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Avalanche draft MacKinnon No. 1; surprises follow

Monday, 07.01.2013 / 12:11 AM / 2013 NHL Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Avalanche draft MacKinnon No. 1; surprises follow
The Colorado Avalanche took forward Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 overall pick to start an unpredictable 2013 NHL Draft.

NEWARK, N.J. -- The first pick of the 2013 NHL Draft went as scripted. Everything that followed Sunday came as one surprise after another.

In the deepest draft in at least a decade, the Colorado Avalanche stayed good to their word by making Nathan MacKinnon, a 6-foot, 182-pound center, the No. 1 pick. He is first player from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League taken with the top choice since the Pittsburgh Penguins selected Sidney Crosby at the 2005 NHL Draft.

Coincidentally, MacKinnon and Crosby are from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and each player spent part of his development at Shattuck-St. Mary's, a prep school in Faribault, Minn.

"This is unbelievable," MacKinnon said. "I've dreamed about this moment for the majority of my life, and for it to finally come true and to be part of an organization like this is definitely surreal."

The Avalanche talked publicly about selecting MacKinnon in the days leading up to the draft, also saying all trade offers would be considered. In the end, Colorado decided MacKinnon was too promising a prospect to let get away.

"Nathan's lived under the microscope for a long time, and the pressure, and he's always risen to that occasion," Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic told TSN. "He's an electrifying player. He's the most explosive player in this draft."

While the Avalanche stuck to a script, they might have been the only ones. The flurry of trades expected to flood the day never materialized; two were made in the first round, one involving a current NHL player switching teams. The host New Jersey Devils acquired goaltender Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for the ninth pick, which they used to take London Knights center Bo Horvat.

There were 16 trades in all, involving eight players switching teams. None, however, was as surprising as Schneider's departure from Vancouver.

"Three years ago we had planned for this, and then Cory just became a great young goaltender, but Roberto took us to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final, won the [Olympic] gold medal -- his resume is impeccable," Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis said. "Our plan three years ago was to develop Cory and move him for a high pick, and that's what we ultimately did."

The Canucks added another forward with their pick at No. 24, selecting Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers.

"We had Bo Horvat targeted, and if we could make that trade we felt it would really benefit our organization," Gillis said. "Bo is a real leader, [an] excellent player. Hunter is a highly skilled young player from Western Canada, and he has huge upside. We're very enthused about both of them."

Shinkaruk, No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, was surprisingly available when the Canucks' turn came around.

"I'm so excited right now," Shinkaruk told NHL.com. "To go to Vancouver is unbelievable. It definitely was a pretty long wait, a little longer than I had anticipated, but at the end of the day, a lot of things happen on draft day, and it's going to be something that motivates me to prove all those teams wrong."

Shinkaruk isn't the only one who feels he has something to prove. Defenseman Seth Jones, Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater, slipped to the Nashville Predators at No. 4.

In his first season in the Western Hockey League, Jones had 14 goals, 42 assists and a plus-46 rating in 61 regular-season games. He was named the WHL Rookie of the Year, and after helping Portland win the league title, he was named the Canadian Hockey League's Top Prospect. He also played a major role in the United States winning the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, and helped Portland reach the championship game at the Memorial Cup.

NHL Network analyst Craig Button called Jones the best 18-year-old defense prospect to come through the draft since Chris Pronger.

Jones said he wasn't disappointed to go with the fourth pick but would remember it going forward.

"You definitely want to prove [the teams that passed on me] wrong, and you definitely want to show them why they should have picked you," he said. "That's not my only goal next year, but it's definitely on my list."

Nashville GM David Poile said he was pleased to have the chance to select Jones.

"I wish I wouldn't have to say, 'I can't believe the player was there,' but we had Seth Jones rated No. 1," Poile said. "We think he is just a terrific player. … This is a franchise-type player. I really feel good about our defense, I'll tell you that."

Though Jones slipping was a surprise, the corresponding stunner the other way was the Florida Panthers selecting Aleksandr Barkov at No. 2. Barkov was Central Scouting's top-rated European skater with 48 points in 53 regular-season games with Tappara in SM-liiga, Finland's top professional league, but surgery in March to repair a shoulder injury could mean he won't be fully healthy when NHL training camp starts. Barkov recently was cleared to skate and stick-handle; he still can't shoot pucks.

Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he wasn't dissuaded at all by the injury.

"He had surgery," he said. "Guys are stronger after with today's rehab and medicine. That's not a factor at all. We had 10 surgeries [on our team] this year, so he'll fit right in nicely."

At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Barkov fits in with Tallon's plan to make the Panthers bigger and stronger up the middle. That, he said, is what made Barkov the pick ahead of Jones.

"It was a tough decision, but we needed to be strong up the middle," Tallon said. "I like big, strong centermen who are smart playmakers, and we went back and forth a few days on this one. We felt that he was the most talented guy with size and he's a left-handed shot. That's something we didn’t have in our system."

Barkov said he had a feeling the Panthers could be a destination.

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"They told me [Saturday] they are very interested in me and might pick me," Barkov told NHL.com. "I was very happy and I'm excited about that I can wear [a Panthers] shirt."

The Tampa Bay Lightning selected Halifax left wing Jonathan Drouin with the third pick, followed by Jones and Swedish center Elias Lindholm, who went fifth to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Drouin was second in the QMJHL in 2012-13 with 105 points and won the league's MVP award as well as Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year.

