start fresh and make the necessary changes to avoid another 22-56-4 finish.
But where do they start? Do they draft a defenseman and strengthen their own zone? Do they draft another center, a two-way player, hoping he can help keep the puck out of the net at one end, while burying it in the other? Or do they make a couple trades to completely shake up the team and select both?
Prior to the draft, the core group of Avalanche players -- 15 players who played in over 50 games last season -- had an average plus/minus of -21.33.
High-scoring players, including Matt Duchene, Tyson Barrie, Gabriel Landeskog and budding star Mikko Rantanen were scored on 21 times more than the number of times they were either on the ice or part of an Avalanche goal.
Duchene, one of Colorado's top scorers, has been surrounded by trade talk -- even before the trade deadline in March.
Bob McKenzie says there's absolutely no doubt that Matt Duchene is moved this summer, says his time in Colorado is up.— Avalanche Forever (@citchmook) June 3, 2017
Although Duchene may be on his way out of the Mile High City, the team won't give up the five-time gold medalist without proper compensation, hence their inability to make a deal prior to the trade deadline in March.
If one of their top line centers were to be traded, the Avalanche may consider drafting a strong center who can jump into play right away without waiting for them to develop in college or another league. The addition of last year's first round draft pick Tyson Jost is a plus, but can he fill the role Duchene has played?
The Avalanche received the 4th overall pick in the draft this year so they are unlikely to get the projected top picks, centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier. So maybe they trade down and take a defenseman and hope a trade with Duchene pans out.
Colorado's defense has also been highly criticized. Prior to last year's season, former Avalanche Head Coach Patrick Roy said this after his resignation:
I have thought long and hard over the course of the summer about how I might improve this team to give it the depth it needs and bring it to a higher level. To achieve this, the vision of the coach and VP-Hockey Operations needs to be perfectly aligned with that of the organization. He must also have a say in the decisions that impact the team's performance. These conditions are not currently met.
One of Roy's concerns was the team's strength on defense and how to improve after their top defensive core (Barrie, Beuchemin, and Johnson) all had poor numbers on defense despite their offensive successes.
The Avalanche may attempt to strengthen their play in their own zone with a big, strong defenseman who can quarterback play out of the defensive zone, i.e. Cale Makar, Callan Foote (son of former Avalanche great, Adam Foote), or Timothy Lilegren.
Best case scenario, the Avalanche are able to move Duchene for either another big-name center or a big-name defenseman and then draft the component they still need.
Here are some of the top nine players the Avalanche may consider when entering the NHL Draft next week.
- Klim Kostin - Right Wing - 6'3" - 196 lbs - KHL
- Gabriel Vilardi - Center - 6'2" - 192 lbs - OHL
- Nick Suzuki - Center - 5'11" - 183 lbs - OHL
- Michael Rasmussen - Center - 6'5" - 203 lbs - WHL
- Timothy Lilegren - Defenseman - 6'0" - 192 lbs - Sweden
- Callan Foote - Defenseman - 6'3" - 209 lbs - WHL
- Cale Makar - Defenseman - 5'11" - 179 lbs - AJHL
- Joshua Norris - Center - 6'1" - 192 lbs - USHL
- Miro Heiskanen - Center - 6'0" - 174 lbs - SM-Liiga
The 2017 NHL Draft takes place in Chicago, Illinois, at the United Center on June 23 and 24. The Draft will air on NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet at 5 p.m. MT on Friday, June 23 and NHL Network, Sportsnet at 8 a.m. MT on Saturday June 24.