BR Mailbag: NHL Draft, Avalanche Prospects and the Big Picture

A staff member at Burgundy Rainbow will periodically host a mailbag and answer questions on all Avalanche related topics from you, dear reader. Here is our first installment from QueenJK/tigervixxxen.  

Thanks for all the questions, I tried my best to get to all. For the purposes of this article I’m defining a prospect as one who is not currently on an NHL roster. This was fun, hope to do it again soon!

Professor Oak/King Peter: Who are 3 players you like that are projected second/mid round guys right now?

Kody Clark is a guy who has caught my eye lately. He’s just starting to drift onto the radar and Craig Button is the first of the scouting media to give Clark notice by ranking him #58 on his latest Craig’s list. Clark is just going to keep climbing the ranks over the rest of the season and probably end up a solid early mid-round pick. He’s a 6’1 180 lbs right shot right wing playing on the top line for the Ottawa 67s in the OHL and has scored 19 points including 10 goals in 24 games. He’s a swift skater and a goal scorer with good hockey sense and is starting how to figure out how to use his bigger frame. Clark is the son of Wendel Clark and teams are fond of those NHL bloodlines.

Jakub Lauko is a 6’1 172 lbs left winger playing in the Czech league. He has high end skill and is a good skater to go along with the size. He can score goals too as he converted four times at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka tournament. Opinions on him might be all over the map because he’s not producing much in the Czech league but his import draft rights are held by Rouyn-Noranda and he’s even said he’s possible to head over to North America next year and join them. Lauko is also a candidate for the Czech Republic World Junior Championship team as well and someone to keep an eye on as a good performance there might push him up to top 50 consideration in the draft.

Alexander Alexeyev has been on my radar for a while now and liked him in his first year in the WHL when he put up 21 points in 41 games.  He’s a 6’3 186 lbs two-way left handed defenseman that’s been playing with Red Deer the last two seasons. This season he’s at 12 points in 15 games. He had a good showing at the Canada Russia series for team Russia and is starting to creep up into the first round on a lot of draft rankings but could still be a likely second rounder. I think he has all the tools in skating, shot, offensive instincts and defensive abilities. He’s dealt with a few injuries that might have his profile lower than it should but he will be a great value pick for whoever gets to select him on draft day.

SeaMill: Who is your underdog pick for the 2018 draft? We all know about Dahlin, Zadina, McIsaac, etc. I wanna know an underdog who could be a star in the NHL someday?

A potential first rounder who might be a home run pick is Serron Noel who plays for Oshawa in the OHL. He’s a towering 6’5 196 lb swift skating power forward with goal scoring ability. For his size especially Noel’s mobility and skating ability stands out. Like many players of such type, consistency is the big question but when he’s on he can completely take over a game. Noel’s game is a bit raw and he’s just discovering how to use his tools but scouts are starting to take notice as NHL Central Scouting recently upgraded him to an A rated (first round) prospect. He’s scored 10 goals and 14 points in 19 games and is primed for a big second half of the season as someone to keep an eye on.

@AndreWindemere: With the addition of Girard, Kamenev, and Bowers into the Avs prospect pool, where do they currently rank league wide (approximately)?

It is tough to really take a comparative look during the season because graduations from the pool are assumed but haven’t technically happened yet such in the case of Sam Girard and Alexander Kerfoot. However, even if a few of those players don’t count for the pool any longer then adding at least five top 100 picks will help lift it back up. I’d place the Avs knocking on the door of the top 10 in the NHL with respect to how their pools stands currently. Some teams like Philadelphia and Tampa Bay still have more overall depth or a team like Minnesota still has more high end pieces but with the Avs putting both together they are looking much stronger than they have in quite a while.

Forsberger: How far do you think all the assets acquired in the Duchene trade go to re-stocking the Avs development pool? What else could be done to rejuvenate the Avs development system in general?

It certainly feels like a asset windfall right now but the fact that it took using a player like Matt Duchene to get those assets can’t be lost. Assets shouldn’t be used to just backfill spent or missed picks from the past and the Avs can’t feel satisfied with what they’ve amassed now. It’s a jumpstart on improving the asset base but work needs to continue and especially to build up those mid-round coffers. No doubt having four top 60 picks in the upcoming draft and adding another top 100 pick for the 2019 draft will add a depth of quality in the coming years. That’s strength at the top end of a draft the Avs haven’t seen in a long time and the 2015 draft showed what adding even one extra second round pick did for the pool.

As far as the development system, still a lot of work to go and should be done in advance of adding these big pieces from the upcoming drafts. Change needs to occur from the top down and coinciding with the beginning of the AHL partnership with the Colorado Eagles would be perfect timing.

Wildcat84A: Knowing predictions are imperfect, in your mind’s eye, what future NHL role with the Avs does Ty Lewis have?

If development goes right, Ty Lewis could be a middle six left winger in the NHL. Grooming role players has been a bit of a weakness for the organization but the potential is there. Lewis is a strong skater, hard worker, tough on the boards, responsible defensively, has good vision and offensive instincts, possesses a hard shot and goes to the tough areas. He plays a big role on a good Brandon Wheat Kings team and is in the mix in the Avs’ pipeline with the other potential depth forwards with upside.

