The Avalanche’s best late-round draft gem

The Colorado snow There is a long list of successful first-round picks, many of which are at the top of the NHL Entry Draft. Nathan MacKinnon is an All-Star first-overall selection, and longtime captain Gabriel Landskog was selected with the second-overall pick. Most recently, the defending Conn. Smith Trophy winner, Cal Makar, was Selected fourth overall in 2017.

However, the hard work is finding the gems in the later rounds, digging through the countless league prospects and finding the one player who can be a long-term NHLer. Since arriving in Colorado in 1995, the Avs have unearthed a few of these late-round gems, including some fan favorites. Here’s a look at the team’s best late-round draft picks, including a couple that were drafted by the Quebec Nordiques but made a lasting impact during the team’s time in Colorado:

Milan Hejduk

He reached the fourth round with 87m 1994 NHL Entry Draft pick, Milan Hejduk Has become one of the best players in Avalanche history. He spent his entire career in Colorado, playing 1,020 games over 14 seasons and is one of only four team captains since moving from Quebec in 1995. His jersey number is retired.

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

Even with all the impressive firepower in franchise history, Hejduk’s name still stands in the record books. He is the only Avs player to win Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy – took home that hardware in 2003 when his 50 goals led the NHL; He scored an impressive 375 goals and 430 assists for 805 points. He is fourth in franchise history in goals and points and sixth in assists when McKinnon passes for him in the 2022-23 season.

John-Michael Lyles

Taken in the fifth round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, John-Michael Lyles Turned out to be a very good find for snow. The steady defenseman played 836 games for the club, dishing out 283 assists en route to 370 career points. It didn’t take long for him to make a splash either, scoring 34 points in his rookie campaign in 2003-04 while being named to the All-Rookie Team.

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Lyles played 13 seasons in the NHL – seven of which were in Colorado. He was a solid two-way defender for most of that time and entered the league after a stellar career at Michigan State. He was one of Colorado’s top offensive defensemen before the team He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs After the rise of Tyson Barry in 2011.

Pierre Lacroix

One of the most important figures in Avalanche history never played a minute in Colorado, but he had his fingerprints on their early success. In the Nordiques’ first draft in franchise history, Quebec took a defenseman named Pierre Lacroix in the fifth round. He only played 274 games with the team over four seasons in the NHL, but his love and appreciation for the franchise kept him with the team long after his playing days were over. His time in the front office cemented his place in team history.

Related: Avalanche Cup run built by timely trade from Lacroix

Lacroix served as the team’s general manager from 1994-2006 and is considered the architect of the team’s first two Stanley Cup runs. One of his most memorable moves was Trade for disgruntled star goaltender Patrick Roy 1996 to set up the crown. For his efforts, in 2021, he was honored with a banner raised to the rafters in the ball arena to hang alongside the banner of the six players whose jerseys have been retired. Lacroix died on December 13, 2020.

Radim Barta

Radim Vrbata only played a few seasons with the Avalanche, but this seventh-round pick went on to have a very good NHL career. 212m A player taken in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Vrbata played 1,057 NHL games, including one All-Star Game nominations In 2015, when he had the best season of his career. Vrbata had 31 goals and a career-high 63 points with the Vancouver Canucks last season.

Radim Vrbata Florida Panthers
Radim Vrabata with the Florida Panthers (Amy Irvine / hockey writer)

Vrbata scored at least 20 goals six times, and had an 18-goal campaign in his rookie season in 2001–02. He had 16 goals and 19 assists in 76 games with the Avs in his second season but was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Bates Battaglia late in the 2002–03 season. Battaglia played just 17 games for the Avs and had just one more full season in the NHL, while Vrbata scored 284 goals and 623 points over a 16-year career.

honorable mention

David Jones may not be a recognizable name, but this ninth-round pick in 2003 had some good years in Colorado. Jones led the team with 27 goals in 2010-11 and finished his 10-year career with 104 goals and 191 points in 462 games, not bad for 288.m Picked in the 2003 draft. Marek Svatos, the team’s seventh-round pick in 2001, had six solid years with the Avs, including a 32-goal rookie campaign that saw him finish fifth in Calder Trophy voting in 2005-06. He finished his seven-year NHL career with 100 goals and 172 points.

Valeri Kamensky was a terrific seventh-round pick for the Nordiques in 1988, spending parts of eight seasons with the franchise, including the final four in Colorado. He played an integral role in the club’s 1996 Stanley Cup run, scoring 22 points en route to the club’s first title. Only Joe Sakic had more points in that postseason for the Avalanche.

Related: Top line in Colorado avalanche history

The stars of the early rounds will always be the most popular players, but the club has found several key contributors in the later rounds. It’s tough to make it in the NHL, especially for late-round picks, and not all of these players have their names hanging from the rafters, but they persevered and left a lasting impression on the Avalanche and the league.

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