by Connor Dobos
The 2016-2017 NHL season was one that Colorado Avalanche fans will want to forget. After finishing 22-56-4 and ending the season with only 48 points, the Avs and their fan base were ready to put their worst season in Denver in the rear-view mirror. Saturday’s Draft Lottery provided the Avalanche franchise with the possibility of selecting first overall in the upcoming NHL draft in June. The Avs had an 18% chance of winning the draft lottery and selecting first overall. This would give the team the chance to presumably choose between Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick. However, the hockey gods had other plans for the Avalanche. They walked away with the fourth overall pick in June’s draft.
What does this mean for the Avalanche?
Although they won’t have the opportunity to select first overall, or even in the top three for that matter, the Avs will still have the chance to draft a high-quality hockey player. A centerman like Casey Mittelstadt may be avaliable for the Avs to select. The 18-year-old from Eden Prairie, Minnesota produced 64 points in 25 games for Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota, and 30 points in 24 games for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. Mittelstadt is ranked fourth in Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey Prospect’s rankings. He is the third-ranked North American skater in the NHL Central Scouting’s most recent rankings, and he was ranked fifth overall in Bob McKenzie’s recent draft rankings.
Gabe Vilardi of Kingston, Ontario is another centerman who could be available at fourth overall in June. Vilardi racked up 61 points in 49 regular season games for the Windsor Spitfires this season. He was ranked third overall by LWOHP and TSN, just ahead of Mittelstadt in Kerr’s ranking, and two spots ahead in McKenzie’s draft rankings.
Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic and the team’s front office could also target Finnish defenceman Miro Heiskanen, who spent the 2016-2017 season playing for HIFK in the Finnish Elite League. The 17-year-old was described by Hockey Prospectus as being “an excellent skater with top notch lateral ability and speed. He shows great confidence with the puck and he processes the game extremely well under pressure”.
It was a disappointing night for the Colorado Avalanche; but Joe Sakic will still have the opportunity to select a highly-skilled player. At fourth overall he can add someone who will hopefully be wearing an Avalanche jersey for a long time. This player will join Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Jost and Mikko Rantanen in rebuilding Colorado’s future. Dropping to the fourth overall pick was another blow for Avalanche fans who endured a long and difficult season. However, anything can happen on draft day. Avs fans should be excited to see another quality young player added to the core.
Ben Kerr is releasing a new draft prospect piece every day at LWOHP. There are 31 there now. To learn more about the players eligible for this year’s draft, you can find his profiles and scouting reports here.