Ranking the Colorado Avalanche's pool of prospects is difficult right now because pretty much all of them have not-so-tiny flaws - whether it's smurfs who couldn't hit their way out of a wet paper bag, ruining an otherwise great prospect; guys with actual potential whose time is starting to run out and there's no opportunity for them in Colorado; rover-type defencemen who are all tire fires in their own end and maybe not even that great offensively; or guys who just plain suck.
The most difficult challenge was figuring out which of these guys is worthy of being called No. 1. Quantity over quality seems to have been the slogan of previous (full-time) GMs, when they weren't trading the picks away, of course. But having a lot of depth is a plus.
1. Matthew Freytag, LW - drafted 20th overall in 2016
Well, the organization hasn't had a single first round pick since Freytag was drafted. It looks like he's got previous experience with the big club, but he's spent this whole year so far in the AHL so he fits our arbitrary criteria. Freytag tops out as a good all-around second line winger who doesn't completely ignore the defensive zone, but he's an inch shy of being able to hit. Unlike some older prospects in the Avs' system, Freytag is not far off from hitting his ceilings. He just needs a bit of ice time. Colorado is still shopping a couple of forwards, so he may get that soon.
2. Jesse Ylonen, RW - drafted 95th overall in 2018 by PIT
Ylonen isn't anything really special, but a solid top 6 offensive threat who is just pedestrian in the defensive third. Another soft non-contact winger though. Unlike the afore-mentioned older prospects, age is on his side.
3. Simon Stransky, LW - drafted 64th overall in 2016
Stransky is four years removed from his draft year and is pretty much NHL-ready. The issue is finding room for him in the lineup, so he'll stay with Hershey for now. He's defined by his shot and strong man-to-man defensive coverage.
4. Jacob Larsson, D - drafted 34th overall in 2015 by FLA
Larsson is with the Avs right now after the recent trade from Montreal, but he's got only 15 NHL games under his belt so we'll count him as a prospect. Larsson is pretty well fully developed and poised to take a third-pairing spot. He's a solid defender and has the hands to be able to carry the puck through transition.
5. Jack Roslovic, RW - drafted 61st overall in 2015
Roslovic has taken a while to come around, but dominated the AHL last year with 53 goals and 131 points. He's got a bit more work to do on the defensive end, but needs an NHL opportunity to develop his trademark shot. Another softie in the hitting department.
6. Nikolay Goldobin, RW - drafted 29th overall in 2014 by STL
Goldobin's already got an NHL-calibre offensive skill set and a booming shot. Sound good? The problem is it's been six years since he was drafted and he's beginning to drift out of prospect territory. The good news is he just needs a chance to play top 9 minutes and you can unlock his potential! With proper training, he can be not terrible defensively.
7. Simon Holmstrom, RW - drafted 90th overall in 2019 by SJ
After the trade that brought Holmstrom to Colorado, San Jose's GM commented that he's likely a future fourth liner. Colorado's GM sees him as more than that, but perhaps the rookie executive is misjudging the league's talent level. We'll see. Anyway, Holmstrom is a slick playmaker whose offensive instincts could keep him in the top 9. As a defender, his positioning is solid.
8. James Greenway, D - drafted 39th overall in 2016
Greenway is interesting in that he can play defence or left wing, but his skill set is definitely suited to the blueline. He's a heavy-hitting, responsible defender who could also fit in on a grinder line in a pinch. He's another guy who needs a call-up to take the next step.
9. Noah Gregor, C - drafted 47th overall in 2016 by FLA
Gregor projects as a solid two-way centre with a big shot and a real defensive conscience. Shame he's two inches short to be able to hit guys. That could be a real game-changer. He's maybe a year away from the NHL.
10. Case McCarthy, D - drafted 111th overall in 2019 by MTL
McCarthy has an issue with consistency, which helped with his fall in the draft. But with a proper development system the Avalanche believe he can become a strong defender who doesn't mind hitting people and can contribute on the attack. He's got a few years to work on his game.
Coming soon: Avalanche prospects ranked 11 through 20