Jones, MacKinnon not caught up in No. 1 hype
Which player will be chosen by the Colorado Avalanche Sunday in New Jersey?
WEEHAWKEN, NJ - It's not quite at the enormity of the Taylor vs. Tyler debate, but the intrigue is as strong as ever.
Will it be Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon?
"I'm pretty sure it will be me," Jones said.
"I doubt it," MacKinnon countered. "I think it will be me."
Well, that sure settles it…
"Honestly, we're all friends in this," Jones laughed. "We chirp at each other a little bit, but it's all in good fun and throughout this whole process, we've all become good buddies. It's a great time in our lives and we're thrilled to get to share it with each other."
As a Colorado-raised defencemen, Jones seemed destined to go No. 1 overall to the Avalanche. Beyond his ties to the city, he clocks in at 6-foot-4 and is over 200 pounds at only 18 years of age.
With a cannon of a shot as his most deadly offensive weapon, Jones recorded 14 goals and 56 points last season with the Western Hockey League champion Portland Winterhawks. On the defensive side, he's a punishing presence who skates extremely well, making life miserable for opponents of any skill level.
As one scout mentioned to me Thursday night in New York, he's the complete package -- one that reminds him of Chris Pronger.
"That's pretty cool to be put in that category," Jones said with a whisper, nearly at a loss for words. "You look at the career he had -- yeesh -- I hope I could have something of a career like that one day. I'm speechless when people say that. I might not be as gritty or as physical as him, but I could see the comparison."
Pronger, as you may remember, wasn't a first overall pick back in 1993. He went second to the Hartford Whalers.
Great players aren't born by the order in which they were drafted. A quick glance to Jones' right revealed that and more. There along the boardwalk at Lincoln Harbor sat the likes of MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Drouin, Darnell Nurse and many others.
Regardless of where they're chosen, it's a talented group that will soon evolve into the next generation of the NHL.
"Of course I'd like to be taken in that spot. It's a prestigious pick," MacKinnon said. "It's only a number, though. As a kid growing up, I wanted to play for the Avalanche. Joe Sakic was my favourite player until Sid (Crosby) came into the League."
Modeling his game after Sid the Kid, MacKinnon had a season to remember. Notching 32 goals and 75 points in only 44 regular-season games, he took his game to another level in the playoffs, leading the Halifax Mooseheads to a Memorial Cup championship.
The local product was named tournament MVP after collecting back-to-back hat tricks in wins over the London Knights and Jones' Winterhawks in the championship match.
With elite speed, a spectacular shot, toughness and leadership in tow, MacKinnon has franchise centre written all over him.
"I believe Joe Sakic when he says the Avalanche would take me," MacKinnon said. "But they could change their minds, too. He said that last week. The draft isn't until Sunday, so a lot could change.
"In the meantime, I'm soaking this all in. We all are. It's a lot of fun to be a part of it."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick