Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche Draft Recap and Analysis

The Colorado Avalanche were able to come away from the draft weekend as the big winners. Thanks to a complete lack of self realization and foresight by Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, the Avalanche were armed with the fourth overall pick as well as their own pick at 16.

The Picks

Bowen Byram, LHD, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Round 1, 4th Overall

The Colorado Avalanche were able to land themselves the consensus top-ranked defender in the 2019 NHL Draft. A silky, smooth skater who led the WHL playoffs in scoring from the back end, Byram was an offensive catalyst. The Vancouver Giants blue liner was able to affect that game in every facet.

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The young Canadian showed outstanding potential offensively. Byram proved able to make any pass he’s asked whether it be transitioning out of the defensive zone with a long pass through the neutral zone or a short pass to alleviate pressure along the boards. In the offensive zone he is a facilitator from the point. He threads passes through the zone finding open lanes through the slot to create high danger scoring chances. He also skates extremely well with the puck on his stick, understanding when the opportunity arises to make a move and get himself into scoring position.

Defensively, Byram was consistently improving throughout the year. His gal control was excellent due to his outstanding skating and edge work. He was able to pivot and keep oncoming attackers to the outside preventing dangerous chances. His board play was impressive as he was able to win battles in the corners and along the side walls with consistency. The future Avs defender was a presence in the net front, clearing the crease with proficiency. Overall, the top defender I the draft will be a luxury for a team who’s defensive pipeline already includes Connor Timmins, Sam Girard and Cale Makar which could lead to the Colorado Avalanche having once of the best blue lines in hockey within a few short seasons.

Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL), Round 1, 16th Overall

Despite playing a level below major junior, the BCHL star proved that he was a first round talent. Alex Newhook battled through a slow start and not making the Canadian Hlinka-Gretzky squad. Often times players are unable to perform at their top speed but the young Grizzlies star has speed to burn and can play the game at full speed. His skating is elite among NHL talent already and his hockey IQ is top level. Often ranked among the top-10 prior to the draft, Colorado’s ability to land a top flight center to pair with the best defender in the draft class helps solidify the Avalanche as the big winners of the draft.

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Using his high-level burst and edge work, he does an excellent job of tracking opposing players into the defensive zone. He uses a quick, high-skill stick work to separate player from puck. Once the puck is turned over, Newhook is able to take a couple of strides pulling away from his adversaries with ease. The east coast native is a neutral zone wizard when it comes to the translation game. Whether it be using his crisp, accurate passing or his high-octane speed, Newhook gets through the zone efficiently and at a high rate of speed.

Once into the offensive zone, he creates space with his ability to drive defenders back with his speed before stopping on a dime. His edge work and quick first step allow him to create separation in tight spaces and get into tight areas with the puck. Newhook has a solid frame, able to handle being leaned on in the corners and still coming out with the puck more often than not. His vision and hockey sense are constantly on display as he finds and sets up his teammates. His shot is NHL ready, especially off the rush or on a one time opportunity. He is able to change the angle on his shot with excellent stick handling off the rush, which becomes nearly unstoppable at times when you combine it with his exceptional speed.

Drew Helleson, RHD, USNTDP (USHL), Round 2, 47th Overall

Helleson is a solid defensive blue liner who is a very fluid skater. He makes efficient plays with the puck on his stick and he is able to skate confidently with the puck when needed. Offensively he has a decent shot from the point that relies on accuracy to get it through more than power. He makes simple passes to the forwards, allowing the high skilled players to make plays and facilitating when needed.

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He is patient and poised with the puck in his own zone, rarely making a mistake. He moves well forwards and backwards, able to gain speed and keep pace with attacking forwards. He could stand to improve his lateral quickness as he can be turned around at times when being driven back with high-level speed. He provides a physical presence but doesn’t rely on the bone crushing hit that can often take a player out of the play. He uses his large frame with a purpose and engages at the appropriate time. He is with attend Boston College in the fall, along with fellow Avs draft choice Alex Newhook, where he is likely to continue his development for at least two seasons before making the jump to the professional ranks.

