They told any one who asked them that they were leaning towards one of the three forwards and went on further to say that Nathan MacKinnon was their man, yet skepticism remained. Colorado removed all doubt on Sunday afternoon with the selection of MacKinnon from the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL). Portland (WHL) defenseman Seth Jones had widely been rumored to have been the pick of choice once the Avs had won the draft lottery, but Avs management made it clear that they valued MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, and Aleksander Barkov more than Jones, who started playing hockey as a youngster in Colorado. As it turns out, all three forwards were selected ahead of Jones as the talented defender fell fourth to the Nashville Predators.
The Avs add a fiery and skilled competitor in MacKinnon, who adds to a talented group of centers already on the Colorado Avalanche roster. Head coach Patrick Roy hinted that MacKinnon would center the third line to start his professional career with Colorado. While defense remains a big need for Colorado, they are developing talented youngsters in Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott. Plus, Duncan Siemens is expected to make the jump to the professional ranks this fall.
Yet, the club surrendered the fourth most goals (152) in the NHL this past season and with the team passing over Jones, and desperately needing offense from the blueline, more immediate improvements will have to come via free agency and trade. That's not to say Jones alone would have fixed what ailed the Avalanche. Clearly the team would have to go outside the draft in order to improve the defensive ranks.
Yet, this day is about MacKinnon and with him now on board, the Avs are developing a young and talented offensive core that hopes to rekindle the days of the great Avalanche teams of old.
Nathan has a burning desire to make a difference in the game and more times than not, he's successful. His skating is excellent with first-step quickness that is exceptional, which allows him to beat defenders and create opportunities in a flash. He has great hands and is able to maneuver the puck in the tight areas. His shot is quick and accurate and he doesn't allow goalies to get a read on it. He is forceful and at times may be inclined to shoot first rather than consider passing options but his playmaking is very good. He is a single-minded player as well as being 'no nonsense' in his approach. His determination along with his skill allows him to impact the game and to do so at the most important times as evidenced in the Ivan Hlinka Gold Medal game and also the Memorial Cup Championship game. An elite number one centre.