Last night, the Nuggets scored big in the NBA draft, landing North Carolina guard Ty Lawson without giving away a key player. But now comes word, from Denver Post hockey expert Adrian Dater, that the Colorado Avalanche, which has the number three pick in tonight's NHL draft, might shrug off its chance to make a similar splash by trading down. Avs chief scout Rick Pracey tells Dater, "I think we have a very tough call to make at No. 3. There are going to be two selections that we don't have any control over. It's very deep at the top. You can probably talk about five players at the top, and depending on who you're discussing, it could be up to seven and maybe even 10."
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If other hockey experts have said anything comparable to that of late, I sure haven't heard it. Instead, every insider in my earshot has reiterated that the players likely to go in the top three -- John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene -- are on a different level from the rest of the candidates, with all of them likely to make outstanding pros. As a result, there's been an air of excitement locally about obtaining one of these skaters, and given how the Avs fell off fans' radar after their dismal performance this past season, not to mention the way management bungled its wooing of Patrick Roy for a head coach position that was already occupied (but not for long) by Tony Granato, such a buzz needs to be nourished, not killed. Convincing even the most faithful Avs booster that leaving one of this trio on the board is the best way to make the squad better won't just be a tough sell -- it'll be an impossible one.
Maybe Pracey was only testing the water in his comments to Dater. But believe us, pal: The test failed. And now we have to hope the Avs don't follow suit.