Matthew Stienburg, C/RW, St. Andrews College (CAHS), Round 3, 63rd Overall

This was the first pick that Joe Sakic and the Avalanche management team may have reached on. Due to being diagnosed with Osteomyelitis, an infection in the shoulder that was eating away at the muscle tissue and bone, the CHL route was taken away because he only played in 15 games in his CHL draft eligible year. Electing to go through multiple surgeries in an attempt to return his a to fill mobility, he dealt with adversity at a young age. He opened up to the prep school-NCAA route and is committed to Cornell next year.

While Stienburg showed skills, his physical presence is his calling card. Often compared to Tom Wilson, the young Canadian is a bit of a throwback type player. He fought in a call up to Sioux City of the USHL, racking up 15 PIM. He possesses pro-ready size at 6’1″, 185lbs. His offensive game is well rounded as he was able to produce 33 goals and 42 assists in just 56 games proving that he isn’t just a goon despite in 98 PIMs on the season. Certainly a project, Stienburg will attend Cornell for at least a couple of years and continue to develop and hone his raw skill set. With his plus hockey IQ, he may be able to turn himself into a solid middle-six forward at the professional level.

Alex Beaucage, RW/LW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL), Round 3, 78th Overall

The 2019 Memorial Cup champion was the Avalanche’s second pick in the third round. Alex Beaucage is one of the youngest players in the draft and he put up impressive offensive numbers as the fifth highest scoring first year draft eligible players in the QMJHL. Beaucage was an offensive producer with 79 points in just 68 games, he played with older, more experienced players and was often the beneficiary of their solid play.

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He wasn’t strictly as passenger as he possesses solid traits such as a good shot and vision. He is able to get the puck off his stick quickly and efficiently whether it be a shot or a pass. Next season will provide a lot of answers for Beaucage as he will likely be asked to lead a line of his own rather than ride shotgun with some veteran players. It was a puck worth taking the risk on as he could grow into a lead-dog role with the Huskies next season.

Lottery Tickets: Round 4 and Beyond

Sasha Mutala, RW, Tri-City Americans (WHL), Round 5, 140th Overall

Mutala is a good skater with quick acceleration. He is a high-motor player who is an active forechecker creating chances from the dirty areas of the ice. Mutala has a heavy shot and decent vision. Projects as a third-line winger.

Luka Burzan, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Round 6, 171st Overall

Originally eligible for the draft last year, Burzan thrust himself in the scene with a 40 goal, 78 point campaign following a year where he had 9 goals and 21 points. Burzan is a project player who could continue to grow offensively.

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Trent Minor, G, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Round 7, 202nd Overall

Trent Minor led the Vancouver Giants to the WHL final where they fell to the Prince Albert Raiders in seven games. A sub-2.00 goals against average and a .924 save percentage which were aided by playing on an outstanding team. A teammate of Byram, the Avalanche 4th overall pick, Miner is slightly undersized but shows promise in net.

Draft Recap

The Colorado Avalanche were able to take advantage of the poor situation that Matt Duchene our them in by getting the Ottawa Senators first round pick. That gave Colorado the opportunity to use the 2019 NHL Entry Draft to bolster their depth all over the ice despite experiencing some on-ice success. Having the 4th and 16th pick in the first round was an advantageous spot to be put in. After selecting Byram with the fourth pick they were fortunate to have Alex Newhook, a player often ranked in the top-10, with the 16th pick. Those two players will bolster this team in areas of need and they were also the best players available. Byram adds to the defensive prospect pipeline making it the best blue line group of prospects in the NHL. Newhook will likely solidify the second line center spot behind Nathan MacKinnon where he will be able to follow MacKinnon’s speed with a second wave of breath taking speed.

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After the first round Colorado continued to make good decisions, going with a mix of safe picks such as Helleson and riskier picks like Stienburg. Adding a defensive defender who can skate and make a solid first pass the way Helleson does in the second round was a smart choice and then they took risks as the puck certainty decreased. Balancing the risk of drafting Stienburg with a bit of a safer pick in the offensively gifted Beaucage was a strategy that could pay off in time. Mutala and Burzan are good upside picks where Colorado took a bit of a risk later in the draft as they should. Trent Miner is a goalie who has some winning pedigree and good statistics. He has some good tools and grabbing him in the 7th round may end up being a steal.

