The Colorado Avalanche slipped from a playoff appearance in 2014, to eleventh in the Western Conference in the 2014-2015 season. With a plethora of young players on the front lines, including Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene, the Avalanche are desperately in need of additional defense to shore up a team that was 21st in the league in goals-against-per-game last season. Where do the Avs stack up farm system-wise? Hockey's future (www.hockeysfuture.com) ranks their farm system as the worst in the league. Better just take the best player left on the board at this point:
With the tenth overall pick in the 2015 Litter Box Cats Mock Draft, the Colorado Avalanche select:
Zach Werenski - D University of Michigan
Werenski is ranked 11th or higher by virtually every prospect ranking in the world right now, making him the highest ranked prospect left on our draft table here at LBC's mock draft. The 6'2 206 lb. rearguard just completed his first season at the University of Michigan. In 35 games for the big blue he put up 9 goals, 16 assists (25 points), and had only 8 penalty minutes. Keep in mind that Werenski was the youngest player in all of NCAA hockey last season (17 years old), and graduated high school a year early to be able to join the Wolverines. Yes, he is good.
Bill Placzek, at www.draftsite.com, had this write up on the young defenseman:
A fine all-around defensive prospect who displays all the qualities necessary to progress as an NHL defender. He is very mobile player who passes thread the needle on tight breakout passes. Smartly activates into the attack with explosion causing matchup problems for the opposition. Smart and gifted point man who effortlessly walks the blue line to open lanes on the PP. Excellent lateral mobility on dee. Closes down on the wall. He is going to need time and with improve gap control and hopefully add more aggression, using his big frame more.
Curtis Joe of EliteProspects on Werenski:
A smooth-skating, puck-moving defenceman that has a strong understanding of the game. Excels in key situations and is able to execute under pressure. Possesses good vision and awareness on the ice; uses his abilities to put offensive and defensive pressure on the opposition. All-in-all, a very strong all-around defenceman that consistently brings his game every night.
The only issue remaining is whether this Grosse Point, Michigan native, who grew up a massive Red Wings fan, will enjoy playing for the Wings traditional rival in Denver. Werenski has indicated that he may choose to remain at Michigan following the draft, but may also consider a switch to the OHL, where his rights are held by the London Knights.
The Florida Panthers are up next. In the meantime, check out some highlights of Zach from the 2015 World Juniors: