Avs’ bad finish pays off with No. 3 draft pick
AP Sports Writer
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado – The Colorado Avalanche are about to reap the only benefit from their worst season since moving from Quebec to Denver in 1995.
The Avalanche own the third overall pick in the first round of the NHL draft on Friday after finishing last in the Western Conference with their first losing season in Colorado.
“We’ve never been this high (No. 3 overall) since we came to Denver,” Avs director of amateur scouting Rick Pracey said Monday.
The New York Islanders own the top pick, followed by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This year’s draft features three elite players: center John Tavares, defenseman Victor Hedman and center Matt Duchene, so the Avs are certain to land a big-time player.
Pracey said Tavares and Hedman have been around for some time and are well-known, but Duchene’s shoulder ailment kept him out of the spotlight early in the year and out of the World Junior trial camp. However, Pracey said Duchene had a strong performance in the playoffs.
“Duchene’s playoffs, he recorded 26 points in 21 games. I know there were 14 goals in there. So his strong second half has put his name on the map here.”
This is a particularly strong draft at the top.
“In the past there has always been a headliner heading in. People may have thought John Tavares is that player, and he still very well may be, and you can count Hedman in that group, as well,” Pracey said. “But this one it seems as though we might have to go right up to the draft before we have an idea of who is going No. 1 and that just may speak volumes of the competition that there is at the top.”
The Avalanche own three of the top 49 selections, putting them in position to restock their system.
“This weekend in Montreal is a very important time for this organization,” Pracey said. “The Avalanche has always placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on drafting and developing our own product.”
The Avs could always package their two second-round picks and move up, too.
“Having the two second-round picks certainly gives you flexibility,” Pracey said.
The last time the Avalanche/Nordiques franchise selected a player in the top three was 1991, when they drafted Eric Lindros No. 1 overall. They also selected Curtis Leschyshyn with the third pick in 1988 and Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan with the top overall picks in 1989 and 1990, respectively.
The first round begins Friday night at 5 and will be televised on VERSUS. Rounds 2-7 will be held Saturday starting at 8 a.m.
After the second round Saturday, the Avs have one pick in each of the subsequent rounds except the fourth, which they traded to Columbus as part of the Adam Foote deal on Feb. 26, 2008.
In player news, the Avs announced the signing of left winger Cody McLeod to a three-year contract that The Denver Post reported was worth $3.1 million.
McLeod, who turns 25 this week, was Colorado’s third-leading scorer with 15 goals and five assists with 162 penalty minutes in 79 games during his second NHL season in 2008-09. McLeod led Colorado with 194 hits and shared the club lead in game-winning goals with three.
McLeod was one of only three NHL players to score at least 15 goals with none of them coming on the power play or while short-handed.
“Cody has been an important member of our team over the last two seasons,” Avalanche general manager Greg Sherman said in a statement. “He plays a physical game and can also contribute offensively.”
McLeod signed with Colorado as a non-drafted free agent in 2006 and made his NHL debut in December 2007. He had nine points and 120 penalty minutes that year, making him the only rookie in team history to surpass 100 penalty minutes.
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