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NHL Draft: Best/Worst Fits for Colorado Avalanche

AJ Haefele Avatar
June 24, 2015


Today’s draft feature focuses on the players in this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft that would make the best and worst fits with the Avalanche organization. Keep in mind that these are not indictments or endorsements of prospects, just how they theoretically fit in the Avalanche organization.

Best Fits

Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS Turku (Liiga)

Cheryl says: Rantanen is exactly what the Avalanche need to fill the void that will soon be left by the aging Jarome Iginla. With his large frame, strong leadership, and offensive prowess, Rantanen is a natural successor to the Hall of Famer. His need for another year of physical development will coincide nicely with Iginla’s transition to a support role, giving Rantanen the opportunity to be mentored by a star player without the pressure of needing to provide instant top-end production, thereby helping the young Finn reach his full potential as a power forward.

Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Casey says: If Crouse is still available at pick #10, he’d slot into the Avalanche system in a valuable way. Given another year to develop in junior, the big winger could then emerge onto the Avalanche roster as Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay’s contracts are winding down. If he develops properly, he could be the long-term solution to the ever-present problem of “who plays on Matt Duchene’s wing?” Crouse is the type of dynamic player that could feed off Duchene and vice versa, potentially creating something very special.

Pavel Zacha, W/C, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

Austin says: Given the Avalanche’s need for a top-six forward and a top-pairing defenseman, any of the wingers or left-handed defenseman available in the first-round would be excellent fits in my opinion. I think taking the best player available, as Sakic stated is the plan, should be the strategy, with the goal being to acquire a top-pairing defenseman or a future scoring forward to play with MacKinnon and Duchene.

I think it’s really splitting hairs to pick a “best fit” overall out of those options, but assuming the players reach their full potential, I think Pavel Zacha would be a tremendous fit for the Avalanche. His ability to get to the net and most importantly, shoot the puck, would be a major weapon on the wing with Duchene or MacKinnon. I think he has the highest ceiling of the wingers in the draft, and while batteries aren’t included with the pick, a fair amount of bust potential will be. It’s a roll of the dice, but the potential payoff is huge.

Zachary Senyshyn, RW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Cole says: The Avalanche’s prospect pool is extremely shallow when it comes to high octane offensive forwards. The Avs best prospects at forward today, Joey Hishon and Conner Bleackley, project as depth playmakers most likely lack the high end offense to play in the top six.

The Avs have been very public about their desire to get bigger and faster in the NHL’s tough Western Conference, and the 6’2″ speedster Zach Senyshyn does just that, bringing together scoring ability, size, and speed in a way that makes him an excellent fit for the Avalanche. Senyshyn plays the game at an extremely high speed and you can almost picture him skating on the wing of Nathan MacKinnon or Matt Duchene at some point down the line.

Ryan Gropp, LW, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Austin says: Moving beyond the first round, I like Ryan Gropp as another strong fit for the Avalanche. Gropp is a guy who is projected to go in the second round, with an outside shot of slipping into round three. If he’s on the board when the Avalanche make their selection at 71st overall, I think he’d be a tremendous selection.

The Seattle Thunderbird is getting tutelage from former Avalanche winger Steve Konowalchuk, and has shown good scoring ability overall. He has a good frame at 6’2″ and while he doesn’t play a massive power game, he does get to the scoring areas and has above average hands. Given a couple years of strong development, he could provide some scoring depth to the middle of the Avalanche lineup, and he instantly improves the wing depth for the Avalanche organization.

Vince Dunn, D, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)

Andi says: While Dunn might not be a candidate for the 10th Overall pick, he’d be a potential steal at #40.  He’s a 6′-0″ offensive defenseman who’s play around his own net is actually fairly developed thanks to well timed stickwork.  Even though the Avs don’t have an immediate need for a lefty scoring threat from the blueline, the club doesn’t have many in the system, and Dunn has enough upside and instincts that he could easily round into a 2-way threat.  He might not be the obvious choice, but in the long run, I think he’d be a perfect value pick for the Avalanche system.

Jonas Siegenthaler, D, ZSC (NLA)

AJ says: Assuming the Avalanche take one of the highly ranked forwards that drops to them at 10, Siegenthaler makes sense as a player for the Avalanche to target in the second round. At 6’3”, 220 pounds and left-handed, he’s an ideal fit for what the Avalanche are looking for in their system and in the NHL.

A great skater, especially at his size, Siegenthaler has all of the raw tools teams covet. While his decision-making with the puck is questionable at times, he plays a reliable, physical style of defense that could develop into exactly what the Avalanche need in the NHL.

