NHL Draft: Why the Colorado Avalanche could trade its first pick

What will the Colorado Avalanche do at the 2013 NHL entry draft? Photo: NHL draft picks get underway Photo: Arnold C

SANTA CRUZ, Calif., June 13, 2013 — The Colorado Avalanche possess the first overall pick in the upcoming National Hockey League (NHL) entry draft. This gives them several options and puts them in an excellent position to improve their team in a hurry. One of those options is to trade the first pick for a player(s) who could step in and play right away.

The Avalanche won sixteen games and lost twenty-five over the truncated 2012-13 season. There is no quick fix or magic solution for an organization struggling like this. While the team has a strong core of young forwards led by Matt Duschene, P.A. Parenteau and Ryan O’Reilly, the need is obviously on the back end where the club has only one or two defensemen who could be considered as the top four.

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Colorado’s defense combined for 54 points last season while finishing a -44 as a group. It is clear that an upgrade is desperately needed at the position and that most Avalanche defensemen are playing more minutes than they should be given at their skill level.

Defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks has been the consensus number one ranked player available in the upcoming draft for most of the year. Scouts agree Jones is a blue chip prospect with a tremendous upside. Scouts also know that defense is the hardest position to learn in the NHL and most players need a year or two of seasoning in the minors before they are ready for regular minutes at the highest level.

If Colorado were to keep the first overall pick and select Jones, there would be a push to get him into the Avalanche lineup immediately, both to justify the high selection and to put fans back in the seats. However, rushing a young defenseman into playing on a poor team can set back his development, ruin this confidence or both.

Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson, who was picked first overall by St. Louis in 2006, was rushed into the lineup and has yet to become the player many scouts projected him to be. Defensemen take time to develop and, as high draft picks go, they aren’t as sexy from a marketing perspective as a flashy forward. In 2008, there were twelve defensemen picked in the first round but in most recent drafts, they have gone much later.

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Colorado needs a defenseman, maybe two. They can leverage their first pick and try to get a top four player who is already established and playing regularly in the NHL. They may even be able to get a few later round picks to stock their system with prospects.

If they can keep their current group of exciting, young forwards together, Colorado has a chance to turn things around quickly in Denver. So don’t be surprised if the Avalanche look to trade that coveted first pick on draft day. 

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Russ Rankin

Raised in the decidedly non-traditional hockey region of Santa Cruz, California, Russ Rankin fell in love with the game as a kid while watching the "Miracle On Ice" 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. He began playing recreationally as an adult when the Sharks joined the NHL in nearby San Jose and regularly attends Sharks home games. His favorite NHL team is the New Jersey Devils, which he has been following since the 1987-88 season. In 2007, with more and more U.S. born players (particularly from California) making an impact in the WHL, Rankin pursued his passion and knowledge of the game into a job scouting California for WHL clubs. He can be seen at rinks all over the state searching for the next great crop of players.

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