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The 2016 NHL Draft closed its doors yesterday and the future of the league was parsed out with 211 players selected in a seven-round process that spanned two days. The Colorado Avalanche came into the weekend with six selections and they stayed put in each round, taking their guys and even making a trade just after the conclusion of the draft to land a future draft pick. As a means of wrapping up the draft, we wanted to break down what the Avs did and give individual grades to each of the moves and then provide an overall grade of the weekend.

1st Round – Tyson Jost, C, Penticton Vees (BCHL)

When Matthew Tkachuk fell to the Calgary Flames at number six, it seemed like the Avs were setting up to get another steal at 10 as a major player was set to drop to them but the Arizona Coyotes bucking conventional wisdom and not selecting a defenseman turned things around in a heartbeat. When the tenth selection rolled around, the Avalanche made a mild surprise of the selection when they tabbed Tyson Jost of the Penticton Vees (BCHL) as their guy.

With 6’6″ Logan Brown sitting on the board and playing the same position as Jost, it was widely viewed as likely the Avs, who have been seen as a team obsessed with size over skill in recent years, would select the hulking Brown out of the competitive OHL versus the smaller Jost from a league that rarely produces high-level NHL players. Jost, however, is a very intriguing prospect in his own right. He’s a strong two-way center who brings an enticing offensive upside and his breaking of Connor McDavid’s scoring record at the Under-18 World Juniors certainly helps ease the question of his competition in the BCHL.

Jost has succeeded at every level he’s played and he’s been a captain along the way. His strong leadership skills and high character marks seem to have scared some Avs fans after the Conner Bleackley selection went so poorly but Jost is a legitimate blue chip talent. After letting the pick marinate for a few days and getting past the other players still on the board, we’re giving this pick an A-.

2nd Round – Cameron Morrison, C, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

The selection of Morrison, like with A.J. Greer last year, caused some Avalanche fans to be upset because they looked at draft rankings and saw the Avs use the 40th selection on a guy who wasn’t ranked quite that highly. Given how the actual NHL Draft works, however, that’s not something we’re going to ding them for. It’s one thing to draft a player ranked in the 150’s in the second round; it’s another entirely to draft a guy ranked 58th at 40.

Morrison is a big-bodied, two-way center with good hockey IQ and decent skating for a guy who is 6’2″ and 200 pounds. He stepped into the role vacated by Kyle Connor’s exit to the University of Michigan and kept the Youngstown Phantoms afloat en route to winning the Rookie of the Year Award in the USHL. He was a point-per-game player all while playing a consistently sound defensive game and managing to be a force on both ends of the ice.

Morrison also fills a need in the Avalanche organization as the team came into the draft needing to add some quality high-end forwards, and especially centers, to their prospect pipeline. They accomplished that in the top two rounds. Morrison’s selection does bring some doubt, however, as his offensive upside has been questioned and there were potentially more dynamic players on the board. As such, we’re docking the grade a bit and giving it a B.

3rd Round – Josh Anderson, D, Prince George Cougars (WHL)

This is where the draft started to present some real question marks. Anderson is a stout defender who produced essentially zero offense the past two seasons and added the juicy bonus of breaking his back to prematurely end his draft season. Given that he is 6’3″ and 220 pounds, this felt like the Avalanche had turned back the clock and drafted a 1990’s defensive defenseman simply for the sake of it. It’s hard to be overly encouraged when you frame it that way but when you dig a little deeper, some positives start to emerge.

ESPN’s Corey Pronman, a skeptic like most Avalanche fans, says he’s spoken to scouts who absolutely swear by Anderson and insist he has significantly more offense than he’s currently shown. The most consistent downsides he has shown up to this point almost all involve his skating. He’s not a great skater and will need significant improvements down the line and his shoddy footwork gets him in trouble defensively but it’s also the most correctable flaw of his game.

