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MacKinnon not focusing on Avalanche's praise

Thursday, 06.27.2013 / 6:26 PM

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor / 2013 NHL Draft blog

NEW YORK -- While the Colorado Avalanche appear to have decided to take Halifax Mooseheads center Nathan MacKinnon with the top pick of the 2013 NHL Draft on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN), MacKinnon said he isn't paying much attention to the pre-draft talk.

Joe Sakic, the Avalanche's executive vice president of hockey, said of MacKinnon during a television interview Monday, "I think if we had to do it today, right now, he would probably be the guy, yes."

In an interview with ESPN.com on Monday, Avalanche coach Patrick Roy echoed those sentiments: "It would be tough for us not to take MacKinnon. MacKinnon is ready to play tomorrow."

MacKinnon said he didn't hear the comments directly, but learned pretty quickly what had been said.

“Actually both times I was asleep in bed, so I woke up with a bunch of texts and I didn't know what was going on at first," MacKinnon said during a press event Wednesday at the Empire State Building. "But I kind of just checked my [Twitter] mentions and then people will kind of let me know what's going on in my own life. That's the way it works these days -- you find out from Twitter and not the news or anything. Word gets around pretty quick, I guess."

Although the words were coming directly Sakic and Roy, the Avalanche's chief decision-makers, MacKinnon said he wasn't running out to buy Avalanche hats for his family yet.

"I don't put too much thought into that stuff," he said. "They also said they like other guys, too. A lot can change in the next few days. A lot has already changed in the past few days. I think for me, I just kind of have to enjoy the moment and not think about things I can't control. Not try to get my hopes up or have too high expectations and be disappointed. I'm just excited."

MacKinnon, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for this year's draft, is a worthy candidate to go No. 1. He had 32 goals and 75 points in 44 regular-season games, 33 points in 17 QMJHL playoff games, and on a national stage at the Memorial Cup, had 13 points in four games lead his team to the championship and take home tournament MVP honors.

If the Avalanche go through with picking MacKinnon, it would come at the expense of Seth Jones, Central Scouting's top-rated prospect. In his first season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, Jones had 14 goals, 42 assists and a plus-40 rating in 61 regular-season games, then helped Portland win the WHL title and get to the championship game of the Memorial Cup. He also played a major role in the United States winning the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Jones also has a local connection. Sakic told Jones' father, former NBA power forward Popeye Jones, to get his three hockey-playing sons skating lessons if they wanted to play the game, and Jones learned to skate and played his first organized hockey while living in the Denver suburbs.

"We understand and we believe Seth is going to be a good player as well, a very good defenseman in this League," Sakic said Thursday following the Board of Governors meeting in New York. "But for us, we had our internal meetings, and when you're picking No. 1 you want to be able to pick who you believe is going to be the best player in the draft so that was why we made that decision."

Jones said being passed over by the Avalanche wasn't something he would take personally.

"I didn't have it in my mind that I was for sure going No. 1," he said. "I'm not going to take it personal. It's professional sports. If Pat and Joe think that's best for their organization, then they go that way. I'm not going to take it personal and I'll be happy wherever I go."

However, Jones said he would remember it.

"I'm competitive and everyone else in the draft I know is competitive," he said. "I'll do my best to make them regret it. But in a good way."

While he would appreciate the honor of hearing his name called first, MacKinnon said wasn't going to worry about it too much.

“Obviously nothing's set in stone and there’s a lot of speculation going on," he said. "It would be an honor to be picked first, I think. Just like these two other guys [Jones and Jonathan Drouin], we're all competitive people and we'd love to go first, but at the same time it's just the start of your career and I think we've all realized we're going to be the same players going into the draft coming out of it. Our goals are just to have careers one day."

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