Barring something unexpected, the Colorado Avalanche are set to take Nathan MacKinnon with the first pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.
Both Joe Sakic, the executive vice president of hockey operations, and Patrick Roy, the head coach, have all but confirmed that MacKinnon will be the pick, as CBC reports:
There is no doubt that Nathan MacKinnon will turn into a fine player, if not a star. He's a terrific offensive player who can play in all situations. He scored 32 goals and had 43 assists last season with the Halifax Mooseheads.
While MacKinnon may turn into a great player, he's not the right choice for the Avalanche. Why? He's redundant. The Avalanche are actually pretty set down the middle. Between Matt Duchene, Paul Statsny, Ryan O'Reilly and John Mitchell, the Avalanche have four quality centers.
Unless MacKinnon switches to wing, there is not a spot for him. MacKinnon is better than John Mitchell, but he's not suited for a fourth-line role. Mitchell is.
There's no need to draft a player who doesn't have a role on the team. Rather, the Avalanche need to pay attention to their woeful defense corps. The Avs let up 3.1 goals-per-game, which was 27th in the league. They had the 20th-ranked penalty kill as well.
Outside of Erik Johnson, there is no elite talent on the blueline, and even Johnson has not yet lived up to his potential. Jan Hejda, probably their most consistent defenseman, is 35.
The Avs could change all of this with the selection of Seth Jones. He's probably the best defensive prospect to come around in the last five years. He's big, athletic and mobile, with a great shot and plays physically. He's similar to Chris Pronger and would be a shutdown defender for the next 10-15 years.
He can play right away, giving a boost to a power play that was ranked 24th in the league.
This is not a repudiation against MacKinnon. He's a fine player and will be a good addition no matter where he ends up.
But Jones is a perfect match of need and skill. The Avalanche haven't had an impact defenseman since Adam Foote. Jones, who is from the Denver area and grew up rooting for the Avs, is a perfect fit.
MacKinnon will produce in Colorado, but he won't address the glaring needs on defense. He won't elevate the Avalanche to playoff contention. Instead, he'll give Patrick Roy too many centers who are similar. Statsny, Duchene, O'Reilly and MacKinnon are all similar types of player with strong offensive games. None, however, are the best in their own end, which means that the defense will continue to struggle. The Avs will never reach consistent contention without an improvement in their defense.
Jones, however, has the potential to elevate the Avs to consistent contention.
The only way the Avs will be vindicated is if Jones does not reach his potential. But all signs suggest that he will reach his potential and become a star.
MacKinnon should be a great player. But he's the wrong player for the Avs. Jones should be the pick and the Avs can end up regretting it.
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