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Yesterday we took a look at the 2009 draft class for the Colorado Avalanche and the franchise-changing power a single great day at the draft can possess. Today, we’re going to delve into the draft class that immediately followed it to provide a stark contrast to how the fortunes can change so quickly.
Unlike in 2009, the Avalanche were not sitting at the top of the draft sifting through elite prospects to brighten their future but were paying the price, so to speak, for a playoff run nobody saw coming and would start the day smack dab in the middle with the 17th overall pick.
Joey Hishon, 17th overall
A pick that immediately caused a stir as the Avalanche selected TSN’s 46th-rated player in the 17th slot, nobody was sure what to make of the kid from Owen Sound whose draft year numbers were paltry in comparison to those selected around him. If you watch that video, the great Bob McKenzie would unknowingly provide a hauntingly accurate portrayal of Hishon as he mentions his high character and compete levels as well as the injury issues that caused him to be ranked as low as he was.
After having a wonderful season following the draft where he scored 87 points in 50 games, as well as 24 points in 22 playoff games, Hishon’s high character would be put to the test as the infamous elbow he received from Brayden McNabb would see him miss two years of hockey due to concussion symptoms Hishon would suffer as a result of the elbow. A slow start to his career in the AHL cast a serious shadow of doubt that Hishon would ever regain the form that made the Avalanche brass look so smart in taking Hishon so early.
That would all change at the end of this recently-concluded 2014-15 season as Hishon finally saw regular NHL action, appearing in the final 13 games for the Avalanche, notching 2 points, including his memorable first career goal, the game-winner, versus the Nashville Predators. The success Hishon experienced in the NHL provides hope the dynamic center is set to contribute regularly at the NHL level starting as soon as next season.
Calvin Pickard, 49th overall
The Avalanche would make it five consecutive years drafting a goaltender when they selected the top-rated North American goalie available in Calvin Pickard, whose older brother Chet had been a first round selection two years earlier in 2008.
Pickard’s remaining junior career for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds saw him see an enormous amount of shots in what turned out to be ample preparation for his professional career in an organization whose porous defense at all levels left Pickard in much the same situation that he faced in juniors.
Pickard would spend the first 2 seasons of his pro career in a platoon with Sami Aittokallio in the AHL, putting up very respectable statistics on bad teams and giving hope that was living up to his exceptional promise. This past season, Pickard finally would get the call to the NHL, where he took over for a brief period of time when Semyon Varlamov was battling injuries and Reto Berra was battling incompetence. His 16 appearances for the Avalanche saw him post an exceptional .932 save percentage and keep the Avalanche hanging around the fringes of the playoff race as well as make a handful of memories among the fan base with his exuberant post-game celebrations.
Moving forward, Pickard is set to enter next season in a full-blown goalie battle with Berra for the backup goaltender job in the NHL.
Michael Bournival, 71st overall
The Avalanche and their fans would hardly to get familiar with Michael Bournival as he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, just 4 months after being drafted, in exchange for hulking defenseman Ryan O’Byrne, who would play 2+ seasons for Colorado before departing himself.
Bournival would shoot through the ranks for the Canadiens, making his NHL debut in 2013 and playing 60 games while accumulating 14 points (7g, 7a). He would struggle to see consistent playing time with Montreal as he frequently went from the Canadiens to their AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, as well as missing extended time due to injury. As of now, he’s battling dizziness as a result of multiple concussions suffered and his future remains unclear.
Stephen Silas, 95th overall
Drafted as a decent puck-moving defenseman, Silas would play his maximum allowed 5 years for the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, never improving on the numbers he posted in his draft season and never developing into a legitimate prospect. The Avalanche never signed Silas and he passed through quietly as a guy nobody has much to say about.
Silas is currently playing for the U. of Waterloo of the OUAA and does not appear to have a future in professional hockey.
Sami Aittokallio, 107th overall
After picking up the draft’s top-rated North American goaltender in Pickard, the Avs doubled down and selected the top-rated European goaltender in Sami Aittokallio as well. Fresh from the goalie factory of Finland, Aittokallio arrived with high hopes and would split starts with Pickard over first couple years with the Lake Erie Monsters.
While the numbers posted by Aittokallio were not quite to the level of Pickard’s, Aittokallio would see NHL action first as an emergency call-up in 2012-13, where he played 1 game. He would receive another call-up the following season and make 1 more appearance before going back to Lake Erie.
While talented, Aittokallio has struggled a great deal with injuries and consistency, never finding the rhythm Pickard did. It’s been a swift fall from grace as the once highly-rated prospect faces an uncertain future with the Avalanche organization as their glut of goaltenders means they may elect to move on from the injury-prone Aittokallio this summer, who is a Restricted Free Agent.
Troy Rutkowski, 137th overall
The Avalanche would draft another defenseman known for his ability to move the puck in Troy Rutkowski, who like Silas would play 5 years of junior hockey before moving on. Unlike Silas, Rutkowski saw his numbers spike towards the end of his time in junior, earning himself a professional contract. Unfortunately, that contract would not come from the Avalanche, who allowed Rutkowski’s rights to lapse, making him eligible to sign with anybody interested.
Rutkowski has spent the last two seasons in the Ottawa Senators organization, seeing time with their AHL and ECHL affiliates but making zero NHL appearances. At this point he appears very unlikely to ever make the NHL.
Luke Walker, 139th overall
Just two picks after selecting Rutkowski, the Avalanche would select his Portland Winterhawks teammate Luke Walker. A rugged forward whose tireless work ethic and physical playstyle helped make him a fan favorite, Walker would jump to the AHL quickly and spend 3 seasons playing for the Lake Erie Monsters.
While never receiving a call-up to the NHL, Walker was seen as a talented bottom 6 player with a ton of energy. Following the 2012-13 season, Walker elected to leave the Monsters for the curiously green pastures of the KHL in Russia. He played 1 season in Russia before moving on to the Austrian league this past season.
The Avalanche own his rights until 2017 but it is unlikely the team brings him back to North America.
Luke Moffatt, 197th overall
With their final pick of the 2010 Draft, the Avalanche selected Luke Moffatt of the USHL. Moffatt would never sign with the Avalanche, who allowed his rights to lapse, and he would play out his career for the University of Michigan before moving on from the sport after his senior season.
Quite the contrast to the 2009 draft, the 2010 draft class has made a combined 120 appearances in the NHL, 89 of which belong to Bournival and the Canadiens. While the future remains very bright for Joey Hishon and Calvin Pickard, they remain the torch-bearers of this draft class as 4 of the 8 players drafted in this class are already out of professional hockey in North America. When looking at the current state of the Avalanche prospect pool, ranked dead last in the NHL before the start of the 2014-15 season, one of the reasons the Avalanche encountered significant issues with sufficient depth at the NHL and AHL levels is due to the multiple prospects from this class who failed to amount to legitimate prospects.
Tomorrow we’ll examine the 2011 Draft and see a disturbing trend begin to emerge from the Avalanche and their front office on draft day.