With the NHL trending bigger again, the Avalanche's top priority at this weekend's draft in Philadelphia was to keep pace with that trend. Judging by the height and weight of the seven players the Avs chose, they more than accomplished that goal. The Avs chose four forwards, two defensemen and one goalie — and even the goalie is a big kid. After selecting 6-foot-2 center Conner Bleackley with the 23rd overall pick Friday, the Avs took six players Saturday, all of whom are at least six feet tall. "I think these things have an ebb and flow to them, and every organization on draft day wants to get better. And that was our primary focus. But as an organization, we did want to get bigger," Avalanche chief amateur scout Rick Pracey said. "When you hear teams discussing their philosophies, generally I think it is a right now in the NHL, and we share that thought." The Avs' first pick Saturday, at No. 84 overall, was 6-4, 196-pound defenseman Kyle Wood from North Bay of the Ontario Hockey League. They chose 6-2 center-right wing Nick Magyar at No. 93, 6-2 winger Alexis Pepin at 114, 6-foot defender Anton Lindholm at 144, 6-2 goalie Max Pajpach at 174 and 6-foot winger Julian Nantel at 204. Wood was ranked only 191st by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau, but Pracey thinks he has hidden potential as a tough, stay-at-home D-man. "He's a player that's a little unheard of, simply because he was injured the first half of the year. He's a great big, two-way defenseman who I think at the next level probably projects into that defensive (type) player," Pracey said. "We like that he's a bigger guy who takes his time and thinks with the puck. His playoff with North Bay was something that gave us comfort too. We just saw a player who got better and better." It was important that the Avs add more right-handed shots to their lineup, and they did that at the draft as well. Bleackley, a right-handed shot, was the player the Avs hoped would slide down to No. 23, Pracey said. He has a history of finding strong players with later picks, and he said it was an anxious few minutes in the picks before 23 Friday night, hoping Bleackley's name wouldn't be called.
Colorado Avalanche add size, right-handed shooters in NHL draft
Denver Post | Jun 29