Overall, the Colorado Avalanche May be the team that won the draft as early on as day one. Acquiring two top-10 talents, one of which being the clear-cut best defender in the draft, means that they more than took advantage of the opportunity that they were presented with. Colorado had success on the ice this year, making it to the second round and pushing San Jose to a controversial game seven. Now, after pulling in the draft class that they did, they are starting the offseason with some success off the ice.

For more the draft, prospects and the NHL in general you can follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari

All statistics and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, Elite Prospects and Prospect Stats.

NHL Draft Profile: Bowen Byram

The top defender in the draft, Byram is a silky smooth skater. The WHL leading scorer, as a defenceman, has taken hold of the rankings and pulled himself ahead at every turn. The offensive skillset and defensive potential is what is separating Byram from the rest of the blue-line group.

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Name: Bowen Byram

Date of Birth: June 13, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): Canadian (Cranbrook, BC, Canada)

Hieght: 6’0″

Weight: 183lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: D

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown in the graph, Byram excels in all areas. The CAT% (both offensive and defensive) are a product of even strength goals for percentage relative to their team. Will Scouch broke it down into offensive and defensive areas and renamed them catalyst percentage. For a more in-depth explanation from the man himself, you can watch the video here. As you can see, the NHL eScore is the highest among defenders in this draft making him most likely to make an NHL impact. 

As the only defenceman in this draft that projects as a true top-pairing defender, Byram excels or shows promise in every part of the game. In his own zone, Byram is able to use his excellent skating to close the gap on opposing players and isn’t afraid to close out along the boards. His ability to lay the body without losing sight of the puck and make a play without missing a step is the key to his defensive game. He doesn’t panic under pressure and confidently handles the puck. Makes the smart play in his own zone, often waiting the extra second as a play develops while a forecheck is barring down on him.

Byram is more than capable of winning battles both in the corners and in front of the net. He is strong on the puck and doesn’t get pushed off the puck against bigger forwards. The smooth skating defender is often able to take away passing lanes and prevent defenders in front of the net from making a difference. His strength will need to improve and mature over the next 18 months in order to truly have a chance make an impact on an NHL roster but the foundation of a smart, physical defensive game is there.

His skating is elite. He has the ability to go in any direction at a high rate of speed with efficiency. Able to transition from forward to backward, he is able to keep an opponent to the outside and has an active stick that forces the opposition to keep the puck in an ineffective position, often leading to a loose puck or poke check from Byram. He is able to transition from defence to offence is outstanding, displaying his high-end offensive awareness. With his NHL-ready first few strides and acceleration to his top-speed, Byram is able to change the pace of play and push the puck up the ice as a one-man wrecking machine through the neutral zone. In the video below, Bryam shows off his skating and edge work by changing directions to brush off a defending forward at the blue line before venturing deep into the zone. This draws in defenders and opens a passing lane which Byram takes advantage of without skipping a beat. 

Tweet courtesy of @Hockey_Robinson

In the offensive zone Byram uses his best tool, his skating, to his advantage. With the ability to run a power play as the quarterback, he is truly able to make a difference on special teams. Constantly gliding up and down the boards and across the blue-line to create an open look for a pass to a high danger area. His slap shot is good but his snap shot is the weapon that generates the best scoring chances. Whether it’s used as he pinches down to the circles or off the rush, he is able to put an heavy, accurate shot on net. He possesses outstanding vision and is able to pass to any area of the ice with efficiency. He is one of the true two-way defenders in this draft class and is high-level at both ends of the ice but his transitional play is what separates Byram from every other defender in this draft. In the video below, Byram shows an ability to read the play as it develops and gets to open ice to receive a pass that he was able to immediately fire into the back of the net. 

Tweet courtest of @TheDraftAnalyst 

Preseason Outlook

Preparing to take a leadership role on the Vancouver Giants of the WHL this season, the young blue-liner had a good summer prior to his draft-eligible season. He came into the Gretzky-Hlinka tournament in the summer as one of Canada’s best defenders. He provided Canada with a good two-way game with four points (1G, 3A) in five games on route to the gold medal. He showed all of his abilities in the tournament that made him the rookie of the year in the WHL as a 16-year-old in 2017-18. The promise that was flashed a ton in his rookie season was affirmed against the best of the best in his age group, setting the stage for an outstanding draft year.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

Tearing up the WHL

The reigning rookie of the year began the season looking to build on a solid freshman year in 2017-18 where he had 27 points in 60 games. The silky skater began the season strong as he put up 14 points in the first 18 games, looking like a true number-one defenceman early into his sophomore campaign. His creativity offensively began to flourish and his confidence grew throughout the season.

