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Top 25 Avalanche Under 25: #22 Will Butcher

Andi Duroux Avatar
May 4, 2015

 

As we keep rolling on with the “Top 25 Avalanche Under 25′ series, it’s time to introduce Denver University blueliner Will Butcher to the list at #22.  In case you missed any of AJ’s great work last week, #25 Troy Bourke, #24 Samuel Henley, and #23 Cody Corbett are certainly worth the read.

Beyond having a great name, Butcher is also the first player to be selected by all 6 staff writers, ranging in ranking from #19 to #24.  At a glance, the 2013 5th round pick projects as an offensive defenseman and power play quarterback.

Who is Will Butcher?

After two strong midgets campaigns, Butcher came into the US National Development Program with high expectations, but has struggled a bit to live up to that hype as he’s climbed the ranks.  Regardless, the Wisconsin native has represented his country five times in international tournaments, including wearing an A during this year’s U-20 World Junior Championship.

The Avalanche took a chance on the 5′-10″ blueliner when they drafted him #123 Overall in 2013, and in the two subsequent years at the University of Denver, he’s posted 34 pts across 76 total games.

Butcher’s playing style is very much that of an offensive defenseman.  While he’s competent in the defensive zone and occasionally skates on the PK, it’s his puck moving skills and scoring instincts that really make him shine.  He’s primarily known as a quarterback on the man advantage, but he typically directs play from his position at the point any time his team is on the attack.

His vision and transition skills are top-notch while his skating and shot are decent, so he has many of the characteristics that one would hope to see in a defenseman of the somewhat Tyson Barrie ilk.

However, he’s never had that breakout scoring season Avs’ management were clearly hoping for when they drafted him.  He’s also known to make risky plays in the offensive zone, pinching at inopportune moments and creating odd man rushes the other way.  He did finish with a +2 rating despite facing other team’s top competition at the 2015 WJC, but due to his size, he will always face certain defensive limitations.

His defensive anticipation and stick-work are decent, but he’s struggled to pair shut-down responsibilities with production at the other end of the ice.  It’s the classic case of someone who has all the tools, but has just never found a way to put them all together.

What is the future for Will Butcher?
The Avs defensive pipeline is quite crowded right now, with Bigras, Siemens, Geertsen, Noreau, Corbett, Beaupre, and likely Elliott all vying for AHL positions next year.  It’s therefore very probable that Butcher will play out his collegiate eligibility before turning pro.

Once he graduates, it will be interesting to see if he’s offered a contract by the Avalanche.  Roy’s repeatedly indicated that he’d like the blueline to get bigger, which is a mandate that Butcher’s 5′-10″ frame doesn’t exactly meet.  However, with the graduation of DU’s Joey LaLeggia, Butcher should start seeing additional minutes in both the offensive zone and top power play unit as he enters into his Junior year.

If he can continue to work on his defense and find a way to truly set himself apart with his offensive play, he might have a spot in the Avs future plans as a depth power play specialist, but as it stands right now, Butcher looks like a bit of a long shot to ever crack the Avalanche lineup.

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