At least that is what everyone presumed Colorado would do. After all, the Avalanche defense only produced six goals in 2013. A franchise defenseman that will have an immediate impact when he enters the NHL like Seth Jones is something Colorado should not pass up.
That is exactly what the Colorado Avalanche is doing. According to new general manager Joe Sakic, the Avalanche will likely draft either forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, or Alexander Barkov.
“If we do pick first, we’re leaning more towards one of three forwards,” Sakic told the Denver Post, adding “we feel those three forwards are just too good too pass up.”
A franchise defenseman like Seth Jones is too good to pass up according to most scouts. It would be a mistake to take someone else with the first overall pick. For Avalanche fans who have been in need of a good defenseman, Sakic better be right,
Jones, a native of Arlington, Texas, led all WHL rookie defensemen with 56 points with 14 goals and 42 assists in 61 games during the 2012-13 season. Jones was the youngest member of Team USA to capture a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship. He recorded one goal, six assists, and a plus-8 rating in seven games.
Granted MacKinnon, Drouin, and Barkov appear to have incredible futures in the NHL, but drafting Jones isn’t just a matter of drafting for organizational need. Sure the Avalanche have a glaring need for defense in their lineup and that taking Jones with the first overall pick is not only the right move, but a smart move.
Jones makes perfect sense for the Avalanche. If Sakic is being completely truthful here, then this makes many scouts around the NHL scratch their heads.
However, the Avalanche have stated in the past the organization was interested in trading down if the price was right. If that was the case, Sakic may have wanted to keep this quiet. So, he would have been able to get best deal from one of three teams below the Avalanche who were interested one of the top three forwards.
According to Adrian Dater of the Denver Post, the Avalanche clearly likes Nathan MacKinnon. “I think as of right now that MacKinnon is the favorite. But we’’l have to see what the next nine days bring.”
Jones, 18, is still ranked on many lists of scouting services as the top prospect available in next Sunday’s NHL Entry Draft. Dater wrote “the Ava have a glaring need at defense and a surplus of centers the position at which MacKinnon and Barkov plat, while Drouin is a winger.”
The reason Dater thinks MacKinnon is the favorite is because of his performance at the Memorial Cup. MacKinnon led his team the Halifax Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup defeating Jones’s Portland Winterhawks twice along the way. MacKinnon scored a hat trick in each of the two games against Jones.
It is hard to compare the two players because they play a different role and position on the ice. MacKinnon is more offensively minded while Jones is more defensively minded, but can still put up his fair share of points from the back-end.
A team can have all the offense in the world, but if they do not have a good defense to stop pucks from going into their net, then the team will lose the game. What happens if the offense goes dry, and the team needs to play a more defensive mined game, a player like Jones would be perfect for that situation.
Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins, who could stop the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, how it feels to get scored on at will. The Penguins showed they could play better defensive hockey, but when the goals dried against Boston in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final, their defense was there to keep three of the games close.
One thing is for sure the Avalanche better be right when it comes to their pick. If they miss on Jones, it could be felt for years. Not to say MacKinnon isn’t a bona-fide star, but a team that is in desperate need of defense, better build up their back-end.
If the Avalanche do not pick Jones, they might go after a defenseman via free agency or the trade market. The team has room under the salary cap, and many NHL teams are looking to shed salary to comply with the League’s new $64.3 million benchmark, down from $70.2 million.
We have to wait and see how all this plays out on draft day. One thing is sure definitely for sure the new Avalanche management team is interesting to watch.