One year removed from a 22-win season, the Colorado Avalanche found themselves back in the playoffs for just the second time since 2011.
The Avalanche appeared to be packing it in early when they traded Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators, but Nathan MacKinnon turned into a different player after that trade. Following the November 5th trade, MacKinnon finished toed for second in the NHL in points (85) and tied for fifth in goals (36). MacKinnon put the team on his back and dragged them to the postseason despite Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson missing a combined 34 regular season games.
Colorado was quickly bounced from the first-round of the playoffs, so they’ll draft 16th overall and can add an impact player to an already talented prospect pool.
The Duchene trade really helped stock the cupboards. It was a three-team deal that netted them first, second and third round picks as well as NHL-ready defenseman Samuel Girard, power-forward Vladislav Kamenev and 2017 first-rounder Shane Bowers. Those three were added to a system that already included defenseman Cale Makar (No.4 in 2017), Tyson Jost (No.10 in 2016) and Conor Timmins (No.32 in 2017).
With the No.16 Overall Pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Colorado Avalanche select…
Grigori Denisenko — LW — Russia ????????
There are a few red flags with Denisenko that will likely force him out of the top-10, but the high-end upside will keep him in the top-15 conversation. The red flags include the Russian factor and whether he will come over to North America, his size (5-foot-10 / 165 lbs) and a lack of discipline at times.
Outside of those minor issues, Denisenko is an extremely talented puck-handler, playmaker and has the ability to finishes chances on his own. Denisenko had nine goals and 13 assists (22 points) in 31 games in the MHL, the KHL’s minor league, while also adding five goals and two assists (seven points) in 12 playoff games. The 17-year-old added 11 points (6G / 5A) in 14 games to his International resume while playing for the Russian U-18 squad.
Drafting a Russian in the first-round is always a risk, but we just saw the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup with three Russians on the roster (Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitri Orlov). Additionally, the Avalanche have never shied away from Russian players and currently have four on their active roster (Kamenev, Nail Yakupov, Nikita Zadorov and Semyon Varlamov). They’ve also drafted four Russian skaters over the last three drafts—Igor Shvyrov (5th round in 2017), Denis Smirnov (6th round in 2017), Andrei Mironov (4th round in 2015) and Sergei Boikov (6th round in 2015).
“Denisenko was a very good player on the top team in the MHL this past season. I watched him a ton because his stats don’t line up with my eyes. His numbers might not jump out at you, but trust me, his play on the ice does. He’s dynamic around the puck. His puck skills and vision are high-end. He controls the puck so well and is always looking to make a play. Denisenko is very creative and he can make a highlight reel play. His speed isn’t as dangerous as his skill, but he skates well and can push defensemen back, which, combined with his skill, leads to lots of controlled entries. I’ve seen him take draws at times in the Russia league and kill penalties well, including being dangerous shorthanded. I’d like to see his shot be more lethal, but it’s about average. I’d like to see him produce more as well he’s a small guy who also has some discipline issues, but I see so many plus components that I’m a big believer in his potential.” — Corey Pronman (The Athletic)