The 2013 NHL draft could ultimately determine league titles down the line, and a deep class presents a multitude of options for every team slated to select a player Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J. Colorado holds the ignition key atop the draft board, facing a difficult decision with the top overall pick of the draft.
According to The Denver Post, Avalanche executive vice president Joe Sakic said the squad is primarily eyeing up three forwards with the first selection. Canadians Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin and Finnish star Alexander Barkov make up the trio of promising playmakers in the mix at No. 1.
However, don't count out American defenseman Seth Jones. He's one of the most promising players to come along at his position in quite some time and is aiming to become the first African-American player taken at the top of the draft in NHL history.
Here's how we rank Colorado's top choices.
Barkov is one of the finest hockey players produced by Finland. He's a balanced player who attacks aggressively on offense without sacrificing his defensive prowess.
The 17-year-old center prospect quickly became a prodigy in the prestigious SM-Liiga. Barkov is the youngest player to score a point in league history, and he broke the all-time record for points scored in a single season by a competitor younger than 18 years old.
He totaled 48 points in 53 contests last season, setting the stage for his emergence as a top NHL draft prospect. The 6'3", 210-pound athlete remains a bit raw, but he is already physically mature enough to deal with the wear and tear of an 82-game campaign.
Diligence in the weight room and in film study would go a long way toward his development as a potential franchise cornerstone. He wasn't overwhelmed at all by SM-Liiga competition and has the uncanny ability of finding open teammates in traffic.
His skating could use some sharpening, but the potential is clearly present when watching Barkov. He's a dark-horse candidate at No. 1 and, with a little polishing, he may ultimately wind up making teams that passed on him pay dearly.
Jones possesses the blend of size and speed that makes professional hockey scouts salivate. The 6'4" specimen is physically advanced for an 18-year-old and already appears well-equipped to contend with the stronger offensive stars of the NHL.
The Texas native picked up the sport in Denver while his father, Popeye Jones, played basketball for the Nuggets. Jones is an intimidating defensive presence who doesn't lack for confidence.
He is also an emerging offensive force. Jones accumulated 56 points in 61 games last season with the Portland Winterhawks,
Perhaps the most impressive facet of his hockey arsenal is an ability to lead. Jones garnered accolades for his role on and off the ice during the United States' run to the 2013 IIHF World Championship gold medal.
Although defensemen are rarely considered at this slot of the draft, Jones is quite an exception and may be the best prospect at his position in more than a decade. The fact that he started his youth hockey career in the same city the Avalanche reside in doesn't hurt.
Drouin shared the same line with MacKinnon as a member of the Halifax Mooseheads. The duo presented a scary predicament for opposing coaches and now creates a compelling choice for Colorado.
The 5'10" left winger is this draft's premier puck-handler and is sensational at seeking out a route toward the net. Drouin displayed elite scoring ability last season, tallying 41 goals in 49 games.
While he may not provide the complete package that MacKinnon presents, particularly on defense, Drouin is a human highlight reel who is guaranteed to bring fans to their feet at least a few times each game. That should go a long way in Denver, where Avalanche fans are desperate for a reason to believe in the franchise again.
The Quebec native needs just a small amount of space to shred a defensive game plan, and he overwhelmed opponents during his first full QMJHL campaign. Drouin finished second in the league with 105 total points.
The 18-year-old is persistent, improvisational and may have a higher ceiling than anyone in this draft. Will that be enough to convince Colorado that he's the choice at No. 1?
The versatile forward enters the NHL fresh off a sensational amateur career. He starred in the heralded Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, which routinely produces top NHL talent.
MacKinnon, still just 17 years old, exudes tremendous hockey IQ. He dished out 90 assists in 102 QMJHL contests, displaying exceptional awareness and timing on the ice.
The 5'11" speedster is highly capable of taking the puck to the net or pulling up for a powerful slap shot. He tallied 63 goals during two seasons in the QMJHL, leading the Halifax Mooseheads to the organization's first league championship.
MacKinnon is the most polished product in this draft. A telling sign of his maturity is the way he plays enthused defense without ever getting lost in the fray.
MacKinnon could step in as a third-line center for Colorado during his rookie campaign. First-year Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy isn't shy about his assessment of MacKinnon.
"It would be tough for us not to take MacKinnon," Roy told NHL.com.