The Colorado Avalanche took 17-year-old center Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 pick in the National Hockey League draft, while the New Jersey Devils acquired a possible successor for goaltender Martin Brodeur.
The Avalanche opted for offense over defense yesterday in selecting MacKinnon, who was the No. 2-rated North American draft-eligible player behind defenseman Seth Jones, according to NHL Central Scouting. The 6-foot, 182-pound (1.82 meter, 85 kilogram) MacKinnon totaled 32 goals and 43 assists in 75 games last season for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“It’s always been my dream as a kid to go No. 1, I’d be lying if I told you anything different,” MacKinnon told the NBC Sports Network in a televised interview. “Going up against a guy like Seth Jones is very motivating.”
Jones, who is the son of former National Basketball Association player Popeye Jones and learned to play hockey while growing up in Denver, was taken fourth by the Nashville Predators. The Florida Panthers took Aleksander Barkov, a 6-foot-3, 209-pound center from Finland, with the second pick and the Tampa Bay Lightning followed by selecting Jonathan Drouin, a left wing who also played for the Mooseheads.
“I’m going to try to make -- in a good way -- those teams regret not taking me,” said Jones, who was the first of four U.S.-born players taken in the first round of yesterday’s draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
The hometown Devils traded the ninth overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks to acquire 27-year-old goaltender Cory Schneider as a possible successor to Brodeur, who is 41 and under contract for one more season.
Brodeur has spent his entire 20-year NHL career with the Devils, winning three Stanley Cup titles, and his 669 wins are the most by a goaltender in league history. Schneider had a 17-9-4 record for the Canucks last season, with a 2.11 goals-against average and five shutouts.
“I’m really excited to be coming to New Jersey,” Schneider said in a statement. “I’ve always followed them; I’ve been a fan of Marty Brodeur’s since I was younger. To potentially get to work with him is going to be incredible.”
MacKinnon, the seventh straight forward drafted No. 1, joins an Avalanche team that had the NHL’s second-worst record last season at 16-25-7. Joe Sacco was fired as coach and replaced last month by former goaltender Patrick Roy.
The Avalanche in April landed the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery over the Florida Panthers, who had the league’s worst record. It marked Colorado’s first No. 1 selection since the franchise moved from Quebec in 1995. As the Nordiques, the club selected Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros with the draft’s first pick in three straight years from 1989 to 1991.
There were 21 forwards and nine defensemen selected in the opening round of the draft, which concluded with the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks taking right wing Ryan Hartman from Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League.