It won't be too hard for the Colorado Avalanche staff to check out prospect Will Butcher.
They'll just need to go down the road to the University of Denver.
Butcher, the Avalanche's fifth selection (123rd overall) in this past summer's draft, will be attending DU and playing for the Pioneers this fall after spending the past two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"I think it is going to be a great experience," Butcher said of attending DU and having the Avs in his backyard. "Getting to know the town and everything."
For the Avs to have a prospect just minutes away from Pepsi Center seemed like it was planned all along, but director of amateur scouting Rick Pracey said the team selected Butcher because of his hockey abilities and not because he was going to be in Denver for college.
"I think it is just more of a perk for our organization, our development people, our coaches, if they have time to go see him, and Denver is a good hockey program," Pracey said. "For us, it was a nice fit. Was [him going to DU] a determining factor? No, it was the player that we wanted, but having him in our backyard certainly has its advantages to it."
At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Butcher isn't the biggest defenseman, but he has been known to put up some decent offensive numbers from the back end.
|Will Butcher during an exhibition game at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY (Getty Images). |
While with the NTDP, Butcher scored 31 points in 46 games with the Under-17 Team in 2011-12 and picked up 37 points in 67 games with the Under-18 Team in 2012-13.
In an attempt to standout and make the U.S. squad that will compete at this year's World Junior Championship in Sweden, Butcher shined at the National Junior Evaluation Camp on USA's top defensive line. In five exhibition games, the Sun Prairie, Wis., native led all Americans with six points (two goals and four assists) and was tied for second overall among players from the four countries at the Aug. 3-10 camp.
Representing the United States in international competition is already something that Butcher is familiar with. Other than being part of the national development program, he also helped win the gold medal for Team USA at the 2012 Under-18 world championship and win silver at the 2013 tournament.
"It was a great experience for myself," Bucher said. "Representing your country is one of the most honorable things you could do and to play a sport that I love while doing it, you can't have it any other way."
While Butcher's attention will again turn to try and make Team USA later in the fall for the Dec. 26-Jan. 5 world juniors, for now he is excited to be in Colorado playing college hockey and representing the Avalanche organization.
"I think its just going to be a blast out there (in Colorado)," said Butcher at the June 28 NHL Draft. "You'll have stuff to do all the time and it’s a great city. The people there are great when I went out to visit. Friendly people, like the Midwest, my kind of people. I'm really excited about this."