The 2013 NHL Draft Sunday went as expected – except when the unexpected happened.
The Colorado Avalanche, as expected, selected forward Nathan MacKinnon from the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the first overall pick of the draft. The Avs’ brain trust stated for over a week that they liked MacKinnon over defenseman Seth Jones of the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks. He was rated the top player in several mock drafts leading up to Sunday’s events. The fact that Jones started playing hockey as a child growing in Denver seemed like a feel-good storyline too good for the Avalanche to pass on him. But they did.
“Yeah, it definitely sounded too good to be true,” Jones told reporters. “It turned out that way… I mean, I’m not unhappy that they didn’t choose me. It was their decision, and that’s what they thought would be best for their organization. You’ve got to respect that.”
Then the Tampa Bay Lightning, an offensive juggernaut that struggled to keep pucks out of their net, chose forward Jonathan Drouin, MacKinnon’s teammate in Halifax, at No. 3.
The Nashville Predators wasted no time in taking Jones, son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, with the 4th pick in the draft. The pick appears to be a win-win for the Preds. The team already has an all-world defenseman in Shea Weber and teaming him with Jones, who’s projected to be a beast on defense and a solid contributor on offense in the near future, could produce stunning results.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about going to those (other) teams, but at the same time I’m excited to be a Predator, and obviously Shea Weber is there; He’s a great player, and they have a lot of other great players, and I’m happy to be a part of the organization,” Jones said.
But Jones’ arrival in Music City could also spell Weber’s eventual exit. The Predators signed Weber last summer to a 14-year, $110 million contract – a tough note for the medium-sized market team made even tougher after the NHL decided to lower the salary cap for teams in the 2013-14 season. Long story short, the Predators could shop Weber if Jones turns out to be the star shut-down defenseman that many experts project him to be.
Jones didn’t go first overall but, as a No. 4 pick, he is the highest selected African-American player ever taken in the NHL draft and the highest Texas-born player chosen. He didn’t shed tears for falling into Nashville’s lap. And he had a message for the teams that passed on him.
“Yeah, you definitely want to prove them wrong and you definitely want to show them why they should have picked you,” he said. “That’s not my only goal next year, but it’s definitely on my list.”
While playing in hometown Denver would have been nice, Jones said Nashville’s a good fit as well.
“I love country (music) to be honest,” he said. “I listen to it a lot, actually.”
Jones’ fall and Barkov’s rise sent ripples in the rest of the first round. Darnell Nurse, a rugged defenseman from the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, went 7th to the Edmonton Oilers. After his name was announced, Nurse got a huge bear hug from his uncle, retired Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who received a rough reception from Philly fans when the Eagles chose him with the second overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft over running back Ricky Williams.
So Schneider went from being the Canucks’ goalie of the future to being the heir apparent to the Devils’ Martin Brodeur, a future Hall of Fame netminder. The Canucks used the 9th pick to draft Bo Horvat, a center from the London Knights of the OHL.
Jones and Nurse were just two of a handful of players of color chosen in Sunday’s draft. With the 64th pick in the third round, Nashville chose another big defenseman, Jonathan-Ismael Diaby from the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigers. Like Jones and Nurse, Diaby comes from an athletic family. His father was a professional soccer player in Africa, according to The Hockey News.
The Buffalo Sabres used the 52nd pick in the second round to take right wing Justin Bailey of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. Bailey’s a Western New York native who has been likened to another player from the region: the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane. The Sabres also plucked right wing Nick Baptiste from the CHL’s Sudbury Wolves with the 69th pick in the third round.
The Washington Capitals bulked up their defense by choosing Madison Bowey of the CHL’s Kelowna Rockets with the 53rd pick of the draft. The New York Rangers took left wing Anthony Duclair from the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts with the 80th pick in the draft’s third round.
And the Subban family notched a hat trick Sunday when defenseman Jordan Subban was selected by the Canucks in the fourth round as the 115th overall pick. He’s the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens’ P.K. Subban, who recently won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman, and goaltender Malcolm Subban, who was a Boston Bruins first round draft pick last summer.