Another draft season as come and gone. The Avalanche made four selections, again dipping into the USHL, and taking bigger centers in this draft. I did feel they left some talent on the table. Opting for overall game over more skilled players. It was a good draft for the Avalanche, with some projects that we hope turn out.
28 – Oskar Olausson, RW/LW, HV71, Sweden
With their first pick the Avs took a powerful skating winger from Sweden. Oskar finds the open ice well, he skates very well, he slows the game down for himself and transitions the puck really well. He has a pretty good shot; it just needs to be released faster. I also believe he is a coachable kid; he will do what he is told, but with that, he does lack some creativity to think outside the box when a passing lane closes on him. He will panic and throw the puck away, instead of holding on to it or trying to get it to retrievable spot.
What I like:
- Skating is high end, speed is high end, and he uses it well.
- Oskar knows he can go through defenders while rushing the puck and he does it. He enters the OZ differently every time, often catching the opposing player off guard.
- He was the youngest Swede on their WJ20 last year, and looks to be a big-time contributor this coming year.
- With is skating ability and range, he is an effective defender and a quick transition player. He is really good at knocking pucks away then transition out of the DZ quickly.
Oskar looks to be a lock for the Sweden WJ20 team again this winter, as he is already playing in the WJ showcase in Michigan. From there I expect him to make the jump to the SHL full time this year, where he will play against men and smooth out his game. I believe he will make the jump to North America next year, to compete for a middle-six winger job. Their will be a handful of positions open, so there will be opportunity there for him. If he doesn’t make the NHL club, getting a big role with the Eagles is a great place to go as well.
61- Sean Behrens – LHD, USNTDP, USHL
Getting Behrens at 61 is great value for the Avalanche, who have started to draft kids from the development program quite regularly (Helleson, Weiss) Behrens is a solid skater, just not a fast skater but he has a motor that doesn’t stop. He is a great defender and while only standing 5’10, he plays like he is 6’3. He gets in your face, and make you earn everything you get. He reads the play and the game at a very high level and rarely turns the puck over. Behrens knows where he will move the puck too before he gets it. While the offense might not translate as efficiently in the NHL, he should be an assist generating machine, as he always gets the puck in high danger areas.
What I like:
- The defensive play is really high end. He transitions the puck very well for DZ to NZ and gets the puck to retriable areas of the ice.
- His IQ is really high, he doesn’t turn the puck over, and he can run a PK unit.
- While shorter, he plays big. For a shorter, average skating player, that’s important.
- Behrens was the USNTDP best defender this past year, and when Hughes (NJ – first round pick) went out with injury, Behrens stepped in a flourished with the extra responsibility.
Behrens is headed to Denver University this fall, where I expect him to stay for two to three years, then turning pro. With the Avalanche having a really good young defensive core already, Helleson and Barron’s coming, Behrens will probably have to spend a year with the Eagle before making the Avalanche team. As of now there are too many bodies in front of him. In three years, Toews contract will be up and EJ will have moved on, so there will be some battle for spots opening up.
92 – Andrei Buyalsky – C, Dubuque Fighting Saints, USHL
Buyalsky is a double overager, 6’3 center who has had a very interesting hockey career. He was developed in Kazakhstan before making the jump to the USHL this past fall and now will head to the University of Vermont. The first thing I notice about him is that he can skate, and skate very fast. North-South speed is not a problem for him. He drives the net a lot and with that speed he catches goalies and defends flat footed and creates scoring chances.
The big question I have to him is, was he able to do this because he is a 20-year-old playing in the USHL? The point totals are solid, but he is still older. Seeing how he develops in the NCAA will be very interesting to me. He will need to add muscle to his frame. The Avalanche have been drafting bigger centers consistently for a few years, trying to find one that will turn out, so this will be another shot at it.
220 – Taylor Makar – LW, Brooks Bandits, AJHL
The younger, bigger brother of Cale is now an Avalanche. Another over age pick for the Avalanche, who will follow in his brother’s footsteps by going to UMass this fall. Cale described Taylor’s game as a pesty forward, with a similar game style to Josh Anderson of Montreal and Matthew Tkachuk of Calgary. Taylor is a bigger guy, 6’2 and plays his size. The thing I really like about Taylor, is that he has worked very hard to get to where he is. He’s had to work. The natural skating and skill of Cale just isn’t there for him. Going to UMass he will get to develop in one of the nation’s top programs and continue to find out who he is as a hockey player.