1999 Draft Board – Colorado

The draft board pages include every player who was left unprotected in the 1999 Expansion Draft. The overwhelming majority of players who do not carry over are either old, unproductive, injured, primarily used for fighting, marginal players, minor league veterans, or unsigned European prospects. The majority of pending UFAs (Group III, Group V, and Group VI) will not carry over. Exceptions to these rules are provided if the incumbent team left almost nothing of value available to choose from, in which case everyone gets at least a closer look.

As we are capped by league restrictions to selecting no more than six pending free agents, we must be judicious with our choices.

COLORADO

The Avalanche had 98 points last year, good for the top spot in the Northwest Division, the #2 overall seed in the Western Conference, and the #4 overall spot in the standings. They came back from a 2-0 deficit against Detroit in the second round, but lost in seven hard-fought games to Dallas in the conference finals.

Available players

Goalies: Craig Billington, Petr Franek(Gr.II – RFA)

Defensemen: Jeff Buchanan(Gr.VI – UFA), Michael Gaul, Alexei Gusarov(Gr.III – UFA), Sami Helenius(Gr.VI – UFA), Sylvain Lefebvre(Gr.III – UFA), Eric Messier, Cam Russell(Gr.II – RFA)

Forwards: Serge Aubin(Gr.II – RFA), Chris Dingman, Tomi Hirvonen(UE), Dale Hunter(Gr.III – UFA), Mikael Johansson(UE), Martin Lamarche(Gr.II – RFA), Tomi Kallio(UE), Christian Matte(Gr.II – RFA), Jeff Odgers, Warren Rychel(Gr.III – UFA), Rob Shearer

Assessment

Colorado has two goalies and seven defensemen unprotected, none of whom are making the move up. Of eleven unprotected forwards, pending Group II free agents Serge Aubin and Christian Matte will move on, as will unsigned European prospect Tomi Kallio.

Sylvain Lefebvre and Alexei Gusarov are both pending UFAs and won’t be looked at for selection.  It’s more likely than not that they’ll re-sign with Colorado at a hometown discount, and even if they go elsewhere, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll get too little to net us a good compensatory pick that would justify the risk.

Player reports

F Serge Aubin – 24-year-old forward, originally a 7th-round pick of Pittsburgh (1994)

The case for taking Aubin – Although not terribly consistent at this point in his young career, Aubin can catch hot streaks in which he becomes the best player on the ice for extended periods of time. He’s an instinctive scoring forward who tends to form good chemistry with whoever is on his line. This past year, he reconnected with his old junior linemate Christian Matte, and the chemistry was instantaneous despite the two not having been teammates in the previous three seasons. He started the season on an AHL-only contract, and ended up being the first callup to Colorado around Christmas when Joe Sakic went down.

The case against taking Aubin – He didn’t score much at all his first two years in the highest minor league, and needed to be reunited with his old linemate (and team MVP) to be able to produce at all. Of greater concern is that he was benched during a game in February for uninspired play, then was a healthy scratch in the last two playoff games for the same reason. Although young players will go through the growing pains of what it means to be a pro, being a healthy scratch in the playoffs anywhere for a first-liner is a very bad sign.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against the limit.

F Tomi Kallio – 22-year-old forward, originally a 4th-round pick of Colorado (1995)

The case for taking Kallio – That an unsigned European player is on here at all speaks to one of two things: either Colorado left us absolutely nothing to choose from, or Kallio has earned his spot on this list. Actually, both are true.

Kallio has extremely high offensive smarts and instincts, and the skills to match. He made the jump to the top division in Finland full-time at age 19 and now has three seasons there. He was on two WJC teams, captaining one of them, and just finished up his first World Championships. Just a year ago, Colorado took their own late-round pick with a terrific international resume (Milan Hejduk), brought him over, and got a huge rookie season out of him. We can do the same with Kallio.

The case against taking Kallio – The concern is there about whether he’ll make the jump to the NHL, and whether he’d be happy to come along in the minors while developing into an NHL player. Other players on Colorado’s list have either been a part of their success or have seen success firsthand to aspire toward; Kallio has been insulated from all of that. We also don’t know how his skills will carry over to the smaller ice, if at all, and we could very well be stuck with an asset that we get nothing out of.

F Christian Matte – 24-year-old forward, originally a 6th-round pick of Quebec (1993)

The case for taking Matte – Had 53 points in the QMJHL his draft year, then scored 50 goals each of the next two seasons. He’s averaged around a point a game in the AHL, and then had 78 points in just 60 games this past season. He’s also been named the Hershey Bears’ team MVP the last two seasons. So far he only has 17 NHL games to his name, but trying to crack a lineup like Colorado’s is nearly impossible for a young player. He’s a smart and instinctive player who just needs time to develop.

The case against taking Matte – As of right now, Colorado still hasn’t decided whether they’re even going to send Matte a qualifying offer to retain his rights as a restricted free agent. Two-time team MVP or not, that’s not really a positive sign.

This past year, Matte was penciled into the projected Avalanche lineup, then showed up out of shape and had his intensity questioned by coach Bob Hartley. He was also left off the roster completely for the team’s 40-player preseason scrimmage. And although Colorado has a solid lineup, young players are given a chance to make it. In fact, four players who were expected to start in Hershey (Chris Drury, Milan Hejduk, Scott Parker, and Brad Larsen) all made the opening lineup while Matte, who was penciled in, was sent down five days before the final camp cutdown.

He’s also a pending Group II free agent and would count against the limit.

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