Simon Bourque, D, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)

Cheryl says: Another under-the-radar player is Simon Bourque who could slot well into the Avalanche blueline. As was mentioned in his draft profile, the Avalanche have a lot of blueliners playing minutes by default. Brad Stuart was brought in to be a top-four d-man, but it became pretty clear right away that he wasn’t cut out for it any longer. Nate Guenin is getting minutes because there isn’t an option Roy finds more attractive. Bourque is designed to be a bottom-pairing d-man who can eat up minutes on the lower rungs while providing smart, reliable two-way play. He’s a safe bet for a third-round selection.

Yegor Rykov, D, SKA-­‐1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

Casey says: Though he’s a later round pick, Rykov is the sort of big-bodied defender that suits the archetype of defenders Roy and Sakic are trying to develop. He’s tenacious with the puck and has a real gift for outlet passing. He plays tight, positional defense and generates turnovers.

In addition to all that, there’s a solid offensive upside to his play–overall he’s the type of two-way defender that could develop into something special if handled right and certainly worth taking a chance on if he’s still available in the fourth round

Worst Fits

Kyle Connor, C, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

Cheryl says: There’s nothing wrong with Kyle Connor. He’s an exciting, explosive center with a ton of talent. Oddly, the reason he would be the worst fit in the organization is the same reason he makes a good match: his style of play. His high-energy, play-making game fits right into the Avalanche identity. Unfortunately, that means he brings the same skill set to the table as two current Avalanche stars in Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon, albeit with a lower ceiling.

While it’s never a bad thing to add more speed and firepower, the Avalanche would be better off filling in the holes on defense or wing with bigger, more powerful players.

Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Austin says: Of all the players who may be available to the Colorado Avalanche with the 10th overall pick, I think Matthew Barzal is the worst fit. He is a pure centerman and playmaker, and is redundant with Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon guaranteed to be in the fold, and a chance that Ryan O’Reilly still will be too.

While Barzal may be the best-player-available at 10th, the Avalanche need a big winger who can finish or a defenseman with top-pairing potential far more than they need a smallish center with a playmaking style. If Barzal is on the board, the Avalanche would be wise to see if a team like LA or Boston would want to trade up and grab him, and secure themselves another 2nd round pick in this year’s draft.

Ilya Samsonov, G,  Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)

Casey says: Samsonov is an electrifying Russian goalkeeper prospect, arguably the best to come out of Russia since Andrei Vasilevskiy. However, he is predicted to go somewhere in the early second round. The Avalanche are comfortably deep with their goaltending prospects these days and they do not need to spend their second round pick on a goaltender.

Mitchell Vande Sompel, D, Oshawa Generals (OHL)

Cole says: As a 5’10” left-shooting offensive defenseman, Mitchell Vande Sompel is the last thing the Avalanche should look to spend their 2nd round pick on. The Avs’ have plenty of offensive defenseman on the team and in the system (though most of them play on the right side) and the Avs’ prospect system is loaded with left-shooters.

At 40th overall there should by a myriad of players who better address the Avalanche’s organizational needs and bring the size that the Avalanche are looking for in the tough Western Conference.

Jeremy Bracco, RW, USNTDP (USHL)

AJ says: Bracco is an electric offensive talent who was considered a mid-first round possibility at one point. Then he put up a lackluster second half of the season and teams started turning their attention elsewhere. For a guy like Bracco, who is only 5’9”, teams are looking for any excuse not to draft them. Bracco’s lackluster second half gave it to them and he’s likely a second rounder now.

In regards to the Avalanche, the last thing they need to follow up the Rick Pracey era is another small winger who has to play top 6 minutes or not be on the team because he’s a waste elsewhere in the lineup. They have a glut of those guys in the AHL already and the team has been very vocal about continuing to add size to its ranks.

Anthony Richard, C, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)

Casey says: While Richard is a talented young forward, he suffers from a lot of the problems that have plagued the Avalanche as a whole for several seasons. He is easily bumped off the puck and has difficulty carrying it into the zone. Once he’s there, he’s a charm to watch and has talent to spare, but the Avs have no shortage of talented playmaking centermen. There’s simply no need for them to draft another who also has glaring possession and zone entry issues.

Guillaume Brisebois, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)

Cheryl says: Guillaume Brisebois is a middle-pairing defenseman who will be drafted in a middle round. For all intents and purposes, he’s a very serviceable blueliner with leadership and intelligence. He can play all three zones and excels on closing the gap when facing a rush. He lacks physicality, though, and shies away from the rough stuff. While the Avs still need to shore up the defense, Brisebois brings nothing to the table that the team doesn’t already have with more talented players. Drafting Brisebois would be a wasted pick.

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