Your name is Rick Pracey. Your job is to select the best young hockey player a #1 pick can buy. Who do you choose?
Is it the goal-scoring center Nathan Mackinnon? The silky blueliner Seth Jones? Or how about Jonathan Drouin and his puck wizardry?
On June 30th at the 2013 NHL Draft, the Colorado Avalanche will get their hands on one of these gems. Today's Roundtable argues which shining prospect is worth the investment. Not surprisingly, there is no consensus.
You know it's Nate
Cole D Hamilton:
"If I'm Rick Pracey, Joe Sakic or the rest of the Avalanche front office then I'm going with Nathan Mackinnon hands down. It's not just about getting the best player available, but about getting the player with the best chance of achieving their potential. The fact is, this team just doesn't develop defense well and while Drouin has had some incredible success, I think the gap between him and the top two is big enough to count him out as the #1. Sure it makes a logjam at center, but I think MacKinnon is too good to pass up on. Don't get me wrong, Paul Stastny and Ryan O'Reilly are very good two-way centers, but they just dont have the elite scoring ability that this team is going to need to be successful in the long run. Keep Ryan O'Reilly who will do better as a Jordan Staal type 3rd liner than a top 2 center and trade Paul Stastny for some help on defense. Nathan MacKinnon has all the skills of Matt Duchene, is an incredible skater and has some wicked shooting ability. MacKinnon is not just the best guy right now, but he's the guy the Avs can be sure will be a franchise calibre player for years to come. There's just too much risk in Jones because I'd much rather have another Tavares or Duchene than a Hedman or Myers."
Mike @ MHH:
"Completely illogical reasons, I have a bad feeling about D-man at #1. Granted Jones is a legit athlete, has all the tools to be a top pair guy, has a feel-good tie to the team, and is a proud god-damn American, but I still hesitate. I'm also incredibly selfish and I hope that the draft of Mac would force a trade of Stastny so that he will get out of the hell that has been his tenure with the team. He deserves better. If drafting a complete question mark makes it easier for them to move him at next years deadline for another piece for the core, then I'm down with that. I'll enjoy every minute of his tenure with a new team. Plus there's the chance that the kid will work out in a more compacted time-frame than Jones and more offense may continue to mask the defensive and goaltending issues that the uninformed fan has failed to recognize due to SoS' contract, Jones' contract, and Landy's C."
Stick with Seth
"If my job was to make this pick I'd take Mac. Less of a gamble. But luckily for the Earth no one pays me for my brain. And I am a gambling man, so I'd like to see the Avs take Jones. I know the general train of thought departs and arrives at selecting the "best player available", and history suggests picking a D-man #1 is a departure towards, but the "best player available" is subjective, and history is stupid (except the Alamo. Davy Crockett was badass). And perhaps Erik Johnson's mild success has made people gun-shy about #1 overall D-men, but Jones isn't Johnson. And while Mac may pile up the points, Jones is a rare breed and something the Avalanche would benefit from on the ice now and in the long run - on and off the ice."
"I firmly believe the Avalanche need to select Seth Jones with the first overall pick. Our defensive corps is just too suspect right now. Someone smarter than me recently said, "You have to have a solid 1-2 punch on defense to legitimately compete for a Stanley Cup." I absolutely agree. To say that the Avs have a solid first punch is a bit of a stretch, at least in my humble opinion. Erik Johnson has not lived up to the overall hype since coming over from St. Louis in the Shattenkirk trade. And he has absolutely not lived up to his 1st overall selection in the 2006 draft. There has been a lot of hesitation from some who believe that selecting a defenseman 1st overall will almost always be a bust. If the Avs select Seth Jones (and I believe they will) that trend will be broken. Living in the Seattle area, I've had several opportunities to see him play and I have been impressed every time I've watched him play. His first pass ability, his footwork, his vision, and his hockey sense are all things that you can't teach. That is why he will be wearing the burgundy and blue on Opening Night in October!"
The Case for Drouin
"For me, it's been all about Drouin from the start. I love Mac and think he's going to be a very good NHLer but I think Drouin is going to be the next Marty St. Louis. He's a speedy, explosive winger with amazing hands and the kind of goal-scoring ability that could elevate the Duchene-Parenteau line into the upper echelon of the league. He's coming off the most prolific offensive season in the notoriously offensively inclined QMJHL since Sidney Crosby played there. While many wonder about the effect of an elite center playing with him, Drouin's scoring rates actually increased with Mac on the sidelines. In the WJCs, Drouin shined when playing with NHL caliber talent while Mac played a quiet 4th line role on a stacked Canadian team. I love the potential of Jones and ultimately think the Avs will take him because of the three he's the hardest to find if all 3 guys reach their potential, but I think Drouin would make the Avalanche better immediately and five years from now. He has the lowest floor of the three but his ability to elevate our best line to potentially elite levels, especially if Roy uses the Duchene line the way he should (60% O-Zone starts or higher), is too tantalizing to pass up. We have some solid defenseman coming up in the system and we're already center stacked both in the NHL and AHL. Drouin could combine with Landy to give us some of the elite wing production we've been missing in the past five seasons."
How about a trade?
"I would love to see us figure out a way to trade with Florida. I have a feeling they really want MacKinnon to play with Huberdeau, so we might as well try to get an extra 2nd rounder (or the like) to offset the risk of taking Jones so early in the draft. A trade would guarantee FLA a shot at Mac and would keep us from taking a defenseman 1st overall, so it could work out well for both teams. However, if we keep the pick, I'd like to see us take MacKinnon or Jones. Mac is a prototypical Pracey pick and a finisher to boot (something we could certainly use). Yes, he's a center, but he could either move to wing or act as an upgrade to Stastny or O'Reilly. Jones plays a position we need and has an upside that's hard to pass on. I have a hunch we go with Jones, but either would be great for us."
So there you go. We may not be professional scouts but, if anything, this wide range of opinions only speaks further to the mystery shrouding Pracey's decision.
My pick? Mackinnon. Without a shadow of a doubt. I'm not a betting man and the draft shouldn't be a betting game. That's why I campaigned for Landeskog above Huberdeau, and why I now push for Mackinnon over Jones. Give Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott some more time to occupy the puck-moving roles for the Avs, while Duncan Siemens plays the X-factor as a future top pairing defenseman. Any other blueliners can come in the inevitable trade that follows drafting Mac - immediate back end bolstering without cutting corners.
Furthermore, as our friends over at Copper & Blue agree, Mackinnon is the quintessential elite forward without all the sweat and worry.
The Avs have a menu of young forwards on order, but none of them quite like Nate. This snippet from New Jersey scout Claude Carriere says it best: "I was impressed by...[Mackinnon's ability in] getting the puck and making play in traffic, releasing this puck with accuracy all the time." French grammar notwithstanding, that is an underrated aspect the Avs offense is still hungry for.
Whatever happens, Colorado will have improved and the fans won't have anything to complain about between Mackinnon, Jones, or Drouin.
Your turn. With the final decision in hand, who do you select?