DB Hammer: Who’s been the most impressive prospect (doesn’t have to be pts. can be anything you’ve seen that’s impressed you) in our system you’ve watched this year? Biggest disappointment?

As already touched on, Lewis has 36 points in 21 games and is still one of the top scorers in the WHL so his season has been nothing short of impressive. Dominic Toninato deserved some consideration before getting recognized for his strong play in San Antonio and called up to the Avs. But the one player I’ll single out for his efforts this year is Travis Barron. His production is a lot higher this year, currently at 22 points in 23 games. But I wasn’t concerned about needing to see his offense having potential to translate to a higher level, it’s the consistency in his game that’s nice to see. Barron is showing all the intangibles too, as captain he’s really the emotional leader of the team, he plays a hard heavy game and the team around him plays to that identity. It’s nice to see him lead a young Ottawa 67s to more success this season too with a 13-9-2 record and one point out of the division and conference lead.

On the flip side, it’s been disappointing to see how the season has gone for Nate Clurman. From all indications he’s been the 6/7 defenseman for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL and has only registered an assist in 12 games. A transition period coming from high school was expected but at 19 years old Clurman is one of the older players on the team and needs to get prepared for NCAA hockey next season so it’s a bit of a concern to see just how raw he is and how far he needs to go.

AvalanchePilgrim: How do you see Avs goaltending future evolving? (Spencer becoming no. 2? Should we draft a goalie in earlier rounds etc.)

Honestly, the future in goal for the Avs still rests with Semyon Varlamov. There aren’t really any signs that the organization is ready to move on to a post-Varly era. I could easily see an extension happen in the near future. As far as depth, I do feel that Spencer Martin has number two potential but will take a couple more years before he’s ready for full time in the NHL. The Avs might sign one of the European goalies such as Petr Kvaca over to North America sooner than later to begin development in the minors. Outside of that there doesn’t seem to be a great urgency to bring in a near NHL ready talent. The upcoming draft does feel like the time to invest a high mid-round pick on a North American goalie. There’s also the chance a minor trade or a college free agent signing might bring in a closer to contributing talent. The scattershot feel to all these options brings back to the original point, the future in goal for the Avalanche already has the net.

greger-jens: What do we do with the cluster of right-handed D-men we have in about 3 years? Who stays and what happens with the rest?

First of all, the collection of righty defensemen (Cale Makar, Conor Timmins, Nicolas Meloche) all have to fully develop into NHL defenseman to even have a log jam. Then the organization needs to decide if they are going to pay Tyson Barrie which will probably not be a cheap contract. Too many good defenseman is a good problem to have and one could be sold at a premium if there’s truly a surplus. I still have a tough time seeing the Avs pony up for Barrie and suspect he will eventually get moved and hopefully for another massive package of futures once the Duchene trade assets begin to run dry.

Lightning Round

Nathan Chapman: Top 5 CHL jerseys?

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Red Deer Rebels, Sherbrooke Phoenix, Edmonton Oil Kings (green alternates) and these beauties.

Patrick: Who is you Memorial Cup pick?

Regina Pats, naturally. Joining them in the Memorial Cup I’ll go with Sault Ste. Marie, Moose Jaw and maybe a bold pick Rimouski.

chargerco: Do you see any player in the Avs prospect system now that can turn into an offensive force in the NHL?

No, which is why the Avs need to draft an impact scorer. You never know of course but I just don’t think they have a prospect with that type of upside right now.

PB&B: Which positions will you target with the picks in the three firsts rounds of the entry draft 2018?

Keeping the board and “Best Player Available” in mind, I’d love to walk away with a high end scoring winger, a two-way left handed defenseman, a power forward, a goalie with starter upside, and a Québécois in the top 100 picks.

Steph: Which of the Avs’ current top prospects (you can judge who that means) are most likely to bust on us?

A prospect that needs a decent amount of time in the Avalanche development system in conjunction with those that need work on skating. Conor Timmins and Cam Morrison fits the bill for me here.

PB&B: It’s a bit early, but how many prospects (and who) you see turn pro in Loveland after this year?

Assuming the Colorado Eagles are used for young prospect development next year, I see Ty Lewis, Conor Timmins, Travis Barron and Josh Anderson playing in Loveland then.

Nathan Chapman: Who are your 5 favourite prospects? Can be drafted or undrafted and from any team.

Avs prospects: Cale Makar, JC Beaudin, Nicolas Meloche, Travis Barron, Ty Lewis. NHL prospects: Logan Brown, Cody Glass, Maxime Comtois, Juuso Valimaki, Lawson Crouse.

ljp78: At what point should we be concerned about results over process? Has that point already come?

When most of the “kids” aren’t on their ELCs any longer then it’s time to worry about the standings. Until then it’s all about growth, development and “the process”.

RandyTime: Do the Avs have an idea of what they want their identity to be yet?

The Avs have always been a team that thrives on transition rush and counterattack offense but beyond that no they don’t have an identity yet. Youngerfaster is a process but not an identity either.

Thanks again for the questions!

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