Since the Colorado Avalanche's season ended in May, the team has put all of its energy into doing what it can do to put the squad in the best position possible to have success when the 2019-20 campaign begins in October.
"Just got to keep building and getting better," Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said after Colorado's 2018-19 season came to a close. "As great as the end of the year was, we still didn't accomplish the end goal. We still got to find a way to get better and it starts here in the offseason."
The Avalanche was one of only a handful of clubs still playing in early May before it fell in Game 7 to the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the closest the club had been to a championship in more than a decade. It was the second consecutive year that the Avs reached the postseason, marking the first time the franchise accomplished the feat since an 11-season run from 1995 to 2006.
Colorado aims to continue growing and progressing, which includes expanding its organizational depth. One of the first steps in doing that will be this weekend at the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Video: Avs GM Joe Sakic on the 2018-19 season
The Avalanche currently holds eight selections at the event, containing three of the top 50 overall picks and five in the first three rounds. Colorado is unique as it is one of only four clubs that has two selections in Round 1 of the annual assembly (also the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Los Angeles Kings, picking fourth and 16th.
The Avs are also the only team that competed in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs that has a lottery pick at the draft. Colorado acquired the Ottawa Senators first-round selection in either the 2018 or 2019 draft in a Nov. 5, 2017 trade that also involved the Nashville Predators.
The Senators chose to keep their 2018 pick and selected Brady Tkachuk at fourth overall, automatically sending Ottawa's 2019 first-round choice to the Avalanche. The actual pick was determined at the NHL Draft Lottery on April 9, which solidified that the No. 4 pick would be the Avs for the second time in three years.
"We ended up with four, we're pretty excited. You're doing your list and you know you're going to get a good player," said Sakic. "Maybe not a player that's going to start next year, but they're 17, 18-year-old kids. To get a good player, if you got to wait a couple years, it's fine. They're going to help you down the line."
Colorado has shown that it values the time it takes for prospects to develop. The club also had the fourth selection at the 2017 draft and used that pick to select defenseman Cale Makar. He played his first NHL game during the 2019 playoffs and immediately made an impact, finishing the postseason with six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 contests after spending two years at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
It is unknown who the Avalanche will choose at the 2019 NHL Draft, but Colorado has its order of preference and will know its decision after the Chicago Blackhawks announce their third-overall pick.
"We've got our list. We could go either way (with a forward or defenseman) to be honest with you," Sakic noted. "We know who is going one and two, we'll see who Chicago takes at three... We know we're going to get a good player.
"We're comfortable at four, we know we're going to get a good player. We know we're going to get a good player at 16. We have five picks in the first three rounds this year. We got to do our best to hit on those because you don't always have that opportunity to have that many picks in the first three rounds."
After the draft, Colorado's eventful summer continues with the Avs' development camp and free agency before training camp opens in September.
"We're excited about this offseason. There are a lot of things that we can do to improve this club and make us a stronger team for next year," said Sakic. "You saw the growth the last couple years here, and we want to keep growing like that. You see the Pepsi Center and the playoff atmosphere, the atmosphere all year. I think there is a lot of excitement about this team, and we got to keep building and try and get it to the next level."
Winning the Stanley Cup remains the fundamental goal for the Avalanche and the next step in continuing that pursuit starts Friday in Vancouver.