2013 NHL Draft: Seth Jones Is Perfect Fit for Florida Panthers

Jeremy Fuchs@@jaf78Correspondent IIIJune 29, 2013

BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 29:  Seth Jones #3 of Team McClanahan skates against Team Housley at the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at the First Niagara Center on September 29, 2012 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Seth Jones is the consensus best player in this year's NHL draft. 

However, he won't be selected first overall. According to CBC Nova Scotia, the Colorado Avalanche have all but confirmed that they will be selecting center Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall selection:

While the Avalanche may come to regret not selecting Jones, the Florida Panthers will benefit from the decision. The Panthers were woeful on defense last season, giving up 3.5 goals per game, which was worst in the league. In addition, they had the worst penalty kill in the league.

Selecting Jones, who profiles as shutdown defender, would go a long way towards fixing that. Jones is ready to play in the NHL next season and he brings a brand of physical play, solid positioning and athleticism. He has a rocket of a slap shot from the point and will change games with bone-crushing hits.

Jones has an offensive game similar to P.K. Subban and a defensive game similar to Duncan Keith. He's an all-around defenseman who projects as Norris Trophy contender for years to come. 

The Panthers do have some promising young defenders in Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov. Adding Jones to that mix would give the Panthers three potential shutdown defenders going forward.

With an improved defense, the Panthers can then focus on improving the offense.

Good hockey teams are built from the net out. The Panthers have a potential goaltender of the future in Jacob Markstrom, who had a 3.22 goals-against average in 23 games in 2013. At just 23, the Panthers should be set in goal for some time.

Add Jones to a young, talented defense core and the Panthers will start to have a nucleus that could make some noise in the next few years.

Up front, the Panthers have Calder Trophy-winning forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored 14 goals and had 17 assists in 48 games. They also have talented players in Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias.

With Jones, the Panthers are suddenly not that far off. As the trio of Jones, Gudbranson and Kulikov matures, the Panthers defense will begin to improve. With the talent up front, this could be a playoff team in a few years.

But it starts with taking Jones.

Passing on a shutdown defender is never a wise move. A player like Jones does not come around often. The last player who had the same potential was Drew Doughty in 2008 and he helped lead the Los Angeles Kings to a Stanley Cup a season ago. 

Jones is the best player in this draft and has Chris Pronger-type potential

If the Panthers can add that to the blue line, then their days of being a cellar-dweller will soon be over.