AVALANCHE

At pick No. 31 in the NHL Draft, the Avalanche take a defenseman

Jun 28, 2023, 8:45 PM

The Colorado Avalanche didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

They made up for it by selecting twice during Round 1 of the 2023 draft on Thursday night.

Sure, neither selection is expected to make a major impact right away, but these are names fans will hopefully know a couple of years down the road.

At No. 27, the team took center Calum Ritchie, an 18-year-old out of Oakville, Ontario, who last played for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL.

And at No. 31, thanks to the Alex Newhook trade earlier this week, Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland and president Joe Sakic went with defenseman Mikhail Gulyayev.

Gulyayev is listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, so he’s small for his position. But he also just recently turned 18 and could still grow more. The draft broadcast mentioned he could’ve been a top-5 pick if he were a couple of inches taller.

The Hockey Writers raved about Gulyayev in a pre-draft preview:

Gulyayev is a very confident and skilled puck handler, efficiently transitioning the puck out of his zone and into his opponent’s. Once he’s in the offensive zone, Gulyayev is a willing and able playmaker who excels at walking the blue line to find and create passing lanes.

His skating is the biggest stand out trait, making Gulyayev a threat whenever he has the puck and a few strides worth of space. He generates speed well in straight lines as well as through crossovers, and his crossover patterning can be quite elusive, allowing him to break opposing defenders’ ankles on the rush.

Based on that praise and the praise, it sounds like the Avs got a good one who can help at some point.

Meanwhile, MacFarland and Sakic have been busy the last several days, moving Newhook to Montreal and acquiring Stanley Cup champion Ross Colton from Tampa Bay. They used a second-round pick obtained in the Newhook deal to land Colton.

The Avalanche also traded for projected second-line center Ryan Johansen over the weekend.

Colorado is slated to have three more picks before the draft wraps up, with one each in Rounds 5, 6 and 7 on Thursday.

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