If you’ve been paying attention to Gone Puck Wild lately, and shame on you if you haven’t, then you know school has begun as Wild fans brush up on their knowledge of the new teams within Minnesota’s division. This week, that new team just so happens to be a former Northwest Division rival–the Colorado Avalanche. Going through Sunday, we’ll break down Colorado’s major additions and subtractions, strengths and weaknesses, prospect pool, 2013 draft class and team outlook.
I hate computers, have I ever told you that? No? Well, now you know. I had all day yesterday reserved for writing articles–and then my computer crashes. Lovely. Well, today’s article is a two-for-one as we cover the Avs’ 2013 draft class and team outlook. Let’s begin, shall we?
Colorado’s 2013 NHL Draft Class
By now, it should come as no surprise to you to know dynamic Halifax Mooseheads center Nathan MacKinnon wound up going No. 1 overall to the Avalanche. The second NHL first overall selection in a decade out of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia (the other being Penguins captain Sidney Crosby), MacKinnon is a game changer that will be giving goalies nightmares for what will likely be a long and illustrious career in the league.
According to Elite Prospects:
A superstar in the making since an early age, MacKinnon provides a very complete combination of speed and skill. He is an amazing skater with fantastic puckhandling and hockey sense. MacKinnon has the ability to make quick plays and score flashy goals, but isn’t shy about battling for the puck in front of the net either. He is surprisingly physical and owns a great shot to go along with quick hands. (Matias Strozyk, 2012)
It was a neck-and-neck battle to be ISS’s No. 1 ranked draft eligible player between MacKinnon and top defenseman Seth Jones, but it was the Memorial Cup that helped decide the battle in the eyes of many scouts. In four games with Halifax in the tournament, Nathan was nothing short of absolutely dominant with seven goals and six assists for 13 points and a plus-8 rating. In an injury-plagued regular season, he still managed to put up 32 goals and 43 assists for 75 points and a plus-40 rating in 44 games. There’s no question Colorado needs a defenseman, but MacKinnon was too good for them to pass up and will be a great future line mate for Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Colorado would then address their need on the blue line by drafting five defensemen in the final six rounds. Their top defensive selection, Owen Sound Attack blue liner Chris Bigras, is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing. At 6’1″ and 186-pounds, he isn’t the biggest defenseman ever, but he is a good, solid two-way defender that has put up 11 goals and 46 assists for 57 points and a plus-42 rating in 117 career OHL regular season games. He’s also represented Canada at the Ivan Hlinka and U-18 WJC tournaments, playing an important role in leading his country to gold in both tournaments. With some time and much-needed development, he could become a very solid option on Colorado’s blue line later on down the road.
The Avalanche drafted four Canadians, two Americans and one Swede–yep–the word is out on Sweden’s young defenders. With the 183rd pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Avalanche selected Wilhelm Westlund. At 5’11” 184-pounds, Westlund isn’t a big defender, but he’s as solid as Swedish defenders come.
According to Elite Prospects:
A smart and pretty skilled two-way defenseman. Was able to log pretty big minutes in the SHL at an early age. Skates well, is agile, and has soft hands and good puck moving ability. Hasn’t got many stand-out skills, but does most things rather well. (EP, 2013)
He’s never going to be a flashy player, but he could very well be a good “meat and potatoes” kind of defenseman for Colorado and is certainly a seventh round steal.
With their third round pick, Colorado would select their lone non-defenseman pick of rounds two through seven, selecting goaltender Spencer Martin of the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads. A good-sized goalie at 6’2″ and 198-pounds, Spencer notched a 17-21-4 record with a 3.02 goals against average and .906 save percentage in 46 games last season. Not the best by any means, but something about his play caught Colorado’s attention, That something just may have been his 1.00 goals against average and .941 save percentage in two games as he helped lead Canada to U-18 WJC gold in 2012-13. With plenty of time to develop, he could be a serious contender for the starting role in the Mile High City in the future.
In all, Colorado selected seven players representing three different countries and five different leagues (QMJHL, OHL, WHL, USHL and Sweden-JR) for an overall well-rounded draft class.
Colorado has proven the team is serious about making the playoffs now with the acquisitions of Alex Tanguay and Cory Sarich, but the best is still yet to come with names like Nathan MacKinnon and Duncan Siemens knocking on the locker room door. There will be growing pains–to the benefit of us Minnesota fans–but the Avalanche are just a few years away from perennial contender status…and that should be very, very scary for the rest of the Central Division.
Dallas Stars Week begins tomorrow. See you then!