What to Believe from Joe Sakic on Avalanche's Plans for No. 1 Pick in NHL Draft
The NHL draft is days away and speculation runs rampant, spurred by Avalanche personnel czar Joe Sakic. The former Colorado captain and current executive vice president has been remarkably candid while discussing his team's options with the No. 1 overall pick at Sunday's amateur player selection spectacular.
Sakic has worked in tandem with former teammate and fellow franchise legend Patrick Roy, explaining the draft day game plan without a filter in front of media members. But at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, maybe that's exactly what they want us to think.
More importantly, perhaps that's what they want other NHL organizations to believe. Between trade discussions, a trio of forwards and a prodigious defensive prospect, there is plenty to delve into when it comes to the impending Colorado decision.
We sort through recent statements by Sakic and Roy, trying to separate legitimacy from potential pieces of a long con. It's time to embrace the mixed signals and follow a meandering path to Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.
"We’re Leaning More Toward One of Those Three Forwards.” -Sakic
So this takes Seth Jones out of the equation right?
Sakic is regarded as a straight shooter in league circles and always spoke his mind as a team leader. If he's carrying the same mentality to the podium in his powerful new role, the Denver media is going to have plenty to talk about for years to come.
"We feel those three forwards are just too good to pass up," Sakic told The Denver Post.
That would rule out Jones, a prodigious defensive prospect who began his youth hockey experience in the Mile High City. His father, Popeye Jones, spent a season with the Nuggets during his 11-year NBA career.
The trio of forwards Sakic references are Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Alexander Barkov. While the Avalanche have an abundance of holes to fill this offseason, defense is definitely a key vulnerability, so it's startling the team would cross Jones off its draft board so far in advance.
However, recent history shows it may be wiser to stick with a scorer at the top of the draft. The top pick has been used on a forward in 11 of the past 13 years.
St. Louis selected defenseman Erik Johnson at No. 1 in 2006. Two picks later, Chicago tapped forward Jonathan Toews, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and team captain.
"It Would Be Tough for Us Not to Take MacKinnon." -Roy
Patrick Roy joins the party with this enlightening comment. He didn't exactly lock in MacKinnon at No. 1, but it certainly gives us a glimpse of where Roy stands on the subject.
The statement is more or less a compliment thrown in the 17-year-old forward's direction. MacKinnon responded by tossing some love right back at Roy.
"He'd be a great person to develop under," MacKinnon told NHL.com. "He has a very competitive nature and I think I have that, too, so I think it'd go really well. He wants to win and I'd love to play for him. It'd be great."
The 5'11" Halifax product starred in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for two seasons, tallying 153 points in 102 games. That total includes 90 assists, highlighting MacKinnon's effectiveness as a facilitator.
So yeah, it would be tough for any team to pass on a playmaker of his ability.
"Obviously We Feel He [Jones] Is Going to Have a Real Good Career." -Sakic
The lofty expectations swirling around Seth Jones have ranged from "generational talent" to "can't-miss kid." More than a few pundits have pronounced him as the greatest defensive prospect since Chris Pronger.
The 6'4" specimen has superior speed and puck-handling skills at his position. Jones also seems to have the "it" factor, capable of carrying the mantle as a team leader and franchise face.
He scored 14 goals to go with 42 assists in 61 games last season with the Portland Winterhawks. He also led the United States to a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
If Colorado does an about-face and selects Jones, he would be the first African-American player taken with the top pick in an NHL draft.
"We Know We're Going to Get Some Offers and Listen to Some Calls." -Sakic
This is where some skepticism comes into play. Anything Sakic says has to be taken with a grain of salt when you consider he could just be jockeying for position at the bargaining table.
If Florida or Tampa Bay covet Nathan MacKinnon or another forward, don't Sakic's words resonate tremendously within the walls of those organizations?
I'm not saying he's going to pull Seth Jones' name out from under his sleeve at the last second, but it makes more sense for him to indicate a "lean" toward the forwards. Colorado is in an envious position atop a talented draft, and the team must be diligent in fielding trade offers.
"It's important for us to see, 'What can we do to make our team better?' We have to look at all options," Roy told NHL.com. "We can't just close our eyes and say, 'Let's just take a player.'"
"Honestly, I Don’t Know What to Expect." -Sakic
This may be true, but Sakic certainly has a concrete game plan of how to approach the draft at this point. The guess here is by Saturday he plays up the possibility of actually taking Jones with the No. 1 pick, a move aimed at maximizing potential trade partners.
After listening to what other organizational leaders have to offer, Colorado closes out discussions with minutes to spare. The Avalanche select Nathan MacKinnon and expect him to anchor the team's third line as a rookie.
Of course, maybe I'm just buying into the smoke and mirrors.