Halifax Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon and Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones, the top two candidates to hear their names called first at the 2013 NHL Draft, made their season debuts Friday night, but had very different levels of success.
MacKinnon, the 6-foot, 182-pound center starting his second season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scored an overtime power-play goal to help the Mooseheads to a 4-3 road win against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
MacKinnon drew a tripping penalty on Cape Breton's Jonathan Oligny 51 seconds into the 4-on-4 overtime, then beat goalie Philippe Trudeau on a one-timer at 1:17 to give Halifax the win after it had surrendered a 3-1 third-period lead.
MacKinnon finished with five shots, a plus-2 rating, and won 21 of 28 faceoffs.
MacKinnon wasn't the only top-rated Halifax draft prospect to have an impact on the game. Goalie Zachary Fucale, rated as an A goaltender in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings, stopped 15 of 18 shots. And left wing Jonathan Drouin, an A-ranked skater, scored Halifax's first goal and added an assist.
On the other side of the continent, things didn't go as well for Jones, who was a minus-1 in the Winterhawks' 5-2 home loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League.
Portland outshot the Thunderbirds 30-2 in the first period, and 57-27 for the game, but it couldn't beat Seattle goalie Brandon Glover, who stopped all 30 shots in the first and made 55 saves on the night.
"We came out in the first period pretty hot," Jones told The Oregonian. "In the second period, we didn’t come out as hard. We've got to do better than that, obviously."
Two of Jones' teammates who likely will hear their names called at the 2013 draft had solid games. Nicolas Petan, a center rated as a C skater, had a goal and an assist, and Danish-born right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand, a B-ranked skater, had a goal.
Defenseman Shea Theodore, an A-ranked skater, had an assist, as did C-rated defenseman Jeret Smith
After totaling a goal and four assists in three preseason games, Jones wasn't able to make the same kind of statistical impact in his first WHL regular-season game, but Portland coach Mike Johnston still was impressed.
"I thought he was good," Johnston told The Oregonian. "I thought he controlled the play. He moved the puck well. He’s a big guy when he jumps up ice. It's amazing how quick he is with his stick when he heads up ice. He's got really good offensive skills."
Also in attendance was Jones' father, former NBA power forward and current Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Popeye Jones.
"I don't get nervous anymore, but obviously you want your kid to do well," Popeye Jones told The Oregonian. "This is another chapter in his life, and I'm just excited for him. … He's his own man, he’s very mature, and this is the path he's chosen."
Fans will be able to follow the progress made by MacKinnon and Jones this season in their own words, as both top prospects have been writing blogs for NHL.com.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK