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NHL Draft

Avalanche will take best player available at No. 4

May also trade first-round pick, looking to add speed throughout 2017 NHL Draft

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche plan to take the best player available with the No. 4 pick Friday in the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas, but won't rule out trading the selection.

"There's always a chance of trading back," director of amateur scouting Alan Hepple said during a conference call Monday. "I think we have to see what we're given and what's presented to us, and we'll take it from there, but we're ready for that scenario."

The Avalanche finished 30th in the League with 48 points (22-56-4) this season, but they fell from the first pick to fourth after the NHL Draft Lottery on April 29.

"At the end of the day would I like to make the first pick overall? Sure, I mean that would have been something that would have been great," Hepple said. "We would have been happy to do that. Whether we're picking one or four, that's part of the game that we have to play here."

The first round of the 2017 draft is at United Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are Satuday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

 

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Barring trades, Colorado has six picks on Saturday: second round (No. 32), fourth round (Nos. 94 and 114), fifth round (No. 125), sixth round (No. 156), and seventh round (No. 187). The Avalanche traded their third-round pick to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Eric Gelinas on Feb. 29, 2016.

Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic has said he needs to add youth and speed to the roster while upgrading the defense, but Hepple said he isn't under any pressure to recommend selecting a defenseman in the first round.

"None," he said. "I've had that talk with Joe, there's no pressure. We're taking the best player available, so there has been no pressure from Joe or anybody. At that point in the draft we have to stay the course and take the best player available, like we have the last two years with [forwards] Tyson Jost and Mikko Rantanen (taken at No. 10 in 2016 and 2015, respectively). They were the best players at the time and we'll continue to do the same thing this time."

The Avalanche have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past three seasons, and Hepple said a successful draft can help turn Colorado's fortunes around.

"We want to get some positive things going here for the Avalanche, and maybe that starts Friday with the draft and we get the player that we want, and a player at 32 (on Saturday), and it does help turn things around," he said. "We won't know for a couple years, but that's the process we've done the last three years here. There is pressure, but I think at the end of the day we're going to be very happy come Saturday afternoon.

"We want smart players, we want fast players. You see the NHL now and it's a track meet every night, it's fast. Not only do you have to skate fast, you have to think fast, so that's what we're looking for now. I think the game's changed and we're trying to get there with some fast (players) with hockey sense.

There isn't as much depth in this draft class as in some previous years, Hepple said.

"Maybe not as good, but there's going to be good players," he said. "Is there a generational player? Probably not, but at the end of the day I think it all comes back to maybe they take more development time, they mature, they have to maybe spend more time in the American League, but for me that's the way the process is going to go for this draft."

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