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Day 3 is upon us as the journey through recent Avalanche draft history continues. If you missed either of the first two installments this week, you can check out the 2010 Draft Review here and the 2009 Draft Review here. Today we review the 2011 draft class, a top heavy class that has left quite a bit to be desired.
For some pre-draft context, the Avalanche made the trade of the season in February when they traded Chris Stewart, top prospect Kevin Shattenkirk, and a 2nd round pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, and a first round pick, leaving the Avalanche with their own pick, 2nd overall, and the first rounder from the Blues landed them the 11th overall selection. Let’s take a look at how the Avalanche fared on draft day.
Gabriel Landeskog, 2nd overall
Anybody who has followed the Avalanche in recent years is familiar with this name. Billed as the most NHL-ready prospect in his draft class, Gabriel Landeskog came to the Avalanche as a player physically mature enough to handle the increased rigors of professional hockey and skilled enough to warrant sticking with the Avalanche without ever appearing in the minor leagues.
A physical, two-way forward whose defensive game was just as good as his offensive, Landeskog made an impression immediately on the young Avalanche, leading the team with 22 goals and finishing 3rd on the team with 52 points. Landeskog’s stellar rookie season earned him the Calder Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s top rookie.
Shortly after his rookie season, Landeskog would be given the captaincy of the Avalanche, making him the youngest captain in NHL history. While his second season would be plagued by a concussion suffered after a questionable hit by future teammate Brad Stuart, Landeskog would get back on track and become the exceptional possession driving, two-way forward his rookie season suggested he was. A career high 26 goals and 65 points in 2013-14 helped set the tone as he led the Avalanche to the Central Division title.
While he’ll likely never be an elite scorer, Landeskog’s 200-foot game will make him a special player for years to come and the 7-year contract extension he signed in the summer of 2013 guarantees he’ll continue to be the face of the franchise for this generation of Avalanche hockey.
Duncan Siemens, 11th overall
The second first rounder thanks to the Erik Johnson trade, Duncan Siemens was a very well known player for the Avalanche staff as he was the blue line partner of 2009 draft pick Stefan Elliott. The team would select Siemens in hopes of someday re-uniting the pair in the NHL and having their contrasting styles mesh for years to come. A rugged defenseman with a mean streak, Siemens represented the kind of defender the Avalanche had lacked since the glory days of Adam Foote and was a sharp departure from the large number of smaller, puck-moving defensemen the team had drafted in recent years.
Things went sideways in Siemens’ development almost immediately as his points dropped when Elliott turned pro and his play overall dropped off a bit and the next season he was stripped of his captaincy and not even awarded an alternate by the new captain. Siemens’ play continued to tail off until midway through the season when the lightbulb seemed to finally come on and he would finish his junior career on a high not.
Sent to Lake Erie after not making the Avalanche out of camp, Siemens would have an uneven rookie season in pro hockey, scoring only 4 points and only sporadically showing the defense that made him such a highly touted prospect before bowing out with injuries, playing in only 46 games.
This past season Siemens would again struggle with injuries, playing in only 51 games, but his play improved throughout the year and while he never reached a dominant level he would see himself called up by the Avalanche and make his pro debut in the last Avs game of the season. His NHL debut was filled with 14 minutes of some good and some bad but there was enough positive to inspire hope that Siemens will strongly contend for the Avalanche roster out of training camp next season.
Joachim Nermark, 93rd overall
The Avalanche would see 81 players come off the board after selecting Siemens before they were on the clock again and their choice of Swedish forward Joachim Nermark, who had 1 point in 12 games in Sweden’s top professional league in his draft year, would basically end up a wasted pick. Nermark never signed with the Avalanche organization and never found success in the Swedish Elite League, instead finding his only consistent success a rung below the top competition.
While Nermark has no immediate future in professional hockey in North America, this pick became notable more for the player the Avalanche did not select as Johnny Gaudreau, a frontrunner for this season’s Calder Trophy, would be selected just 11 picks later.
Garrett Meurs, 123rd overall
Sticking with their theme of drafting undersized forwards in the later rounds, the Avalanche plucked tiny Garrett Meurs from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers and watched him flourish into a productive forward in his final junior years before making the jump to pro hockey with the Lake Erie Monsters.
A lower line energy player, Meurs has lived up to his limited potential by maximizing every ounce of his talent with an extremely high work ethic and a high end motor that never stops churning. Unfortunately for Meurs, he’s not skilled enough to overcome his size limitations and in pro hockey you’re allowed to be highly skilled, large, or both but you’re not allowed to be neither.
While Meurs is signed through 2016, his future with the organization is as roster filler for either the ECHL Fort Wayne Komets or the Monsters and is unlikely to be retained when his contract expires at the end of next season.
Gabriel Beaupre, 153rd overall
A defensive defenseman known for a physical game and shot-blocking, Beaupre would only play one more junior season before turning pro. He saw action all over the Avalanche minor league map, spending time with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, CHL’s Denver Cutthroats, and ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets over his first 3 seasons in pro hockey.
Signed through next season, Beaupre would appear to already be an odd man out in a suddenly crowded blue line picture for the Avalanche and Monsters so unless his game takes a significant leap, he appearsto be no more than minor league depth with a limited future in North America.
Dillon Donnelly, 183rd overall
A guy with a sense of self-awareness, the large-bodied Dillon Donnelly would endear himself to fans immediately after being drafted when the point-challenged player’s twitter handle was discovered to be “NotaPPGuy”. Not particularly skilled on either end of the ice, Donnelly would be remembered by fans for his social media prowess and for eventually playing for future Head Coach Patrick Roy, whose decision not to bring Donnelly with him from the Quebec Remparts would be very telling for his future prospects.
After spending 5 seasons in the QMJHL, the league known for producing inflated scoring numbers, and scoring only 39 points in 273 games and not being offered a pro contract by the Avalanche, Donnelly’s hockey career would appear to be over.
While four seasons will typically be too soon to draw definitive conclusions from a draft class, the book on this Avs draft class is only up in the air because of the potential for Duncan Siemens to make a successful transition to the NHL. As of right now, the Avalanche at least nailed the easy pick at the top of the draft with face-of-the-franchise Landeskog but failed to find anyone of NHL quality beyond the first round.
Until Siemens becomes a stalwart along a NHL blue line, the grade for this draft can’t go any higher than a C with the possibility of jumping to a B if Siemens pans out. If you’re going to miss in the draft, missing in the 4th round and beyond and getting the 1st round correct is a good way to go about it. When assessing the Avalanche organization and specifically their extreme lack of quality depth at forward, this is a draft class that sticks out as a failure to produce that depth. High-end talent good, quality depth bad. This draft would continue the disturbing trend started by the 2010 draft where early selections are either working out or still have the potential to while the lower round selections were a wasteland of missed picks.
Tomorrow we’ll check out the 2012 draft and examine the low mark of the Rick Pracey-era.