"When Steve [Yzerman, Lightning general manager] said my name, it was probably the best feeling I've had," Drouin said. "I was nervous sitting there but I was obviously really proud when he said my name. I had my dad and my mom and my brother with me, and it was probably the best feeling I've ever had."

The Lightning's selection of Drouin marks the second straight year teammates went in the top three picks, following the Sarnia Sting's Nail Yakupov (No. 1, Edmonton Oilers) and Alex Galchenyuk (No. 3, Montreal Canadiens) last year. Prior to that, it hadn't happened since 1999, when the Vancouver Canucks chose Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin with the second and third selections, respectively.

"It's cool," MacKinnon told NHL.com. "[Jonathan and I] had such an amazing time this year, had so much chemistry on the ice. Definitely it's going to be weird playing against him. I'm not going to play against him much, but when I do it'll be fun. It'll be a cool atmosphere."

It wasn't a major surprise to hear MacKinnon's name called first Sunday. Central Scouting's second-rated North American skater in its final rankings for this year's draft had 32 goals and 75 points in 44 regular-season games, then added 11 goals and 22 assists in 17 playoff games to help Halifax win the QMJHL championship.

In the Memorial Cup, MacKinnon capped his season with seven goals and six assists in four games, including a hat trick and two assists in the championship game when Halifax won its first Canadian Hockey League title. His tournament-best 13 points earned him the Stafford Smythe Trophy as most valuable player.

"We are thrilled to be adding Nathan to our organization," Avalanche director of amateur scouting Rick Pracey said. "Nathan is a skilled forward with elite skating ability and speed. He plays an aggressive, attacking game and can elevate his game when his team needs it most."

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said last week he had MacKinnon penciled in as his team's third-line center. MacKinnon said wherever he plays, he just hopes to make a difference.

"I think I'll have a strong impact next year," he told NHL.com. "I want to be more than ready to play. … I don't want to hang out next year and just learn and hang on and not make an impact. I want to be the best player I can be."

The Calgary Flames took Ottawa 67's center Sean Monahan with the sixth pick, the first of three first-round selections for the Flames. Calgary GM Jay Feaster was open to moving one or more of the picks, but he wound up keeping all three and added Gatineau Olympiques left wing Emile Poirier at No. 22 and Regina Pats left wing Morgan Klimchuk (a Calgary native) with the 28th pick.

Poirier was a surprise at No. 22; the right wing was No. 39 in Central Scouting's final ranking.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, another team with three first-round picks and a GM who talked about moving them, also stayed put and Jarmo Kekalainen made all three selections: Swedish center Alexander Wennberg at No. 14, Windsor forward Kerby Rychel at No. 19, and Slovakian center Marko Dano at No. 27.

The Buffalo Sabres, who had two first-round picks, opted to keep both and added a pair of behemoths on defense. At No. 8, the Sabres opted for 6-foot-4, 207-pound Finnish blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen. At No. 16, with the pick acquired from the Minnesota Wild in the Jason Pominville trade, Buffalo selected 6-foot-5, 221-pound London Knights defenseman Nikita Zadorov. The picks went along with the Sabres' desire to get bigger and stronger.

"I think I'll have a strong impact next year. I want to be more than ready to play. … I don't want to hang out next year and just learn and hang on and not make an impact. I want to be the best player I can be."
-- Nathan MacKinnon, picked No. 1 by the Avalanche in the 2013 NHL Draft

"They're both big and have a little bit different skill set," Sabres GM Darcy Regier said. "Ristolainen is a little more on the physical side, Zadorov is a little more on the skill side. But they're both skilled, they're both vicious."

The Sabres were active in the second round, trading defenseman Andrej Sekera to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Jamie McBain and the 35th pick. Buffalo ended up with three second-round picks and a League-high 11 for the day.

The other trade of the first round saw the San Jose Sharks send one of their three second-round picks to the Detroit Red Wings to move from No. 20 to No. 18 and select Everett Silvertips defenseman Mirco Mueller.

At No. 20 the Red Wings selected Val-d'Or Foreurs right wing Anthony Mantha, who was the only Canadian Hockey League draft prospect to score 50 goals in 2012-13.

"He was a guy we had targeted a lot higher," Red Wings director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell told the Detroit Free Press, "so we lucked out on that one, for sure. Obviously it's going to be a few years, but we were just real excited to get him where we picked him."

The first round of the draft had an international flavor. Two Austrian-born players were picked in the first 30; Andre Burakovsky, who plays for Malmo in Sweden, was taken by the Washington Capitals with the 23rd pick. Marco Dano was born in Austria but raised mostly in Slovakia and plays for Slovan Bratislava in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Nine of the first 30 players picked were Europeans.

There were a number of trades during the later rounds, including the Chicago Blackhawks moving forwards Dave Bolland to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets for a total of five picks in the 2013 and 2014 drafts. The moves came six days after Frolik set up Bolland for the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 6 of the Final against the Boston Bruins.

The New Jersey Devils sent a seventh-round pick in 2015 to the Los Angeles Kings for a seventh-rounder this year, and after pushing the microphone to goaltender Martin Brodeur, allowed the likely Hall of Fame member to announce that the team had selected Shattuck-St. Mary's goaltender Anthony Brodeur -- Martin's son -- with the 208th selection.

"I don't know how hard it is to get a seventh-round pick, but it's something we talked a little bit about during the season," Martin Brodeur said. "We were able to do it, and it was nice of the team to allow me to make the pick."

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