The maturity of his game began to show as he learned to adapt his habits on both ends of the ice. Defensively he began to engage physically, showing his strength after a good summer of growth. Offensively he began to use his shot much more both on the rush and at the point. He used his lateral quickness to open shooting lanes and his phenomenal edge work allows him to pivot deeper into the zone at a moments notice or transition to defence and cut the angle off to the puck carrier.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

His regular season was outstanding as he was named a first-team Western Conference All-star for the 2018-19 season. His impressive 71 points in 67 games was good for third in the WHL among all defenders and his 26 goals outpaced every blue-liner in the league. The only two rear guards to put up higher offensive totals were 19-year-old Josh Brook and 20-year-old Dawson Davidson, both with 75 points. As a 17-year-old, he was more than able to play an effective defensive game, engaging physically without taking himself out of plays like many young defenders do.

Leading the WHL playoffs in scoring

Whatever we thought of Byram’s game before the playoffs, the young D-man was an absolute stud for the Vancouver Giants run to the WHL final. Leading the entire playoffs in scoring from the backend with 26 points. Byram lead all players in scoring by edging Prince Albert Raiders over-ager Brett Leason by one point. The next closest defenceman was 10 points back, 20-year-old teammate Dylan Plouffe.

Bowen Byram was an absolute workhorse for Vancouver. He was a monster on both ends of the ice, making plays defensively and offensively. His game took a step that drove the Cranbrook, British Columbia native straight up draft boards. His play during the postseason inspired his top-pair defender projections, something no other defender in this class has.

What the Detractors Say

The most prominent complaints in Byram’s game are the excess minute that the Giants played him and the fact that he has sometimes been caught out of position. The later happened because he trusts himself to take risks due to his ability to get back into position with his elite skating ability. He will have to develop a better sense for when to jump into the rush at the next level but mistakes like this tend to work themselves out as a young defender matures. As for being overplayed and looking worn out once in a while, he took on the large role from the Giants coaching staff and developed into a leader during the season. He may have been playing a few too many minutes during the season but the point totals and skillset allowed him to do so while not looking too far out of his depth.

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Bowen Byram will be taken…

In the top-five. The last time a defender wasn’t selected in the top-five was the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The first blue-liner selected that year was Ryan Suter at 7th overall by the Nashville Predators. The likelyhood that a team such as the Los Angeles Kings pass up on Byram is slim unless they fall in love with a forward. If for some reason Byram isn’t selected by the Kings, the Detroit Red Wings will be salivating as they run over other teams draft tables to get to the podium. Byram has the highest ceiling of all the defenders in this draft and he’s completely separated himself from all other rearguards in the class.

WHL Report: Vancouver Giants and Saskatoon Blades Sprint to Playoff Spots

The regular season is beginning to wind down in the Western Hockey League. With only three weeks left in the regular season, the playoff picture is beginning to take shape.

While not all 16 seeds have been set, five clubs have already printed their tickets for the postseason. At the moment, the Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks have clinched playoff births in the U.S. Division, and, to no ones surprise, the Prince Albert Raiders have clinched the East Division. The Raiders will most likely be awarded the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy for being regular season champs.

The other two teams that are guaranteed to be playing into the spring are the Vancouver Giants and the Saskatoon Blades.

Saskatoon Finally Comes Back to the Dance

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The Blades, despite the talent of top prospect Kirby Dach, were battling for second in the East Division with the Moose Jaw Warriors early on in the season. With neither team anywhere near Prince Albert, both teams were well aware that there was only going to be one more spot with home-ice advantage available. The Blades, though, have really taken charge in the last couple of months. Through the first two-and-a-half months of the season, the Blades were only 16-9-3. Since December 1, they have been on an incredible run of 22-5-5, and have been 9-1-2 in the month of February.  After a shootout win over the Kootenay ICE on Saturday, Saskatoon clinched their first playoff spot since 2013. Had it not been for the Rebels, the Blades could have been in the running for a division crown.

