Colorado Avalanche: (includes Quebec)
Two drafts stand out in particular as being the best in team history. One draft helped propel the team to early success following the WHA’s merger with the NHL while the other draft influences the current Avalanche team. With that mind the 1979 draft ranks as the best draft in history while the 2009 draft will assume the runner-up position. Only time will tell if the latter can outdo the former.
In 2009, the Avalanche selected Matt Duchene (1st round – 3rd overall), Ryan O’Reilly (2nd round – 33rd) and Tyson Barrie (4th round – 64th overall). All 3 players contributed to the Avalanche’s surprising Central Division championship in 2013-14 and at the time seemed to be part of a core group of players who would lead the franchises to future success. However, the team has been unable to replicate that success and has failed to qualify for the playoffs during the past two seasons. Duchene is a highly skilled offensive player with tremendous speed who has enjoyed a successful career thus far, but he like the team always seems to be capable of more. O’Reilly’s contract necessitated a move to the Sabres. A solid two-way player who appears to be the ideal number 2 center on a cup contending team. Something the Sabres are trying to achieve over the next few seasons. While still a young player, Barrie has the potential to develop into an elite offensively gifted defenseman.
The 1979 draft resulted in the selection of 5 players who played in the NHL at varying degrees of success. In the 1st round, hall of famer Michel Goulet was taken 20th overall. He was a pure goal scorer who lite the lamp on 548 occasions during a 16 year NHL career. Dale Hunter was selected 40th overall in the second round. A polarizing player who you would like to have on your team but despised him when playing for the opposition, Hunter had over 1000 points in 1407 career games. While he ranks second in career penalty minutes, Hunter could contribute not only defensively but offensively as well as evident by his 9 seasons of 20+ goals. Hunter currently enjoys great success as the head coach of the London Knights of the OHL. Also, drafted in 1979 included feisty defenseman Lee Norwood and fellow rearguard Pierre Lacroix along with Anton Stastny who would record 636 career points in 650 games while forming a dynamic offensive tandem with his hall of fame brother Peter.
In 2000, the Avalanche had the 14th overall pick along with 3-second round selections (47th, 50th, 63rd) but failed to draft a player of any significance. The best of the lot was 1st rounder Vaclav Nedorost who recorded 20 points in 99 career NHL games. None of the second round draft picks played an NHL game.
With the next pick…
Nothing earth shattering stands out. However, I will break the criteria for this category to note that in the 1988 draft the Nordiques had 2 top 5 picks. With the 3rd overall selection they took Curtis Leschyshyn while Daniel Dore was nabbed at number five. Here’s what followed with the next few picks…Darrin Shannon (4th – Pittsburgh), Scott Pearson (6th – Toronto), Martin Gelinas (7th – Los Angeles), Jeremy Roenick (8th – Chicago), Rod Brind A’mour (9th-St. Louis) and Teemu Selanne (10th – Winnipeg).
Late Round Bargain:
In 1988, the Avalanche/Nordiques selected defenseman Alexi Gusarov with the 213th pick in round 11. A steady defender who was not looked upon to be an offensive catalyst (career high 30 points), Gusarov was a regular member of the team’s defensive unit for eleven seasons enjoying Stanley Cup success in 1995-96. In the same 1988 draft, the club drafted Claude Lapointe in the 12th round with the 234th selection. Lapointe would enjoy a 16-year career playing close to 900 regular season games. He excelled on face-offs and was known for his leadership, intensity and dedication.
Anson Carter was picked by the Nordiques in the 10th round (220th overall) of the 1992 draft and would record 421 career points in 674 regular season games. Carter would hit the 20-goal plateau on six occasions including a career high of 33 in 2005-06. However, all of this production occurred with teams other than the Avalanche/Nordiques as he was dealt for a 4th round choice (Ben Storey) from Washington in 1996.
On a side note, Carter was involved in a few big name trades during his career. On March 1, 1997 he was traded to Boston by Washington with Jim Carey, Jason Allison and Washington’s 3rd round choice (Lee Goren) for Bill Ranford, Adam Oates and Rick Tocchet. In November of 2000, Carter was moved to Edmonton by Boston with the Bruins 1st choice (Ales Hemsky) and 2nd choice (Doug Lynch) in the 2001 entry draft for Bill Guerin. Finally, on January 23rd, 2004, Carter was again shipped to Washington this time by the Rangers for Jaromir Jagr.
The aforementioned 1988 draft, produced not only Claude Lapointe and Alexi Gusarov in the late rounds, but also saw the franchise take Valeri Kamensky a highly skilled Russian winger with the 129th pick in the 7th round. Kamensky recorded 414 points in 460 regular season games with the Avalanche/Nordiques including 4 seasons of 26 or more goals. Kamensky was a key member of the Avalanche Stanley Cup championship in 1995-96 as he scored 10 goals and had 22 points in 22 post-season games.
With the 87th pick in round 4 of the 1994 draft, the Avalanche drafted Milan Hejduk. He spent his entire career with Colorado scoring 375 goals among his 805 points in 1020 regular season games. On 5 occasions, Hejduk scored 30+ goals including a league leading 50 in 2002-03 which garnered him the Maurice Richard Trophy. Other accomplishments include a Stanley Cup championship in 1995-96, a 2nd team NHL all-star and playing in 3 NHL all-star games. Given his production, Hejduk is one of the best 4th round selections in NHL history.