NEWARK, N.J. -- Until Colorado Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic announces that the team will indeed select Halifax Mooseheads center Nathan MacKinnon with the first choice of the 2013 NHL Draft on Sunday at Prudential Center (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS), the speculation will continue.
Should the Avalanche instead draft a future franchise defenseman, Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks?
During the NHL Top Prospects clinic at AmeriHealth Pavilion at Prudential Center on Saturday, New Jersey Devils alumni and former standout defensemen Ken Daneyko and Bruce Driver were asked that question.
"If you watched the Memorial Cup and saw how MacKinnon performed under the bright lights, it was pretty obvious he was fantastic," Daneyko said. "We know what he did that final game and you always want to know how a player reacts under pressure."
It certainly was an incredible year for MacKinnon, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters. He finished the regular season with 32 goals, 75 points and a plus-40 rating in 44 games. In 17 playoff games, he had 11 goals and 33 points to help lead Halifax to the President Cup. He then won the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the Memorial Cup after connecting for seven goals and 13 points in four games.
In two games against the Portland Winterhawks and Jones, the No. 1-ranked North American prospect, in the Memorial Cup tournament, MacKinnon produced six goals and nine points.
"But it's also hard to find those defensemen that do it all and [Jones] is polished," Daneyko continued. "I was asking [Jones] during the clinic with the kids where he thought he was going … trying to get that inside information. There's always gamesmanship that goes on between teams, but can you can't go wrong with either guy. It's either a franchise-type defenseman or all-around gifted goal-scorer, and we know in this day and age you need goal scoring."
Jones, the Western Hockey League rookie of the year, had 14 goals and 56 points in 61 games for the Winterhawks in 2012-13.
"It really depends on Colorado's draft philosophy," Driver said. "You always hear in New Jersey and the way [general manager] Lou [Lamoriello] likes to work: take the best player available. The Devils don't draft by position. In Colorado's case, and by not making the playoffs, they're looking for a guaranteed guy at a certain position that will give them help at that position. So if that's not a defenseman, that's their decision to take Nathan first overall. They're the ones that would only have the answer."