The Best Offence is a Good Defence…That Can Create Offence

The Blades have one of the deepest lineups in terms of overall production. Saskatoon has five players with 50+ points. Only Moose Jaw and Prince Albert have the same amount of depth scoring.

Speaking of Dach, the predicted first-round pick in this year’s NHL Draft is not even the top-scorer in Saskatoon, and that is a good thing. Dach certainly started the season hot, as he was a top-five scorer for the first few months of this season. However, after a seven-game pointless drought in December (10 of 11 games without a point in that stretch), Dach has taking a back seat to some of his teammates. He is still third on the team in points, with 22 goals and 39 assists, his 61 points is far better than his total from a year ago.

The two players who have really picked up the offencive slack have actually been defencemen. Dawson Davidson and Nolan Kneen have been big weapons on the back-end in the offencive zone. Kneen came over in a trade from Kamloops back in late November, and the former 3rd overall pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft has really settled in as a veteran playmaker. Well known for his toughness in his time with Kamloops, Kneen has become a one of the quarterbacks of the Blades’ power play. With 36 assists, the undrafted defenceman is 10th among WHL defencemen in helpers.

Another player that has seemingly been in charge of creating any Saskatoon scoring chance, Davidson has been huge for the Blades this season. Also a defenceman that went undrafted, Davidson came over to the club from Regina last season. A big piece of Saskatoon’s top power play unit, Davidson leads Saskatoon with 68 points this season, which is best among all WHL d-men. His 58 assists is tied for third in the ENTIRE league. With the impact of offencive defencemen, and finishers up front such as Max Gerlach, Gary Haden, and Ryan Hughes, the offence is going to be key for Saskatoon heading into the playoffs.

Vancouver Giants Win First Division Crown Since 2010

It has been quite the season for the Giants. This is a club that has missed the playoffs three out of the past five years, and have not won a playoff series since Vancouver made it to the Western Final in 2010. However, the Giants have flipped their fortunes, as they have a record of 41-14-4, and sit 20 points clear of the second-place Victoria Royals. With their shootout loss over the Royals this past Saturday, the Giants clinched the British Columbia Division title for the first time in almost a decade. Despite the loss, the Giants are another hot team in the WHL, as they are 10-1-1 in February.

Koch(ed) and Loaded

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The Giants have not had an overload of scoring up front, but with their defence being one of the best in the league, they have not needed to rely on scoring as some other teams do. However, they do have quite the offencive weapon in Davis Koch. The White Rock, BC native was traded to Vancouver from Edmonton last season. After taking a backseat to Ty Ronning last year, Koch has become the go-to guy for the Giants this season. The Vancouver leading-scorer took a dip with 58 points last season, but has turned his game around and put up 64 points in 59 games thus far, and could be able to beat his career best of 70 points that he set with the Oil Kings during the 2016-2017 season.

Splitting the Net

Most teams that use two goaltenders are usually struggling to find success in the CHL. Yet, the Giants have thrived this year with their use of Trent Miner and David Tendeck. The veteran Tendeck has taken the majority of the games this season. He is 20-10-2 this year, with a 2.41 GAA and .911 SV%. Certainly not mind-blowing numbers, but his consistent improvement over his three seasons with the club has earned him the trust of Head Coach Michael Dyck. Tendeck has had four separate three-game win streaks this season, with four shutouts added onto, what is shaping up to be, his best season of his career.

Miner has blossomed in his first full season in the WHL. The draft-eligible goaltender is 21-4-2 this season, and has only lost one start in regulation since January 2nd. This included a six-game win streak through the month of January. His 1.94 GAA is third-best in the league behind Dustin Wolf and Ian Scott, along with a .927 SV% that is fifth in the league. Miner has certainly shown why Vancouver selected him in the first round of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. It will be a tough call for who Coach Dyck picks for the postseason, but no matter who he goes with, he will have the confidence in whoever steps in between the pipes.

All statistics and records found on WHL.ca