NHL draft history shows Nate Mackinnon the wise choice | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaNHL draft history shows Nate Mackinnon the wise choice

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2013 | 06:41 PM

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Most scouts believe Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan Mackinnon is a can't-miss prospect. (Todd Korol/Reuters) Most scouts believe Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan Mackinnon is a can't-miss prospect. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

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Who are the game's best defenceman in the NHL? With the exception Minnesota Wild's Ryan Suter and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, they top defencemen tend to be taken later in the draft: Zdeno Chara (3rd round), Duncan Keith (2nd round), Kris Letang (3rd round) and Shea Weber (2nd round). Forwards have been safer bets.

NEW YORK -- Portland Winter Hawks defenceman Seth Jones seemed like the perfect fit for the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche needed to beef up its blue-line, and there also was that strong connection the Jones family has to Denver. The kid played most of his minor hockey in the Dallas area, but fell hard for hockey when he was five-years-old and lived in Denver, where his basketball-playing father, Popeye Jones, played for the NBA's Nuggets.

Popeye even approached then Avalanche captain Joe Sakic for advice on the proper way to develop his hockey-playing son. Sakic told the older Jones that skating was the most important skill for his son to work on. So young Jones enrolled in figure skating lessons.

The Avalanche's inclusion of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenceman would have been a nice way to put more fannies in the seats at the Pepsi Center. After all, the once strong hockey market has dipped all the way to 26th in league attendance at 15,444 fans per game.

But Sakic, Colorado's rookie executive vice president of hockey operations, and new head coach Patrick Roy have made it clear the Avalanche will chose Nathan Mackinnon of Cole Harbour, N.S. with the first overall selection at the 2013 NHL entry draft in Newark, N.J. on Sunday.

Avs did their homework

Sakic and his management team did their homework. Besides the fact that most scouts believe Mackinnon is best prospect in the game -- a can't-miss kid -- history has demonstrated that the game's top teenaged forwards, who are taken in the top five, will contribute to the cause quicker than the best young defenceman.

In other words, for every Chris Pronger, selected second overall in 1993 by the Hartford Whalers, we'll give you an Andrei Zyuzin and Ric Jackman.

Who are the game's best defenceman in today's game? Zdeno Chara (3rd round), Duncan Keith (2nd round), Kris Letang (3rd round) and Shea Weber (2nd round)? Minnesota Wild's Ryan Suter was an early selection. So was Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. But they're rarities. 

Forwards have been safer bets.

In the last 10 drafts, there have been 33 forwards, two goalies and 15 defencemen taken in the top five. You'll see from the list below, defencemen usually don't make the same immediate impact the way the Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos and other forwards have.

You be the judge. Here were the top-five selections in the past 10 NHL entry drafts.

2003

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pittsburgh

2. Eric Staal, C, Carolina

3. Nathan Horton, RW, Florida

4. Nikolai Zherdev, RW, Columbus

5. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buffalo

In hindsight: The first defenceman taken was Ryan Suter (Nashville) at seventh overall. Shea Weber was selected in the second round (54th overall).

2004

1. Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington

2. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh

3. Cam Barker, D, Chicago

4. Andrew Ladd, LW, Carolina

5. Blake Wheeler, RW, Phoenix

In hindsight: Mike Green went 29th overall to the Capitals.

2005

1. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh

2. Bobby Ryan, RW, Anaheim

3. Jack Johnson, D, Carolina

4. Benoit Pouliot, LW, Minnesota 

5. Carey Price, G, Montreal

In hindsight: Although he needed two more years in junior, the Hurricanes could have selected Marc Staal in the third spot and then they would have all three NHL-playing brothers in the lineup with Jared in the minors. Kris Letang didn't go until the third round (62nd overall).

2006

1. Erik Johnson, D, St. Louis

2. Jordan Staal, C, Pittsburgh

3. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago

4. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington

5. Phil Kessel, RW, Boston

In hindsight: Not a strong draft for defencemen, but because of what we know now, Toews would have a better first overall pick.

2007

1. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago

2. James van Riemsdyk, LW, Philadelphia

3. Kyle Turris, C, Phoenix

4. Thomas Hickey, D, Los Angeles

5. Karl Alzner, D, Washington

In hindsight: Oops. P.K. Subban wasn't taken until the second round (43rd overall).

2008

1. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay

2. Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles

3. Zach Bogosian, D, Atlanta

4. Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis

5. Luke Schenn, D, Toronto

In hindsight: All fine picks, but Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson was taken 15th overall, but unlike Doughty, Bogosian and Schenn, Karlsson didn't become a NHL regular until 2009.

2009

1. John Tavares, C, N.Y. Islanders 

2. Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay

3. Matt Duchene, C, Colorado

4. Evander Kane, RW, Atlanta

5. Brayden Schenn, C, Los Angeles

In hindsight: Can't argue with Hedman. He made an immediate impact with the Lightning, but Phoenix's Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who went sixth, appears ready for prime time.

2010

1. Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton 

2. Tyler Seguin, C, Boston

3. Erik Gudbranson, D, Florida

4. Ryan Johansen, C, Columbus

5. Nino Niederreiter, LW, N.Y. Islanders

In hindsight: Whom would you have rather taken, Gudbranson, Cam Fowler (12th) or Justin Faulk (37th)?

2011

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton

2. Gabriel Landeskog, RW, Colorado

3. Jonathan Huberdeau, C, Florida

4. Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey

5. Ryan Strome, C, N.Y. Islanders

In hindsight: Larsson regressed this past season. The Devils could have drafted Dougie Hamilton, who went 9th to the Bruins, or Jonas Brodin, who went 10th to Minnesota. Both are further along in their development than Larsson at this point.

2012

1. Nail Yakupov, LW, Edmonton

2. Ryan Muray, D, Columbus

3. Alex Galchenyuk, C, Montreal

4. Griffin Reinhart, D, N.Y. Islanders

5. Morgan Rielly, D, Toronto

In hindsight: Too early. Murray suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in junior last fall, but neither Reinhart nor Rielly made their NHL teams in training camp.

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