Over the last decade the Colorado Avalanche drafting and developing prospects has had its hits and misses, with some pretty big hits and pretty big misses. First round draft history bears this out with home run picks in Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and team Captain Gabriel Landeskog.
However, the first round has seen busts as well with Joey Hishon, Duncan Siemens and Connor Bleackley. Not only has drafting been inconsistent, but player development and asset management has been less than perfect.
No longer with the organization are former first round picks Ryan O’Reilly, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Chris Stewart. The Avalanche also prematurely gave up on prospects such as Joseph Blandisi and Kyle Wood.
There are plenty of drafted players that have and never will play an NHL game with the Avalanche or any other organization through their draft history, but recently the club has some later round drafts that show some potential, such as Andrei Mironov, Sergei Boikov and Mason Geertsen.
1. Mikko Rantanen – Right Wing
2015-16: San Antonio (AHL)
Drafted: 10th overall in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft by Colorado
The big Fin had a brief cup of coffee in the NHL at the start of the season before being assigned to the AHL, where he tore the league up scoring 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games along with a plus -20 and 42 penalty minutes. He finished ninth overall in league scoring and one point behind Austin Czarnik in 16 less games as the league top scoring rookie.
Rantanen was also a key player for Finland winning Gold on home soil at the WJC, scoring five points in seven games. He also captured the Silver Medal with Finland at the World Championship. Last year’s AHL rookie of the year will look to repeat as back-to-back rookie of the year as he will make his full time NHL debut and take a run at the Calder.
2. Tyson Jost – Center
2015-16: Penticton (BCHL)
Drafted: 10th overall in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft by Colorado
Jost posted and eye-popping 104 points in 48 games playing in the BCHL, which is considered to be a lesser league than the CHL or USHL. Jost had a bigger stage at the U-18 in North Dakota where he was Captain of Team Canada. He turned some heads scoring a whopping 15 points in only seven games and was named tournament best forward.
Jost has committed to play for the University of North Dakota for the coming season. Jost lacks ideal size, but has excellent offensive skills and thinks the game extremely fast. He has top-six NHL upside and could be the future Captain of the Avalanche.
3. Calvin Pickard – Goalie
2015-16: Colorado/San Antonio (AHL)
Drafted: 49th overall in the second round of the 2010 draft by Colorado
Injuries to Reto Berra and Semyon Varlamov opened the door for Pickard to get some regular season NHL game time, and he did not look out of place. Playing in 20 games he posted a 2.56 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
The 24-year-old played his way onto the NHL roster and Berra was traded to Florida to open room for Pickard as the backup. He will begin his first full season in the NHL and could push Varlamov for starting time.
4. J.T. Compher – Right Wing/Left Wing
2015-16: Michigan (NCAA)
Drafted: 35th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Buffalo
In time, Compher could turn out to be the key piece the Avalanche got back from the Ryan O’Reilly trade with Buffalo. He had a break out season in Michigan scoring 63 points.
He has speed, skill and creativity that earned him a call to the USA World Championship where he produced three points in ten games there playing against NHL competition. Compher will make his pro debut this season and is expected to start the season in San Antonio in the AHL, but could play his way up to the NHL by the end of the year.
5. Nicolas Meloche – Defence
2015-16: Gatineau Olympiques
Drafted: 40th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Colorado
Gatineau acquired Meloche in a mid-season deal and his production didn’t skip a beat. He has all the tools to be a stud top pairing defenceman in the NHL. He has size, skating skill, offensive instincts and a deadly shot. He plays physical and makes playing defensively look easy.
It remains to be seen if he can transition his skill set to the NHL and it will be some time before he makes the jump. Meloche will head back to Gatineau for another season in the QMJHL.
6. Chris Bigras – Defence
2015-16: San Antonio (AHL)
Drafted: 32nd overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Colorado
His first full pro season was a pretty successful one. Bigras split time between the NHL and The AHL. He scored 19 points in 37 games for San Antonio and saw action in 31 NHL games as well, posting three points.
His impressive rookie pro season is an encouraging sign of things to come, but for now he likely will start the season in the AHL.
7. Rocco Grimaldi – Right Wing/Center
2015-16: Portland (AHL)
Drafted: 33rd overall in the second round of the 2011 draft by Florida Panthers
Grimaldi has been able to produce offence at every level and tournament he has played in – except for the NHL. Grimaldi spent most of last year in the AHL where he produced 33 points in 52 games. He also had an extended look in the NHL playing in 20 games but managed only five points.
The Panthers traded him to the Avalanche for backup Reto Berra in a move that opened the door for Pickard. Grimaldi will compete for a roster spot in Colorado with this fresh start, but could be destined to be an AHL star and may never break into the NHL full time.
8. Andrei Mironov – Defence
2015-16: Dynamo Moscow (KHL)
Drafted: 101st overall in the 4th round of the 2015 draft by Colorado
The big defensive defenceman re-signed for one more year in the KHL, so he won’t be making his North American debut any time soon. Known less for offence and more for his physical game, he dishes out plenty of hard hits, but manages to keep his penalty minutes down.
It is a good bet that after this coming season he makes his way to North America and may not need much if any AHL time. His upside is limited due to lack of offensive ability, but he could play solid minutes in a shut-down role.
9. Sergei Boikov – Defence
2015-16: Drummondville (QMJHL)
Drafted: 161st overall in the 6th round of the 2015 draft by Colorado
Boikov has put two solid season together in the Q and also played a key role for Russia at the WJC, but was held pointless. He made his pro debut at the end of the season playing in four games for San Antonio.
He will get a full season in at the AHL level while he makes the adjustment to the pro game and could need a few years there before he is ready to compete for an NHL job.
10. A.J. Greer – Left Wing
2015-16: Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
Drafted: 39th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Colorado
After leaving Boston College to play junior, Greer helped the Huskies to a Championship and a trip to the Memorial Cup. He finished the season with 27 points in 33 games and added another 22 in 20 playoff games.
Greer will make the jump to pro this year and make his debut in the AHL. He was drafted out of college, so he has that option. He has size, skating and offensive skills that should project at the NHL level, but he needs some more development time.