The Colorado Avalanche endured quite the reality check in 2014-15, vindicating the stat geeks who predicted a massive regression after a “lucky” Central Division title run the year prior. Colorado’s flashy young forwards and great goaltending weren’t enough. A lack of brawn and defensive ability all over the roster proved too much to overcome. The Avs slid from the NHL’s third-best record to out of the playoffs. Their development plan has a long way to go.
Round 1, pick 10
Round 2, pick 40
Round 3, pick 71
Round 4, pick 101
Round 6, pick 161
Round 7, pick 191
Late-blooming Erik Johnson is a nice story, but this team does not have a bona fide No. 1 defenseman – and perhaps not even a No. 2. The Avs need a stronger two-way presence up the middle, too. They missed Paul Stastny. Some size on the wings would help them sustain a forecheck better.
GM Joe Sakic won’t find a franchise blueliner in free agency. Barring a trade, then, he must seek one at the draft table, especially after using a first-round pick on a forward, Conner Bleackley, last season. The organization’s top prospects up front aren’t tiny but they aren’t big, either. Sakic would do well to land a strong, rangy, defensively responsible pivot.
Colorado was close to the cap this season. Daniel Briere and Jan Hejda come off the books. Ryan O’Reilly enters the final year of his deal, as does Nathan MacKinnon, who will earn a raise on his $3.8-million entry-level cap hit.
IN THE SYSTEM 2015-16:
Top prospect Chris Bigras, a two-way blueliner, took a massive leap this season. He still has no pro experience save for a spring taste of the AHL. Should the Avs, sooner or later, give Duncan Siemens a shot, whether he’s earned it or not? He’s stalled in the AHL, four years removed from going 11th overall at the draft.
DID YOU KNOW:
Borna Rendulic, the Avs’ No. 4 prospect in Future Watch 2015, is the first Croatian-born NHL player to score a goal. He worked his way to the NHL primarily by playing in the Finnish League.