Defensively, he mauls people in the dirty areas of the ice and excels moving bodies in front of the net while also asserting his dominance in the corners and along the boards in general. He’s an ace penalty killer and shows great defensive awareness and his ability in his own end is the most encouraging portion of this selection. That said, there were significantly more dynamic, well-established and higher upside prospects on the board that filled positions of need so this selection is getting a D+.

5th Round – Adam Werner, G, IF Björklöven, Allsvenskan (SHL relegation league)

Werner, on loan to Bjorkloven for the next season after playing for the Farjestad J20 last season, fits the typical Avalanche goaltender preference attributes since Patrick Roy and Francois Allaire arrived in 2013. He’s a 6’5″ giant with good athleticism and is a noted hard-worker. His puckhandling has been said to be good and the raw tools appear there for the legendary Allaire to go to work.

Not much is really known about Werner and I’m certainly not a goaltender expert so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Werner was a second-time draft eligible prospect and the organization definitely needed to draft one this season so getting a guy they have four years to make a decision on seems like good planning but there were some more high-profile talents at the position left on the board at the time. It’s hard to be too up or down on this selection so the grade lands in the middle at C.

6th Round – Nathan Clurman, D, Culver Military Academy (USHS)

Clurman is almost completely unknown. He’s a Boulder, Colorado native who attended the Culver Military Academy, which has produced a number of NHL players, including former Av John-Michael Liles, and played just 20 games last season. He’s about as long-term a project as I can remember the Avalanche drafting as he is slated to played for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL next year and then is committed to Notre Dame to begin play in the NCAA in the fall of 2017.

With all of the said, there has still been some real optimism about this selection as his few scouting reports available have said Clurman is a good skating puck-moving defenseman who reads the game well and despite being extremely raw presents a lot of interesting upside. I’m drinking the kool-aid with this pick and giving it a B.

7th Round – Travis Barron, LW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

The final selection of the draft by the Avalanche landed them the third overall pick of the 2014 OHL Draft. Barron’s career with the 67’s has obviously not gone according to plan but the Avalanche still saw enough in the hard-working Barron to make him their seventh round pick. Barron isn’t a guy with a ton of offensive upside and the Avs’ own Alan Hepple compared him to 2014 seventh rounder Julien Nantel as a guy who can come into pro hockey in a few years and provide lots of all-around value.

Barron also helps fill the forward cupboard just a bit more and as one of only two players in this draft class the Avs have to make a contract decision on in two years, Barron can’t afford anymore down years. Barron’s game in its current form is most notable for his strength and effectiveness on the defensive end and as a top penalty killer. He reads the play well in his own end and is an effective forechecker who plays with a constant physical edge. He’s not a great offensive prospect but if he improves on that end and finds some consistency he could be a good pro in a couple of years.

Unfortunately, there were some prospects on the board that were falling that have real, genuine upside and not your typical grinder fare. The Avalanche passed on them, and one of them landed in Minnesota so that could come back to haunt them someday. Even though this type of pick makes a lot more sense than Gustav Olhaver selection last year, it’s still a low upside selection and they passed on players who could have legitimate NHL futures. This pick gets a C+.

Post Draft – Nick Holden traded to Rangers for 2017 4th round selection

This feels appropriate. Holden was made expendable the moment the Avalanche went out and acquired Eric Gelinas at the trade deadline. Gelinas, several years younger, a little cheaper, and better offensively, cost the Avs a third round pick so Holden’s price was fine. Holden was overextended a great deal in his time in Denver and what should have been celebrated as a pretty decent find by the Avalanche as Holden was brought in with no real NHL experience through his mid-20’s will instead be thought of as a merciful ending of a failed era.

Holden is a flawed defenseman, for sure, but it will be interesting to see how he responds if he’s used more conservatively in New York as opposed to being asked to play a top four role. He’s clearly not suited for that kind of responsibility and despite him putting up decent advanced stats, he should be much better off as a depth defender for the Rangers.

For the Avalanche, they cleared out a bit more salary cap space and removed a potential logjam on their NHL roster and actually acquired an addition draft pick, something they have not done much of since Joe Sakic took over as General Manager. This moves gets a solid B+.

