Nathan MacKinnon goes No. 1 in NHL draft
NEWARK -- When Nathan MacKinnon was a youth, he envisioned getting drafted by the Colorado Avalanche and playing alongside Joe Sakic.
Sakic has since retired, so MacKinnon will have to settle for the next-best thing -- playing for him.
The Avalanche and Sakic, its recently hired executive vice president of hockey operations, selected the 17-year-old MacKinnon with the first overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft at Prudential Center on Sunday.
"I've dreamed about this moment for the majority of my life, and for it to finally come true, and to be a part of an organization like this, is definitely surreal," MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon, who spent the past two years playing for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is an elite skater who can light up the scoreboard and is considered a game-changing offensive playmaker. He was one of the QMJHL's most dynamic scorers last season with 32 goals and 43 assists in 44 games.
MacKinnon also helped lead the Mooseheads to the 2013 Memorial Cup, scoring 33 points in 17 postseason games.
He believes he can immediately help the Avalanche, which went 16-25-7 in the lockout-shortened season. "I have a couple more months of training to get ready for training camp," the 6-foot, 182-pound MacKinnon said. "Hopefully, I can make the team and stick there. I feel like I can be a contributor next year."
Defenseman Seth Jones, widely considered to be the top prospect in this year's draft, fell a few spots on the board and was scooped up by the Nashville Predators with the fourth pick. The 6-4, 205-pound Jones was ranked the top North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and is the son of former NBA player Ronald "Popeye" Jones.
Up until a few weeks ago, Jones seemed the likely pick for the Avalanche. While his dad played one season for the Denver Nuggets, Seth Jones established a connection with the Avalanche during his childhood and even took skating advice from Sakic.
"It definitely sounded too good to be true and it turned out that way," the 18-year-old Jones said. "But I'm not unhappy that they didn't choose me. That was their decision, it's what they thought would be best for their organization and you've got to respect that."
MacKinnon's Mooseheads teammate, Jonathan Drouin, was taken third overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Florida Panthers took Aleksander Barkov with the second pick and the Carolina Hurricanes picked up Elias Lindholm at No. 5.