Draft strategy: Central Division
A look at strengths, weaknesses and recommended strategies for each team
Most NHL teams say they subscribe strictly to the "best player available" theory. In my experience, some are being honest, some do that in the first round (and incorporate their depth charts beyond) and some take position into account from the beginning. If I were running a team, I'd fall somewhere in the middle because of the very marginal differences in prospect value outside the very top.
Team strategies in the draft should be slightly more complex than simply, "Draft the best player." Teams should try to balance their depth chart if the option is within a reasonable talent range, or they can make trades to either address the need or trade to a spot where the player they want would be a better value. In this series, I'll recommend the best strategies for every NHL team going into this year's draft, division by division. For more on the draft prospects mentioned here (and many more), be sure to check in on our Top 100 NHL draft prospects list.
For the purposes of this column, team strengths and weaknesses generally refer to a team's under-23 NHLers, or players who have not lost rookie eligibility. Players not specifically mentioned are included in the evaluation.
Strengths: The clear strength of the organization is at forward and specifically down the middle with Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, although the latter pushed off to wing this season. With Gabriel Landeskog, as well, Colorado's core young forwards can go toe-to-toe with any team in the league. It remains to be seen where Joey Hishon fits in that conversation. They have a deep system at goalie, and although they don't have a true top goalie prospect, they have a number of solid ones.
Weaknesses: Colorado's young defense could use some shoring up. Tyson Barrie has had impressive stretches in the NHL, and Stefan Elliott did, as well, here and there. Duncan Siemens projects as a 4/5 defensive defender. Chris Bigras has been very impressive and is Colorado's top prospect currently, but they could use another top flight defense talent in their system. They could also add a little scoring talent on the wing, too.
Recommended Strategy: With the slot Colorado has with their first pick, they could be in a position to take either Roland McKeown or Julius Honka. Both are right-handed defenders to offset their top left-handed prospects in Bigras and Siemens. Both don't project as 22- to 25-minutes-a-night types of players, but they do have top-four upside. Defenders rarely will catch up to forwards on a development scale, but it helps round out their system. Their overall system depth isn't great enough that if a top defense prospect isn't at their pick, and they can't make a reasonable trade, they should just pick the best player available.
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