Overall weekend – B

I’m adding in the Reto Berra for Rocco Grimaldi trade into the draft weekend grade as well and that helps bring the overall grade up to a solid B. The Berra and Holden trades helped clear out some salary cap space as well as bring in a future draft pick and a likely top six forward for San Antonio. All of those were good, solid moves that were positive but not overwhelming.

The Avs had a decent draft, selecting decent value throughout the draft and not making any major reaches for anyone based on rankings. The Avs had a decent draft but it feels like it was on the verge of being much better. They started out strong, addressing organizational needs with high-upside players and then kind of veered off into bad habits with the Anderson selection. The organization is loaded with defensemen with limited offensive upside and Anderson was picked in a spot where very intriguing talent is still available. The rest of the draft was decent with a chance to be a lot better given some time.

Maybe most interesting of all in this draft was that two guys, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy, running the organization and facing an increasing amount of scrutiny, decided to go with a draft that will provide no immediate returns. Jost, Morrison, and Clurman are all NCAA-bound and Anderson is coming off back surgery. There’s a very real chance none of these guys see NHL time for three or four years, which could be a couple of years into the tenures of new decision makers. It’s either a bold show of confidence or a refusal to stop building for the long-term even when immediate success is becoming increasingly important to save their jobs. If nothing else, it’s tough to argue this draft is anything but the guys in charge looking out for the long-term health of the organization the best way they know how.

AJ Haefele

This Aurora, Colorado native moved to Katy, Texas at a young age but found himself right back at home in 2009 and would begin covering the Avalanche a year later. Before joining BSN Denver, A.J. had been writing for and briefly managed the popular Avalanche blog, Mile High Hockey. A.J. has been providing detailed practice reports, training camp coverage, and in-depth looks at the Avalanche and their divisional foes since 2010.

  • AvsFan2119

    I think the fact you had to get past the players they left on the board automatically precludes them from getting any kind of A on their first pick.

    • mcarson01

      It sounds like you’re saying that if a team doesn’t pick the player who Central Scouting says they should have picked, then they didn’t do a good job. I understand that we have to grade them somehow, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to do it, even though I can’t really think of a better way either. Something to keep in mind is that the people working for Central Scouting are mostly scouts that couldn’t get a job with an NHL team. Could be because they are young and cutting their teeth, or they’ve been fired by a team. Maybe a few just prefer the lifestyle at CS compared to working for a team. For the most part though, they aren’t considered to be the best scouts in the world right now, compared to those employed by teams. Those that are considered to be the best in the world right now, create their own list that don’t line up 100% with Central scouting. Those are the real boards, we just don’t get to see them.

      Another thing that isn’t shown on any public list, is how close a given player is to another that might be ranked right above/below. But for this particular year, it seemed that the players ranked between 7 and 12 were very close and hard to predict how each team might have them ranked. The reason I say that is because variation of rankings between the different public lists. So many players were interchangeable for those spots, it really just came down to the opinion of the scouts for the team picking, and not so much the opinion of Central Scouting at all. Anyway though, with all that in mind, I don’t really get why the Jost pick wouldn’t be an A+, because the expert scouts for the Avs picked the guy they thought was better. Personally, I was hoping for Brown or Jost right before our pick was made, so I love it.

      • AvsFan2119

        No I’m saying if AJ had to talk himself into being ok with the guys they passed on I’m not sure how you give them an A-. The Avs picked the guy that was the second best player on the board, so it’s not like they really went off on their own. Just an observation of his assessment.

        • mcarson01

          Yeah, I totally misunderstood where you were going with that then. Makes sense now.

          • AvsFan2119

            No problem, it was just a dumb observation I probably could have just kept to myself anyways haha.

        • BSN Avalanche

          My comment was more about me having to get my personal bias and preferences and take a step back for a more objective look. For me, Keller was my guy. Chychrun and McLeod would have been my personal preferences. Jost is a very good prospect in his own right but my personal feelings about the players aren’t relevant when doing a grading piece like this. Once I took a step back from that, I found a greater appreciation for the moves they made through their own analysis.

