On June 21-22, the 57th NHL Entry Draft will be held in Vancouver. Across those two days, the Avalanche are currently slated to make eight selections, but it’s the first round that will get the most attention; Colorado holds the No. 4 and 16 overall picks, giving them two high-profile choices.
Who will they pick? No one knows for sure what Joe Sakic and Company have in mind, as the Avs current roster doesn’t have any glaring holes that would necessitate a “need” pick by the general manager. Thus, going the “best player available” route seems the most likely for Colorado.
That being the case, evaluating the talent on the board will provide a road map to who the Avalanche might take when they’re on the clock. Leading up to the draft, 1043TheFan.com will break down the top-20 players available, two of whom will most likely be headed to Colorado on June 21.
Next up… Nos. 1-5:
5. Trevor Zegras | C/W | U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
There isn’t a lot Zegras can’t do, as he’s a two-way player who can play center and wing. Offensively, he has speed to go from end to end in a hurry, the size to get physical to gain separation, and the vision to create for both himself and teammates. He has a big-time shot, but can also grind in front of the net to pick up loose pucks and easy goals. On the defensive end, he’s puts his hockey IQ to use to take away angles and passing lanes. Zegras is nearly a can’t-miss prospect.
4. Alex Turcotte | C | U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
Injuries have hampered Turcotte, which might scare away some teams, but they’d be passing on the top two-way player in the draft. He’s almost always the fastest player on the ice, but is far from someone who prefers a finesse game. Turcotte also loves to mix it up a bit, as he will battle and compete. Solid puck-handling skills, great vision and hockey sense give him a well-rounded game.
3. Bowen Byram | D | Vancouver Giants (WHL)
The best offensive defenseman in the draft, Byram can control his team’s attack from the blue line. He has great acceleration, which makes him lethal on breakaways. Byram is also terrific at getting ahead of the play to set up opponents, which he does often through his silky passes. But he’s far from just an offensive threat. At 6-foot, 194 pounds, he has the size to battle on both ends. And he has just enough nasty to pull it all together.
2. Kaapo Kakko | RW | TPS (Liiga)
The fact that he’s been battling with grown men in the Finnish league makes him more NHL-ready than most 18-year-old prospects. Most scouts think Kakko will be able to step in from day one and play on the first or second line because there isn’t a hole in his game. He can snipe shots, feed teammates and battle in the corners, while also possessing strong puck skills and a high hockey IQ. A safe, solid pick who will be a solid player for a decade-plus.
1. Jack Hughes | C | U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
The consensus No. 1 overall pick in the draft for good reason, Hughes is a scoring machine. In 50 games with the U18 team, he racked up an astounding 112 points, including 34 goals. That’s off-the-charts playmaking ability, which comes from the fact that he’s a tremendous skater, has great quickness and speed, seems to see the ice better than everyone and just always seems to be in the right place. The perfect modern-day center.