Jones, a right-handed shooting defense prospect, has been rated as the top prospect available in the 2013 draft for the last six months. Jones appears to have superstar-level potential.
Joe Sakic, the team's executive vice-president of hockey operations, will make the team's pick June 30. Sakic told Adrian Dater of the Denver Post that the Avs will not take the young defenseman and will choose one of the three top-rated forwards in the draft if they hold on to the pick.
Could subterfuge be at hand? Does Sakic have any need or desire to fool his competitors with his first-ever pick in the NHL Draft?
It is within the realm of possibility, but it does not seem likely.
This will be the first major move of Sakic's career as an NHL executive. He told Dater that he believes the Avalanche are going to turn to one of the top three forwards—Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin or Alexander Barkov—instead of Jones.
Jones is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. If Sakic is just trying to pull the wool over his competitors' eyes or he trades the pick to another team and Jones is selected, the 18-year-old would become the first African-American taken with the initial pick in the NHL Draft.
Jones will face quite a bit of scrutiny no matter when he's selected, but that pressure would increase dramatically if he is selected as the No. 1 pick.
Additionally, it is often takes longer for a young defense prospect to develop into a star NHL player than it does a forward.
However, the Avs have a number of solid young forwards, including Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene. The Avs had a poor year on defense (allowed 3.12 goals against per game, ranked 27th in NHL) and a strong need for help on the blue line.
Dater suggested that Sakic will attempt to improve the Avs' defense by going after free-agent blue liners as well as pursuing trades.
Here's a brief scouting report about Jones and the other three prospects that Sakic says the Avs are considering with the No. 1 pick in the draft:
Jones is 6'4" and 205 pounds, and an excellent skater, according to The Hockey Writers' mock draft. Jones played for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He scored 14 goals and had 42 assists along with a plus-46 rating for Portland this year.
MacKinnon is listed as that online publication's No. 2 pick. He played for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 6'0", 180-pound center has the quickness and skill level that makes him an elite player. MacKinnon scored 32 goals and had 43 assists this season, along with a plus-40 rating.
Drouin played with MacKinnon in Halifax. Drouin is an explosive left wing who has been called the most skilled player in the draft. He's not huge at 5'11" and 180 pounds, but he can take a hit and keep going towards the net. He can also score, as his 41 goals, 64 assists and plus-48 rating indicates.
Barkov has the size and strength at 6'2" and 205 pounds that all teams look for in young prospects. He scored 21 goals and 27 assists while playing for Tappara in Finland. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during his team's playoff run.
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