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Draft Importance

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
While the stakes may not seem as dramatic or potentially franchise-changing as they did a year ago, the mindset doesn’t change for the Avalanche organization heading into the 2010 Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

Holding the No. 17 overall pick, the club’s goal is to select a player who will make an impact at the NHL level, be it next season or a few years down the line.

“Our job is to find hockey players and give our organization assets,” said Avalanche director of amateur scouting Rick Pracey. “That’s truly what our function is. Whether you’re picking third, 17th or 10th, it’s still the goal and challenge of picking a player.”

Although the Avs don’t have a pick among the top three selections like they did a season ago, the club should still have the potential to select a solid player in the middle of the first round.

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For example, look no further than Avalanche forward Chris Stewart. Colorado picked up the big winger with the No. 18 overall pick at the 2006 Entry Draft, and all Stewart did this past season was lead the Avalanche in goals (28) and finish second in points (64) while providing a physical presence up front.

“There are players who are going to play in the draft, and we may be able to find a player at No. 17 that might be better than the player picked at No. 9,” said Pracey. “The expectation of finding a franchise changing player at No. 17 isn’t as realistic as at No. 3, but it doesn’t lessen the pressure we feel upon ourselves to find an asset and provide our organization with quality players and depth. Our goal would be to find a top-6 forward, a top-4 defenseman or a No. 1 goalie.”

A year ago, there weren’t many variables that were out of the Avalanche’s control during the first round of the draft. With only the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning picking before Colorado – and with three players almost unanimously considered future stars at the top in John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene – the organization knew it would have the opportunity to select one of the big three regardless of how the teams picking before them operated.

This year, things won’t be quite as easy.

“Certainly it’s difficult because there are 16 factors that go into it before we select,” noted Pracey. “There are 16 things that we don’t have control of. But we do have control of how we build our list. To me, the goal is still the same.”

To achieve that goal, Pracey and his staff need to cover all their bases - scouting individual players across both North America and the globe - while putting a tremendous emphasis on those they consider to be among the top-90 players in the draft.

Speaking specifically about the Avalanche’s first-round pick, Pracey estimates that between himself and his scouting staff, the expectation is to have seen any potential player they could pick in that slot somewhere between five and nine times during the 2009-10 season.

And though the club is in a much more unpredictable selection zone than it was a year ago, to Pracey that just means he and his staff need to be even more meticulous with their draft plan.

“We do feel the pressure and the expectation that we put on ourselves, and we do have that competitive nature that we want to find players,” said Pracey. “We want to be the best staff in the league, and that’s part of what we do. Our expectation is to find an impact player, whether we’re picking at No. 3 or No. 17.”
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