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Continued: Avalanche looking at MacKinnon over Jones for 1st pick in the NHL draft

  • Article by: DAN GELSTON , AP Sports Writer
  • Last update: June 29, 2013 - 4:08 PM

It would make for a unique cultural twist if an American was picked No. 1 in the NHL days after Anthony Bennett of Canada was selected first by Cleveland in the NBA draft.

"We still have a high amount of interest in him," Rick Pracey, Colorado's director of amateur scouting, said of Jones.

Jones enters the draft as the top-ranked player on the NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters.

Even as praise is heaped on him, Jones knows scouts believe he has only scratched the surface of his potential.

"They'd like to see the shot improve a little bit, be a little more physical, those kinds of things," Pracey said.

The Avalanche, however, appear to have narrowed their focus on MacKinnon.

"He's a player that has been front and center all year, and he continues to be so," Pracey said. "He is a player that has withstood the pressures of a draft year, withstood the pressures of high expectations and the comparable that he's been held accountable to, not only this year but the past couple of years."

MacKinnon spent this past season with Halifax of the QMJHL and had 32 goals and 43 assists in 44 games. He scored 11 goals and had 22 assists in 17 playoff games.

"I think seeing that push and seeing him elevate his game and carry a team to a championship and then into the Memorial Cup is special," Pracey said. "Having this player handle the distractions and the media and all the scrutiny that goes with being a top player and then being able to perform and raise his game, are all key, key qualities."

After Florida and Tampa Bay, Nashville and Carolina round out the top five. All seven rounds will be held on the same day for the first time since 2006.

The next decade will tell if this class was worth the hype.

"It is certainly one of the better ones probably in the last couple of years in terms of overall depth," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "Compared to '03, it'd be difficult, now. You look back at those players, there was a lot of impact players from that draft.

"So, that's probably for future debate," Holmgren said.

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