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Avalanche not focused on positions in first round of 2019 NHL Draft

Colorado has No. 4, No. 16 picks, 'got a few guys targeted'

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche will not be focusing on specific positions when they make their two first-round selections in the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).

Colorado has the Nos. 4 and 16 picks in the first round. The Avalanche also have one second-round selection, two picks in the third round and one each in fifth, sixth and seventh rounds on June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

"We need forwards right now, but by the time some of these kids are ready to play we might need defensemen again," Avalanche director of amateur scouting Alan Hepple said Friday. "So it will be the best player, no matter whether at No. 4 or 16."


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The Avalanche acquired the Ottawa Senators' first-round pick Nov. 5, 2017 as part of a three-team trade that sent center Matt Duchene to Ottawa. The Senators finished with the worst record in the NHL this season, but the pick fell from first to fourth in the NHL Draft Lottery on April 9.

The New Jersey Devils have the No. 1 pick and are expected to select either NTDP center Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, a right wing with TPS in Liiga, Finland's top pro league, with the other going to the New York Rangers at No. 2. The Chicago Blackhawks pick third.

"The first two (picks) are set in stone, it seems like," Hepple said of Hughes and Kakko. "We've got a few guys targeted. I have an idea who Chicago is going to take but it's never set in stone until they make that call. It's real unpredictable."

Colorado could select one of three centers at No. 4: Dylan Cozens of Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League, Kirby Dach of Saskatoon in the WHL or Alex Turcotte of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team.

Cozens (6-foot-3, 183 pounds) and had 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists) in 68 games. "Big centerman, skates well, has some skill," Hepple said. "He's a guy that sees the ice very well."

Dach (6-4, 198) had 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists) in 62 games. "He's a little bit bigger (than Cozens), a guy that controls the puck, plays the power play, controls the puck along the wall," Hepple said. "He's got hockey sense, sees [the game] very well."

Turcotte (5-11, 186) had 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 37 games with the NTDP, is "very tenacious, has great hockey sense, great skill," Hepple said.

Hepple also spoke highly of left-shot defenseman Bowen Byram (6-foot, 195), who had 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in 67 games for Vancouver of the WHL.

"He's the new-age defensemen here in the National Hockey League," Hepple said. "He skates, he moves the puck, his puck management is unbelievable. His sense for the game. He's got that little bite in his game, that grit, that I think is important. He's not going to be stopped. This kid is really good."

While Hepple likes Byram's potential, picking him ahead of the three centers may not be easy.

"We're trying to find skill, we're trying to find hockey sense," Hepple said. "These three [forwards] have it. They all have the compete [level], they all have that upward speed. There's going to be a development curve, there are things they're going to have to improve to play at the National Hockey League level, but we like them all. Separating them is probably the hardest thing."


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