While there are a few prospects in contention, American defenseman Seth Jones is the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NHL entry draft. The Colorado Avalanche will choose first and there is no question that they and Jones are a match made in heaven.
The Avs only had the second-best chance to nab the top selection during Monday's draft lottery, but they leapfrogged the Florida Panthers and now have the pick of the litter. Skilled forwards Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon are definitely worth considering, but Jones makes sense for so many different reasons, both on and off the ice.
Jones was born in Plano, Texas, but since he is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, he lived in Denver for part of his childhood. It is there that he first became interested in hockey and learned to skate, according to NHL Network's EJ Hradek.
The hometown connection should be of great importance to the Avalanche as Jones would give them a fantastic marketing tool. The Avs haven't progressed as quickly as hoped despite promising young players such as Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, but Jones is the type of guy who can help the organization draw fans.
In addition to that, Jones just happens to be a fantastic hockey player.
He helped lead Team USA to a gold medal in the 2013 World Junior Championships and he has been a stalwart for the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks. Jones totaled 56 points in 61 regular-season games this year and already has 13 points in 15 playoff contests.
His offensive acumen can be measured, but he is solid defensively as well and already has an NHL body at 6'4" and 206 lbs. Jones is a complete defenseman and there is no doubt that the Avalanche need help in that area. Erik Johnson hasn't become the stud rearguard they hoped he would develop into when they traded for him, so there is an obvious void that needs to be filled.
If Colorado ultimately selects Jones with the No. 1 overall pick, it would also be a historical event. The highest-drafted black player in NHL history is currently Winnipeg Jets' forward Evander Kane, who was taken No. 4 overall back in 2009. Jones would be the first African-American top pick in NHL history and a potential barrier-breaker for future players.
The Avs are a team in turmoil; they finished last in the Western Conference this season and fired head coach Joe Sacco. They need some sense of stability and Jones can help bring that. He is already familiar with the area, he is as steady as the come on the blue line and he has proven to be a great leader at the junior level and during international play.
Landeskog is currently Colorado's captain, and although he has shown great leadership skills, he is only 20 years old. Because of that, it's possible that there isn't a solid overall leadership base on the team. If the front office continues to add young players with leadership qualities like Jones, though, the Avs should grow as a team.
The Avalanche were among the worst offensive and defensive teams in the NHL this season, ranking 27th in both goals for and goals against. Jones' two-way game will help at both ends of the ice as he is the type of prospect who should be able to step in and play from day one.
Colorado desperately needs immediate help and Jones can provide it.
While the front office obviously needs to do its due diligence by scouting every prospect and going through the pre-draft process, Jones is the early favorite, and it will take a lot to knock him from a perch.
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