It's been widely believed for quite some time now that Seth Jones will be the first name called during the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The defenseman has been extremely impressive in his young career, scoring 56 points in 61 games for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL during the 2012-13 season. At 18, Jones already plays an intelligent game which far exceeds his years.
Will the Colorado Avalanche select Jones with their first overall pick? No, according to a report from the Denver Post. Instead, Joe Sakic (Colorado's executive VP of hockey operations) revealed that the team is planning to draft a forward with their top selection.
It's reported that the Avs are instead focusing on either Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin or Alexander Barkov. It seems a bit odd that the Avalanche are publicly tipping their hand, so take this report with a grain of salt. The Avs might still call Jones' name on draft day, but maybe this is the team's way of trying to reposition themselves in order to pull off a trade.
Drafting a defenseman first overall is risky (ask the St. Louis Blues) and the Avalanche have seen how a top defensive prospect can fail to pan out (again, Erik Johnson). Still, this decision is a strange one as the Avalanche currently have huge holes on defense. Meanwhile, they boast plenty of young talent up front. The logical decision here would be to patch the areas where you're weak before addressing other concerns, but the Avalanche have never made much sense when it comes to roster decisions.
I asked fellow PDL writers Laura and Jeff to weigh in on this situation.
I'm not surprised that the Avs are doing this, since quite a few seem to view either prospect as a good pick. Jones and MacKinnon have flip-flopped a few times on the draft rankings, so it just seems like it comes down to what the Avs need most. Sometimes drafting a defenseman first overall (Erik Johnson) doesn't work out the way that you would like it to, but the Avs could take solace in the fact that they could just deal Jones down the road for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Colorado averaged 2.38 goals a game, so they need some scoring punch. On the flip side, they allowed 3.12 goals a game, good for fourth worst in the league. Either pick makes sense, and it looks like the Avs are going with the safe bet, at least from a position POV.
There’s a school of thought in the National Hockey League that elite centers do not grow on trees, and when you can get one you do so. It’s completely true; look at the Washington Capitals' situation before this past season and you can see what not having two or three good centers can do to a team. However, the decision of the Colorado Avalanche to draft Nathan MacKinnon over Seth Jones may be a decision that comes back to bite them in the future. This past season, the Avalanche averaged 3.12 goals against per game, which ranks them 27th in the league. If the Avalanche are to get better, it starts on the blueline. It doesn’t matter what your goaltenders do -- if your defense constantly leaves your goalie hanging out to dry, all you’re doing is spinning tires in a sandpit. While there may be more of a risk to draft defensemen, there’s no doubt who the number one overall pick should be.
It’s Seth Jones and it’s not even close.
What do you think of Colorado's decision, if it is to be believed?