NHL Draft 2013: Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones, Who Goes 1st and Why?

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2012

Photo Credit: theqmjhl.ca
Photo Credit: theqmjhl.ca

There was a lot of debate in the months leading up to the 2009 NHL Draft because there were two fantastic players, forward John Tavares and defenseman Victor Hedman, who were both worthy of being selected No. 1 by the New York Islanders.

We will see a similar debate as we approach the 2013 NHL Draft. Should the team with the top selection take the best forward available (Nathan MacKinnon) or the best defenseman available (Seth Jones).

Who will be drafted No. 1?

Even if the team with the top pick needs a No. 1 defenseman that Seth Jones has the potential to be, it's going to be extremely difficult for general managers to pass on an elite center like MacKinnon.

The comparisons made between Pittsburgh Penguins superstar forward Sidney Crosby and MacKinnon are not totally outrageous. Like Crosby, MacKinnon is dominating the QMJHL during the NHL lockout, and fans have been quite impressed with his production this season.

The Halifax Mooseheads star has scored 18 goals with 11 assists through 16 games this year. He is not on pace to match Crosby's incredible 168-point year in 2004-05 with the Rimouski Oceanic, but he should shatter his previous career high of 78 points.

MacKinnon has the potential to be a 40-goal, 50-assist player for many years in the NHL. A league comparison can be made between him and Tavares. Both players are capable of scoring a lot of goals, but also excel in a playmaking role.

Jones will be a great defenseman in the NHL, but he won't have the same immediate impact to a team's success that MacKinnon will.

He currently has three goals and five assists in 12 games for the Portland Winterhawks, but Jones will need to dominate defensively to convince general managers that he should be drafted ahead of MacKinnon.

Even if the team that is drafting No. 1 doesn't need a center or a top-line forward with its first-round pick, MacKinnon has the ability to be the kind of player that sells tickets and helps teams acquire new fans.

He could really help a franchise like the Columbus Blue Jackets play better on the ice and have more financial success off of it. It will be tough for general managers to persuade an owner to pass on a player that can have this kind of an impact on a franchise.

Another thing to consider is that defensemen generally take longer to develop than forwards, and if the team with the No. 1 pick wants a quick turnaround, it's hard to see Jones being taken first.

In the 13 drafts this century, 11 forwards have been taken No. 1 overall, including four centers. Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues, 2006) is the only defenseman to be picked first in the last 17 years.

NHL teams tend to take forwards who can score goals No. 1 overall, and since MacKinnon has the potential to be a franchise center, he should be the first pick in the 2013 draft.


Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.