(AP) Avalanche make MacKinnon 1st pick of NHL draft
By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer
The Colorado Avalanche have selected center Nathan MacKinnon with the first pick of the NHL draft.
Colorado executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic made the announcement Sunday at the Prudential Center. The 17-year-old MacKinnon, a 6-foot, 182-pound center, is a solid two-way presence with strong hands and stick-handling and skating skills. He is considered a natural scorer and a very good puck distributor.
The Avalanche won the draft lottery for the first time in team history and had made it clear that MacKinnon was going to be their top pick. He was the first player drafted No. 1 overall out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since the Pittsburgh Penguins selected Sidney Crosby in 2005.
MacKinnon and Crosby are both from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
The Florida Panthers made center Aleksander Barkov, the top-ranked European skater, the second overall pick.
The New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center are hosting the draft for the first time.
Tampa Bay took forward Jonathan Drouin with the third overall pick.
The Nashville Predators pounced on defenseman Seth Jones with the fourth overall pick. Jones, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman, was widely considered the top prospect in the draft. He was the top-ranked player on the NHL Central Scouting’s final list of North American skaters.
He is the son of former NBA forward Popeye Jones. Popeye Jones paced the floor of the Prudential Center and said Seth slept great and was calm in the final hours leading up to the draft.
But that had to change just a bit when Jones slipped to fourth.
Carolina selected Elias Lindholm fifth and the Calgary Flames followed with center Sean Monahan.
After picking first the last three years, the Edmonton Oilers took defenseman Darnell Nurse with the seventh choice. Nurse is the nephew of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb posted a picture on Twitter of the two of them smiling together a couple of hours before the draft.
The Buffalo Sabres took defenseman Rasmus Ristaolainen with the eighth overall pick.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was drowned out by boos each time he took the podium. But he finally heard cheers when he announced the Devils were on the clock. They got louder when Bettman announced the Devils traded the ninth pick to Vancouver for goalie Cory Schneider.
Schneider was on the market once the Canucks were unable to dump high-priced goalie Roberto Luongo. Schneider seems in line to be the eventual successor to Martin Brodeur in net.
The Canucks then selected center Bo Horvat with the ninth pick. The Dallas Stars selected forward Valeri Nichushkin with the 10th pick.
Jones, who live in Colorado as a youth and seemed a perfect fit for the Avalanche, has ties to Tennessee, as well. Popeye Jones owns a house there, and there is still family throughout the state.