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

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

The Colorado Avalanche own the top pick in the NHL draft and a whole lot of options.

Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones. Jonathan Drouin and Aleksander Barkov. They are the top candidates to go first Sunday at the Prudential Center.

Colorado won the draft lottery and has flirted with the idea of picking a puck-moving defenseman in Jones. But it appears the Avalanche are leaning toward choosing a forward, perhaps the 17-year-old MacKinnon.

MacKinnon, a 6-foot, 182-pound center, is a solid two-way presence with strong hands and stick-handling and skating skills. He is considered a natural scorer and a very good puck distributor.

Of course, Colorado could also decide to trade the pick to the Florida Panthers, who are slated to pick second, or to the Tampa Bay Lightning at No. 3, or even farther down to another club that is looking to make a splash and shoot to the top.

There is plenty of talent available, and this draft pool has already been touted as the best in a decade. This year's prospects have been favorably compared to the last blockbuster draft in 2003.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards highlighted that first round 10 years ago. Patrice Bergeron and Shea Weber went in the second round, and future All-Stars and Stanley Cup champions dotted the list of a loaded draft.

Fast forward to now and there is a new group of prospects vying to become as well known and decorated as some of today's stars.

MacKinnon, Jones, Drouin, and Barkov are likely to be taken in the top four.

Given the track record of defensemen at No. 1, the Avalanche could play it safe and nab an elite forward instead.

"As far as MacKinnon, I could tell you he's a heck of a player. Jones is a heck of a player," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "It's the same thing with Drouin. They're all premier players in the future for the NHL."

Fair or not to Jones, teams are skittish about taking a defenseman first. The last defenseman selected No. 1 was Erik Johnson by St. Louis in 2006. Johnson, who now plays for Colorado, had only four points in 31 games this season and has never lived up to his top billing.

Only 12 defensemen have gone No. 1, and Denis Potvin (1973, New York Islanders) is the only one to make the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Avalanche could make it 13 after winning the draft lottery for the first time.

Jones has deep roots with the Avalanche, dating to the early part of last decade when his father, former NBA forward Popeye Jones, struck up a friendship with Joe Sakic and Roy when they all played in Colorado.

Sakic is now the Avalanche's executive vice president of hockey operations, and Roy is the club's new coach.

Jones, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman, could become the first American picked No. 1 since Chicago's Patrick Kane in 2007 and the seventh overall. In a sport in which the majority percentage of players are white, it is that slice of history he would make as the first black selected No. 1 — topping Evander Kane, who was picked fourth in 2009.

"Seth could be that poster child for USA hockey," Popeye Jones said.

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.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Oakland - LP: D. Otero 8 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 9
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
NY Islanders 5 FINAL
Boston 3
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Tampa Bay 5 FINAL
Dallas 1
Colorado 0 FINAL
Calgary 2
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
San Jose 1
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to manage Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close