It turns out that Joe Sakic, the Colorado Avalanche executive vice-president of hockey operations, wasn’t bluffing when he told Denver’s CBS affiliate on June 24 that if the NHL draft was held that day, the team would select Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon.
The Avalanche did indeed take MacKinnon with the No. 1 pick at Sunday’s draft in New Jersey, passing on Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones, the No. 1 ranked North American skater by Central Scouting. MacKinnon was ranked No 2.
With the No. 25 pick, the Canadiens definitely got bigger, selecting 6-foot-5, 228-pound right-winger Michael McCarron of the U.S. Under-18 team. McCarron posted 16-21-37 totals in 59 games with the U.S. national team development program last season and led the team with 182 penalty minutes. He was part of the U.S. team that won a silver medal at this year’s U-18 world championship and is expected to join the OHL’s London Knights next season.
The Vancouver Canucks made the biggest news in the first round, trading goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the No. 9 overall pick. The Canucks used the pick to select London Knights centre Bo Horvat, ranked No. 15 by Central Scouting among North American skaters.
On June 24, Sakic said of MacKinnon: “I think if we had to do it today, right now, he would probably be the guy, yes. But we still have some time.”
Time didn’t change Sakic’s mind and the Avalanche made it official just after 3 p.m. Sunday as the draft kicked off.
New Avalanche coach Patrick Roy told ESPN.com on June 24: “It would be tough for us not to take MacKinnon. MacKinnon is ready to play tomorrow.”
Wrote MacKinnon on NHL.com the day before the draft: “I’m hoping to sleep in late (on Sunday) so I don’t have to think about (the draft) all day. I’m still rooming with Seth Jones; there’s no competitive nature between us. We’ve talked about the top pick, but no matter where we go, it’s going to be an unbelievable experience. Both of us want to begin our careers and it doesn’t matter where that is.”
For MacKinnon, it will be Colorado.
The Florida Panthers, with the No. 2 pick, took Finnish centre Aleksander Barkov, passing on Jones. Barkov was the No. 1 ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting.
With the No. 3 pick, the Tampa Bay Lightning also took a pass on Jones, instead selecting Jonathan Drouin, MacKinnon’s teammate with the Mooseheads. Drouin was ranked No. 3 by Central Scouting.
With the No. 4 pick, the Nashville Predators finally took Jones.
“It’s amazing how things have worked out in my hockey career,” MacKinnon told TSN. “It’s so exciting and hopefully it’s just getting started. This is unbelievable, to be a part of the Colorado Avalanche. I can’t wait to get to training camp.
“It’s always been my dream to go No. 1 – I’d be lying if I told you anything different. Obviously going up against a guy like Seth Jones is very motivating for sure, but my main goal is to win. This is crazy right now. This is unbelievable.”
After dropping to No. 4, Jones told TSN: “First of all, I’m going to worry about myself and trying to get better and try to make Nashville next year and then second of all, I’m going to try to make – in a good way, though – those teams regret not taking me. I think that’s my job and I’m going to do whatever I can to help Nashville win.”
With the No. 5 pick, the Carolina Hurricanes took Swedish centre Elias Lindholm, the No. 3 ranked European skater by Central Scouting.
With the No. 6 pick, the Calgary Flames took Ottawa 67s centre Sean Monahan, the No. 5 ranked North American skater by Central Scouting.
The Edmonton Oilers, at No. 7, took Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenceman Darnell Nurse, ranked No. 4 by Central Scouting.
Other first-round picks:
No. 8 – Buffalo Sabres: Finnish defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen.
No. 10 – Dallas Stars: Russian right-winger Valeri Nichushkin.
No. 11 – Philadelphia Flyers: Rimouski Oceanic defenceman Samuel Morin.
No. 12 – Phoenix Coyotes: London Knights centre Max Domi, the son of former NHLer Tie Domi.
No. 13 – Winnipeg Jets: Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Joshua Morrissey.
No. 14 – Columbus Blue Jackets: Swedish centre Alexander Wennberg.
No. 15 – New York Islanders: Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Ryan Pulock.
No. 16 – Buffalo Sabres: London Knights defenceman Nikita Zadorov.
No. 17 – Ottawa Senators: Edmonton Oil Kings forward Curtis Lazar.
No. 18 – The Detroit Red Wings traded the pick to San Jose in exchange for picks No. 20 and 58, and the Sharks selected Everett Silvertips defenceman Mirco Mueller.
No. 19 – Columbus Blue Jackets: Windsor Spitfires left-winger Kerby Rychel.
No. 21 – Toronto Maple Leafs: Rimouski Oceanic forward Frederik Gauthier.
No. 22 – Calgary Flames: Gatineau Olympiques left-winger Emile Poirier.
No. 23 – Washington Capitals: Swedish left-winger Andre Burakovsky.
No. 24 – Vancouver Canucks: Medicine Hat Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk.
No. 25 – Canadiens: 6-foot-5, 228-pound right-winger Michael McCarron of the U.S. Under-18 team.
No. 26 – Anaheim Ducks: Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Shea Theodore.
No. 27 – Columbus Blue Jackets: Russian centre Marko Dano.
No. 28 – Calgary Flames: Regina Pats left-winger Morgan Klimchuk.
No. 29 – Dallas Stars: Guelph Storm centre Jason Dickinson.
No. 30 – Chicago Blackhawks: Plymouth Whalers right-winger Ryan Hartman.
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)