Since the Colorado Avalanche won their second Stanley Cup title in 2001, inconsistent draft results have kept the organization from even sniffing another one.
Since the Matt Duchene trade — and the substantial package that general manager Joe Sakic received for him, including a pair of picks in next year’s draft — Avs fans are looking to the future, and hoping to not repeat some of the recent draft troubles that have plagued the team over the past few years.
Clearly, there have been some gems in the mix over the past several years. The Duchene pick in 2009, the Gabriel Landeskog pick in 2011 and, of course, the Nathan MacKinnon pick in 2013. There were other solid selections in the last five years that have made major impacts on the team, like Chris Bigras in 2013 and Mikko Rantanen in 2015.
Even with these hits in the draft, there have been some draft classes for the Avalanche, on the whole, that left fans scratching their heads and wondering how long this “rebuilding” time was going to take.
Fortunately, the 2016 class is showing some potential and could really make waves in the next year or two. Tyson Jost has already made an impact with the Avalanche after being selected tenth overall. Jost managed to chalk up 35 points in his first season and is on track to put up similar numbers in the 2017-18 season — and as the team is looking better than the previous season, it isn’t a wild thought to hope for more from the young star.
The full 2016 draft class has merit, but second-round pick Cameron Morrison has been recording staggering numbers throughout his young career. The 19 year-old phenom recorded 66 points in 60 games for the Youngstown Phantoms and has been named to the All-USHL first team and USHL all-rookie first team. Morrison is currently finishing his time at Notre Dame, but is clearly a promising prospect for the Avs.
It hasn’t all been wine and roses for the burgundy and blue, however.
The worst draft for the Avalanche in the last decade was in 2014. This was the second draft in the Patrick Roy era, and he certainly put his fingerprint on this one.
Straight out of the gate, the Avs were off to a poor start, drafting Connor Bleackley with their first-round pick. Bleackley appeared to have some promise, but never played a single game in the NHL for Colorado. The struggle didn’t stop there, as the next three picks of Kyle Wood (third round), Nick Magyar (fourth round), and Alexis Pepin (fourth round), all washed out over the next two years.
The only other two picks that showed any promise at all were defenseman Anton Lindholm and forward Julien Nantel. Nantel was drafted in the seventh round and has met the expectations of a late-round pick, spending most of his time in the minor leagues. Lindholm is the only player from the 2014 draft class that still remains on the Avalanche squad, but is playing more of a filler role than anything else. To add injury to insult, Lindholm is out with indefinitely with a broken jaw suffered at the end of October.
Now that the Avs are sitting on three more draft picks — a pair in 2018 and another in 2019 — and with a team that looks to be building on some young talent from previous draft years, management needs to capitalize on the Duchene trade by finding NHL-caliber players, or all will be for naught after trading away one the most productive players ever to don an Avalanche sweater.