Strike 2: Three of our four major sports franchises each continue to have an Achilles heel when it comes to drafting and developing young talent at one key position. Bo Nix will try to become the first “franchise” quarterback ever drafted by the Denver Broncos (sorry, Jay Cutler fans. No way.) The Colorado Rockies are hoping young Drew Romo – still working his way up the minor league ladder – becomes the first catcher to be drafted by Colorado to become a big league standout, and the Colorado Avalanche are hoping great things can happen with home grown goaltender Justus Annunen. He’d be the first as well.

But the Avs aren’t putting all their pucks in that basket.

While the Broncos have been continually trying – drafting college quarterbacks with regularity – the Avalanche brass has finally put some emphasis on drafting and developing a standout net minder. It’s been a position they’ve neglected badly on draft day for the most part since moving to Denver in the mid 1990’s. Since Annunen was chosen in the third round back in 2018, they’ve only picked four other goalies, and none had made a mark as of yet. Overall, Colorado has drafted just 27 goaltenders overall since arriving in town, or just over one per nine round draft.

The mindset appears to have changed this year.

In the most recent NHL draft, Colorado almost matched that previous six-year total by drafting three new goaltenders, including their first pick, number 38 in the second round. That top pick, Ilya Nabokov from Russia, is the first goaltender selected with their first pick since Peter Budaj way back in 2001.

The 20-year-old Nabokov comes in with mixed reviews. He wasn’t graded in the top 50 prospects before the draft, even after being named the Rookie of the Year in the Russian professional KHL, and becoming the league’s playoff MVP. Still, Colorado obviously saw something they really liked and grabbed him early in the second round. But they weren’t done. The Avs also selected Canada’s Louka Cloutier and Russian Ivan Yunin with a pair of fifth rounders. Three goaltenders in their first five picks.

The hope is that obviously if they throw enough goalies at the boards, someone is going to stick.

This marks a stark change in policy for Colorado. Perhaps it has to do with the cost and difficulty of obtaining high quality netminding on the free agent or trade markets these days. Remember, trades brought both Stanley Cup winning goalies, Patrick Roy (1996 and 2000) and Darcy Kuemper (2022) to town. And with the cost of signing a middling free agent goalie these days is about $3.3 million, it makes far more sense to grow your own.

Plus, middling goaltenders don’t win Stanley Cups.

There’s no doubt that better goaltending would greatly benefit the current Avalanche. It was a rollercoaster of a season for sometimes beleaguered Alexandar Georgiev, who looked done for after a miserable first playoff game before rallying and playing well the rest of the way. Still, had Annunen not gotten a mysterious illness in the initial stages of the opening playoff series against Winnipeg, the 24-year-old Finn may have gotten the chance to become that first home-grown standout netminder in Avs history.

Now it may be a race between Annunen and Nabokov to see who earns that designation first.