Avalanche Land Top Pick in NHL’s Draft Lottery Over Panthers

The Colorado Avalanche landed the No. 1 pick in the National Hockey League draft for the first time since the franchise moved from Quebec in 1995.

After finishing with the NHL’s second-worst record at 16-27-5 and firing coach Joe Sacco, the Avalanche had an 18.8 percent chance of winning last night’s lottery, which was open to the 14 clubs that missed the playoffs. The Florida Panthers had a 25 percent chance at getting the top pick after going 15-27-6 and will have the No. 2 selection in the June 30 draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

The Quebec Nordiques had the NHL’s top draft pick three times before moving to Colorado and selected Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros in consecutive years from 1989 to 1991.

“This is an exciting night for our organization and our fans,” Avalanche Director of Amateur Scouting Richard Pracey said in a statement last night on the team’s website. “Having the first overall pick allows us to add an elite prospect to an already solid group of young players.”

Defenseman Seth Jones, 18, is the top-rated player eligible for the draft and had 14 goals and 42 assists in 61 games this season for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, according to NHL.com. He also helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the World Junior Championships last year.

“There’s a lot to like about Jones,” Pracey said, adding that taking him No. 1 isn’t a certainty. “His size and skating ability are two things that jump off the page.”

The last defensemen taken with the top pick in the draft were Erik Johnson by the St. Louis Blues in 2006 and Chris Phillips by the Ottawa Senators in 1996.

Mooseheads’ Prospects

Center Nathan MacKinnon and left wing Jonathan Drouin, who both play for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, are the other highest-rated draft prospects available this year.

“It would have been nice to get the top pick, but either way we know we’re getting a good player,” Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have the third pick in the draft, followed by the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes. After the No. 1 pick, the rest of the top 14 selections are determined by inverse order of teams’ regular-season record.

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