The Colorado Avalanche will have first crack at defenceman Seth Jones … or centre Nathan MacKinnon … or left-winger Jonathan Drouin at the NHL draft on June 30 in New Jersey.
Colorado, which finished 29th in the 30-team league this season, won the NHL draft lottery Monday night, ending Edmonton's three-year run at the top.
Jones, the standout defenceman with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, had 14 goals and 56 points in 61 regular-season games before adding five goals and 13 points in 15 playoff contests.
"I'm very appreciative and honoured," Jones told Canadian cable sports network TSN about being the potential No. 1 pick in the draft. "Wherever I'm picked, if it's not first overall, I'd be happy to pull over the jersey and work my hardest."
Jones acknowledged he's thought about the idea of winning a world junior gold medal, Memorial Cup championship and going first overall in the NHL draft in the same year.
"I've been part of one [the world junior gold] but hopefully I can get another in a couple of weeks and we'll see about the third. Right now, I feel really good about our chances to go to the Memorial Cup," said Jones, who led the Americans to gold at the world junior championship in January.
On Friday, Portland will open the WHL final against Edmonton or Calgary.
The Quebec Nordiques, who would move to Colorado before the 1995-96 season, drafted Eric Lindros first overall in 1991 and later traded him to Philadelphia. The previous two years, Quebec kept their first overall picks, Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan.
Florida, which finished last in the NHL this season with a 15-27-6 record, had a 25 per cent chance of grabbing top spot in the weighted lottery, but dropped to second. Colorado had an 18.8 per cent chance of winning the top selection.
2013 NHL draft order
- 1. Colorado
- 2. Florida
- 3. Tampa Bay
- 4. Nashville
- 5. Carolina
- 6. Calgary
- 7. Edmonton
- 8. Buffalo
- 9. New Jersey
- 10. Dallas
- 11. Philadelphia
- 12. Phoenix
- 13. Winnipeg
- 14. Columbus
Tampa Bay, Nashville and Carolina rounded out the top five, while Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg will pick sixth, seventh and 13th overall, respectively, at this year's draft.
Jones, 18, has a connection to Colorado dating back to his father Popeye Jones's playing days in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets.
In the late 1990s, Popeye took Seth and his brothers to the occasional Avalanche game and Seth fell in love with the speed and power of NHL hockey.
When Seth expressed an interest in playing the game, Popeye, who was drafted 41st overall in 1992, turned to Colorado star Joe Sakic for advice on how to get started and the captain stressed skating lessons.
Years later, six-foot-four, 206-pound Seth Jones is a calm and poised player who captained the United States to the under-18 world championship title last season.
"There's a lots to like [about Jones]," said Rick Pracey, Colorado's amateur scouting director. "His size and skating are two things that jump off the page and are attention-grabbers.
"But his ability to rush the puck and make decisions coming out of the defensive zone and create offence from the back end has our attention. He's an individual that brings two-way ability and size, the reach, the ability on the back end serve him well in the D-zone. He's certainly a well-rounded, two-way defenceman that is getting plenty of attention and hype at the top of the board and rightly so."
Pracey said Halifax Mooseheads forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin are both very much in the picture to be selected first overall in what is very deep talent pool.
"This is not a slam-dunk decision by any means," he said. "Our philosophy has always been best player available."
MacKinnon scored 32 goals and 75 points in 44 games, while Drouin had 41 goals and 105 points in 49 starts.
The lottery adopted a different format this year, with all of the 14 non-playoff teams having a shot at the first overall pick. The remaining 13 squads will be slotted in reverse order of their regular-season points.
In previous years, the lottery-winning team could move up no more than four spots in the draft order.
Edmonton picked first overall in each of the last three years, becoming the first team to do so since Quebec (1989-1991).
The Nordiques went on to capture the Stanley Cup five years later after moving to Denver.