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Avalanche Aims to Add Elite Prospect

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Now the real work begins.

Following Tuesday night’s NHL Draft Drawing, the Avalanche officially learned it will select third overall at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft – set for June 26-27 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

With Colorado’s draft position now locked in, the club’s amateur staff will amp up its evaluation and identification processes in order to add an impact player to the organization.

“There’s a tremendous amount of excitement for our organization and our fan base to have the opportunity to select a premier player in this year’s draft,” said Avalanche Vice President of Hockey Operations Craig Billington. “This draft is a very strong draft, and I know the hockey staff feels very confident that there’s going to be an elite player available. We’re excited to be able to add that kind of asset to our organization.”

Billington experienced the excitement and tension of the Draft Drawing firsthand.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly reveals that Colorado will draft in the No. 3 overall slot
While the drawing itself was actually held at the NHL’s New York City office, the results were revealed in TSN’s Toronto studio. There, Billington was joined by four other club representatives – Ken Morrow from the New York Islanders, Dave Andreychuk from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pete Mahovlich from the Atlanta Thrashers and Ron Hextall from the Los Angeles Kings – as the results were made public.

Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner of the NHL, had the task of revealing the order of selection, both to the clubs and the television audience.

Under the weighted Draft Drawing system, when Billington saw the Kings come up at No. 5 and the Thrashers earn the No. 4 slot, he knew the Avalanche would either own the No. 3 or No. 1 pick overall.

“It’s very exciting. You’re sitting there, and quite frankly, when fifth was fifth and fourth was Atlanta, you’re sitting there going, okay, we’re in tremendous shape,” said Billington. “You know you’re going to be having one of the top three picks. The potential to get number one, it doesn’t happen very often.”

However, the results stayed true to the percentages going into the drawing, giving the Avs the No. 3 overall pick. The Lightning will select second overall, while the Islanders retained the top choice.

The consensus top two prospects in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft are London Knights forward John Tavares and Victor Hedman, a defenseman for Modo of the Swedish Elite League. While those two players may be considered the head of the 2009 draft class, there are many other talented players at the top.

Going forward, the Avalanche’s amateur staff will continue its identification process by evaluating the top draft-eligible players and comparing notes with one another. That way, the club has all of its bases covered once it goes on the clock on June 26.

“They’ll continue to go through their process, as the amateur staff does, to really zone in and identify that third slot,” said Billington. “Some of it is out of our control, in regards to who is picked first and who is picked second. The hockey staff is really excited knowing that there is a good selection of elite players available in that slot.”

Billington hinted that the organization would be unlikely to trade its selection. Instead, the Avalanche looks forward to adding a young cornerstone player to its lineup.

“The one thing I’ve learned in hockey is that you keep your options open, and it’s the smart thing to do,” said Billington. “Having said that, the opportunity for us to go in there and draft an elite hockey player is extremely appealing for our franchise. We’ll let that process unfold over the next couple of months.”
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