For the Colorado Avalanche, the weekend began with a pun.
…Get it? The “draft”?
But over the next several hours, the Avs were all business. As the City of Brotherly Love played host to the 2014 NHL Draft, viewers across the world witnessed 210 young hockey players move one step closer to seeing their NHL dreams become reality. The draft, held at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, began Friday night with the first round of draftees and concluded this afternoon with rounds 2-7. And for the Colorado Avalanche, it was a busy and successful outing.
The Avs selected four forwards, two defensemen, and a goaltender to add to the organization:
# Rd Pick Player Pos Team (League)
1. 1 23 Conner Bleackley C Red Deer (WHL)
2. 3 84 Kyle Wood D North Bay (OHL)
3. 4 93 Nicholas Magyar RW Kitchener (OHL)
4. 4 114 Alexis Pepin LW Gatineau (QMJHL)
5. 5 144 Anton Lindholm D Skelleftea (Sweden)
6. 6 174 Maximilian Pajpach G Slovakia U18 (Slovakia)
7. 7 204 Julien Nantel LW/C Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
Colorado used their first-round, 23rd overall pick to select Conner Bleackley, a 6-foot, 197-lb center from High River, Alberta. Bleackley led the Red Deer Rebels (WHL) with 68 points last season, and he tied for the team’s leading goal-scorer with 29 goals. He was named captain of the Red Deer Rebels this past season in addition to wearing the ‘A’ for Canada’s 2014 Under-18 World Championship team, which ultimately took home the bronze. He was also an alternate captain for Team Pacific at the 2013 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge.
This past season saw a huge jump in Bleackley’s statistics; in his first season with the Red Deer during 2012-13, he tallied only 18 points in 66 games. Compared to his 2013-14 numbers, this shows that Bleackley is gaining skill and momentum rapidly as a player as he continues to grow.
Bleackley says that he thinks the Avalanche organization is “top notch” and is excited to prove that he belongs out on the ice with this young team on the rise. ” I think the biggest thing for me is my versatility, not being limited to one role,” Bleackley said in an interview. “I can play all four lines and center or wing so I think that’s an advantage that I have.”
Follow Conner Bleackley on Twitter: @Bleacks9
Colorado’s next selection came in the third round, where they used their #83 pick to draft defenseman Kyle Wood. Wood is 6’4″ and 195 lbs and is a native of Waterloo, Ontario. Though he missed the first half of the 2013-14 season with an injury, Wood is now healthy and ready to show what he can do. He registered 12 points in 33 games for the North Bay Battalion (OHL) in the second half of last season with 2 goals and 10 assists, and he put up 10 points in 22 playoff games this postseason as the Battalion reached the league finals.
The Battalion have produced several notable players, including current Avs center Matt Duchene. “[Duchene will] show me the ropes and let me know what to do there when I get [to Colorado],” said Wood. Wood also said that his main focus for next season is improving his defense.
Follow Kyle Wood on Twitter: @KyleWood_3
The Avs then had two picks in the fourth round, which they used to select right wing Nicholas Magyar (drafted #93) and left wing Alexis Pepin (drafted #114).
Magyar led the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) this past season with 46 points, putting up 20 goals and 26 assists in 66 games. At 6’2″ and 194 lbs, the Cleveland, Ohio, native was the first rookie to lead Kitchener in scoring since the 1999-2000 season. Magyar was named co-rookie of the year for his team and was named to the OHL’s Scholastic Team. He also represented Team USA at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, where he had a goal and two assists in 6 games.
Follow Nicholas Magyar on Twitter: @NickMagyar2
Pepin is 6’2″ and 229 lbs, and he split this past season with Charlottetown and Gatineau (both of the QMJHL). The Montreal native finished the season with 34 total points, contributing 17 goals and 17 assists in 60 games. Pepin was also a member of the Canada’s Under-18 team at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and he was on Team Quebec at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where he had 3 goals and 4 assists in 6 games.
Follow Alexis Pepin on Twitter: @alexispepin26
Colorado’s next pick came in the fifth round, where they selected defensemen Anton Lindholm at 144th overall. Lindholm, who is 5’11” and 185 lbs, played for his hometown junior team, Skelleftea, in Sweden. He had a goal and five assists in 39 games this past season for Skelleftea, which is part of the Swedish Hockey League. Since 2010, Lindholm has played 122 total games with Skelleftea and has registered 3 goals, 17 assists, and 82 penalty minutes.
The Avs then selected goaltender Maximilian Pajpach, a 6’1″, 209-lb native of Poprad, Slovakia; Pajpach went in the sixth round, 174th overall. He spent most of the 2013-14 season with Team Slovakia’s Under-18 team, putting up a 4.32 GAA and a .867 save percentage in 14 games. Pajpach also played two games last year for the Slovakia Under-20 team. Between 2010-14, he played 82 games with the HK SKP Poprad’s U18 and U20 teams, and he was rated 9th best European goalie in this year’s draft by NHL Central Scouting.
Colorado’s final selection of the 2014 draft came in the seventh round, and they used this #204 pick to select forward Julien Nantel. A Quebec native, Nantel is 6-foot, 193 lbs and spent the past season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL). He was the second-highest scoring rookie last season with 34 points over 68 games, putting up 14 goals and 20 assists. He also had 4 assists in 9 playoff games. Nantel was one of three midget players on Team Quebec at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where the team took fourth place, and he was rated #51 among North American skaters for this year’s draft by NHL Central Scouting.
Follow Julien Nantel on Twitter: @jnantel11
So how is Colorado feeling post-draft?
“I think it was a successful weekend as we accomplished our goals and followed our draft plan,” said Avalanche Director of Amateur Scouting Rick Pracey. “Addressing our overall depth and bringing in increased size at all positions were two important factors for us, and I think we did that.”
Avs fans, here’s to a bright future.