          • AvsFan2119

            Gotcha.

  • Bobble

    My problem with the draft is this: The Avs, by universal proclamation, are in desperate need of
    quality D. THey traded away the best +/- D man we had for a fourth rounder, next year ( quick…name a fourth rounder who has had success with the Avs). The only D they drafted is a guy who had a serious injury, in a program that most of us have never heard of.

    So it seems to me, this coming season is looking like a repeat, or worse, of the last two. During Roy’s tenure, the team has done worse, each year.

    I’m not seeing much from the weekend that was done to improve the upcoming squad.

    • BSN Avalanche

      The first thing you should do when assessing the NHL Draft is stop viewing it as a way to improve the immediate team. The NHL Draft selects kids who are 17-19 years old. This is not the NFL. The NHL Draft is not a means for improving the NHL club immediately. Very few draft picks make immediate impacts. The Avalanche as an organization has a better pipeline of prospects at every level, including the NHL, on defense than any other position. They were badly lacking in quality forward prospects, especially at center, so their first two picks went to fill the organization’s biggest weakness as a whole.

      If the Avalanche are going to improve the current defense, it needs to be done by means of trade or free agency. The draft is something that feeds your organization 2-4 years down the road. This draft, especially, was about long-term impact.

    • mcarson01

      Don’t you think the draft is sort of bad place to improve now though, especially on D, since it takes 3-4 years for them to develop? Though getting Sergachyov would have awesome, and I doubt it would take him too long to develop. It does seem like we have some relief coming for D that is finishing up those developmental years in Zadorov and Bigras. I can understand how it’s hard to get excited about them though because they aren’t new names and it’s sort of hard to see how they will make an immediate impact. But, that’s just how defenders develop, right. And sense we need room for them, moving Holden made decent sense to me. I haven’t been too thrilled with him lately anyway. I wouldn’t mind trading somebody for a top defender, but right now we wouldn’t have a lot of room, unless we move another dman.

      • Bobble

        Yeah, but who do we have in SA, that looks promising. Bigras didn’t look so good, but he had just a whiff in the NHL. Zadorov might be a good Dman, if he can keep his head in the game for the whole game. I’d think he’s the best prospect, and he’ll probably be on the opening night roster. My point is that it is a perpetual need, and it doesn’t look good down the pike. Seems like Butcher at DU is more or less given up on by current mgmt.

        • BSN Avalanche

          Way short-sighted here. The Rampage are going to have Lindholm, Boikov, Geertsen, and potentially Siemens again. That’s four legit prospects for the Rampage. Zadorov and Bigras could reasonably make the opening night roster and there’s still Butcher and Meloche that could be signed and brought into pro hockey in 2017. That’s a healthy pipeline with a variety of talents on the way up. It shouldn’t be overlooked that the opening night roster could have Barrie, Gelinas, Zadorov, and Bigras on it, which would be four guys who are 25 or younger. There’s less of a need for a constant influx of talent when you potentially have your core D group that’s going to be there for the next several years already in place. Add in Johnson, whose 7-year extension begins next year and the raw need for drafting a top defenseman simply wasn’t there. It would’ve been a luxury to get Sergachev and it would have been great but they’re just fine having gone with a forward focus early on. It’s about more than the NHL team.

  • Bobble

    I understand the NFL and NHL drafts are different, in terms of immediate impact. However, the Avs didn’t draft much in the way of future prospects for D this year. They may have an impending forward prospect issue, but the D issue seems more immediate, and D usually take longer to develop.

    Mgmt has made it clear they will not be big spenders in the FA market, and honestly, I don’t know who we would use for trade bait for a top flight defenseman. Nor do I know many teams willing to let go of great defenseman. Did well with Beauch, last year, but Brad stweart was a disaster.

    So, I’m sticking with my gloomy thoughts for next season. Hope that I am wrong, nothing would make me happier!