Avalanche’s Greatest Late-Spherical Draft Gems


The Colorado Avalanche have an extended record of profitable first-round picks, together with many close to the highest of the NHL Entry Draft. Nathan MacKinnon is an All-Star first-overall choice, and longtime captain Gabriel Landeskog was chosen with the second-overall choose. Extra lately, the defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Cale Makar, was picked fourth general in 2017.

Nonetheless, the troublesome work is discovering gems within the later rounds, digging via prospects in numerous leagues to try to discover that one participant who may blossom right into a long-term NHLer. Since coming to Colorado in 1995, the Avs have uncovered a number of of those late-round gems, together with a few fan favorites. Right here’s a take a look at the group’s finest late-round draft choices, together with a pair that had been drafted by the Quebec Nordiques however had an enduring influence on the group’s time in Colorado:

Milan Hejduk

Taken within the fourth spherical with the 87th choose of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, Milan Hejduk went on to develop into the most effective gamers in Avalanche historical past. He spent his complete profession in Colorado, taking part in in 1,020 video games over 14 seasons, and is certainly one of simply 4 group captains since they relocated from Quebec in 1995. Hejduk can also be certainly one of six Avs to have his jersey quantity retired.

Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche (Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE)

Even with all the spectacular firepower in franchise historical past, Hejduk’s identify nonetheless stands out within the report books. He’s the one Avs participant to win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy – taking house that {hardware} in 2003 when his 50 objectives led the NHL; he racked up a formidable 375 objectives and 430 assists for 805 factors. He’s fourth in objectives and factors in franchise historical past and dropped to sixth in assists when MacKinnon handed him within the 2022-23 season.

John-Michael Liles

Taken within the fifth spherical of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, John-Michael Liles became an excellent discover for the Avalanche. The regular defenseman performed 836 video games for the membership, notching 283 assists on the best way to 370 profession factors. He didn’t take lengthy to make a splash, both, scoring 34 factors in his rookie marketing campaign in 2003-04 whereas being named to the All-Rookie Workforce that season.

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Liles performed 13 seasons within the NHL – seven of these had been in Colorado. He was a stable two-way defenseman for many of that point and entered the league after an amazing profession at Michigan State. He was certainly one of Colorado’s high offensive defensemen earlier than the group traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011 after the emergence of Tyson Barrie.

Pierre Lacroix

One of the vital vital figures in Avalanche historical past by no means performed a minute in Colorado, however he had his fingerprints on all of their early success. Within the Nordiques’ first draft in franchise historical past, Quebec took a defenseman named Pierre Lacroix within the fifth spherical. He solely performed 274 video games with the group over 4 seasons within the NHL, however his love and appreciation for the franchise stored him with the group after his taking part in days had been over. His time within the entrance workplace solidified his place in group historical past.

Associated: Avalanche Cup Runs Constructed By Well timed Trades From Lacroix

Lacroix served because the group’s basic supervisor from 1994-2006 and is taken into account the architect of the group’s first two Stanley Cup runs. One in every of his most memorable strikes was buying and selling for disgruntled star goaltender Patrick Roy to arrange the 1996 crown. For his efforts, in 2021, he was honored with a banner raised to the rafters at Ball Enviornment to hold alongside the banners of the six gamers which have had their jerseys retired. Lacroix handed away on Dec. 13, 2020.

Radim Vrbata

Radim Vrbata solely performed a few seasons with the Avalanche, however this seventh-round choose went on to have an excellent NHL profession. The 212th participant taken within the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Vrbata performed 1,057 NHL video games, together with a nomination to the All-Star Recreation in 2015, when he had the perfect season of his profession. Vrbata had 31 objectives and a career-high 63 factors with the Vancouver Canucks final season.

Radim Vrbata Florida Panthers
Radim Vrbata with the Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vrbata scored at the very least 20 objectives six occasions, and had an 18-goal marketing campaign in his rookie season in 2001-02. He additionally scored 16 objectives and 19 assists via 76 video games with the Avs in his second season however was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Bates Battaglia late within the 2002-03 season. Battaglia performed simply 17 video games for the Avs and had only one extra full season within the NHL, whereas Vrbata went on to attain 284 objectives and 623 factors over a 16-year profession.

Honorable Point out

David Jones may not be a recognizable identify, however this ninth-round choose in 2003 had some good years in Colorado. Jones led the group with 27 objectives in 2010-11 and completed his 10-year profession with 104 objectives and 191 factors in 462 video games, not unhealthy for the 288th choose within the 2003 Draft. Marek Svatos, the group’s seventh-round choose in 2001, had six stable years with the Avs, together with a 32-goal rookie marketing campaign that noticed him end fifth within the Calder Trophy voting in 2005-06. He completed his seven-year NHL profession with 100 objectives and 172 factors.

Valeri Kamensky was an amazing seventh-round discover for the Nordiques in 1988, spending components of eight seasons with the franchise, together with the final 4 in Colorado. He performed an integral function within the membership’s 1996 Stanley Cup run, scoring 22 factors en path to the membership’s first title. Solely Joe Sakic had extra factors in that postseason for the Avalanche.

Associated: High Traces in Colorado Avalanche Historical past

The early-round stars will all the time be the most well-liked gamers, however the membership has unearthed a number of vital contributors within the later rounds. Making it within the NHL is troublesome, particularly for late-round picks and never all of those gamers have their names hanging from the rafters, however they persevered and left an enduring impression on the Avalanche and the league.

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