http://www.denverpost.com/avalanche/ci_23489308/avalanche-pass-seth-jones-take-forward-joe-sakicIf the Avalanche keeps the top pick in the June 30 NHL draft, it won't take the formerly presumptive candidate, defenseman Seth Jones.
After a week of internal meetings, Avalanche brass came to a conclusion: Jones won't be their pick. Instead, it could be any one of three forwards: Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin or Alexander Barkov.
"If we do pick first, we're leaning more toward one of those three forwards," Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic told The Denver Post.
The passing over of Jones no doubt will come as a shock to many Avs fans and NHL watchers. Jones, 18, is still ranked as the top-rated prospect available in next Sunday's draft on the lists of some scouting services. The Avs have seemingly glaring needs at defense and a surplus of centers — the position at which MacKinnon and Barkov play, while Drouin is a winger.
But Sakic reiterated the organization's belief that the three forwards represent the best players available in the draft.
"We feel those three forwards are just too good to pass up," Sakic said.
MacKinnon, a center with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, would figure to be the most likely choice on paper. He led the Mooseheads to the Memorial Cup earlier this month over Jones' Portland Winterhawks, recording a hat trick in each game against Jones' team in the tournament.
But Barkov is a possible sleeper at No. 1. The 17-year-old, 6-foot-3, 205-pound center holds dual citizenship in Finland and Russia, and is the youngest player ever to play for Finland in a World Championship competition, at 16 last year.
The Avs could look toward the free-agent or trade market to address issues on defense, instead of taking Jones. The team has some decent room under the salary cap, and many NHL teams are looking to shed salary to comply with the league's new $64.3 million benchmark, down from $70.2 million.