The sting of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs is never sweet, but for the 14 teams that missed the cut in 2013, there is some solace to be found in one of the deepest and most talent-rich draft classes in the past 10 years. And the spoils could be particularly sensational for the Colorado Avalanche, who earned the No. 1 overall pick following the NHL Draft Lottery on Monday night.
This marked the first year under the new CBA that all 14 non-playoff teams were eligible to win the No. 1 overall pick via the draft lottery. The Avs jumped over the Florida Panthers for the top pick despite the Panthers having the best odds (25 percent) of selecting first. In my opinion, the swap at the top makes little difference, as both the Avs and the Panthers will get their first choice among these prospects. Of course, it makes it easy to say that since this year's class is loaded.
My peers in the scouting business have been buzzing about this draft class since they started viewing these prospects as underagers. There is enough talent -- not only at the top, but throughout the class -- that the 2013 draft could directly change the face of one or two franchises and turn poor or average teams into contenders in a short period of time. The player pool is that deep and that good.
Based on my knowledge of team needs, their prospect pipelines and my evaluations of this year's prospects, here is a look at how I see the draft potentially unfolding. Keep in mind this is an art more than a science, especially since there are major debates still within scouting rooms that will be sorted out with final meetings scheduled. And let's not forget there are three new general managers whose draft preferences we've yet to learn about ... and that number of new GMs might yet grow before draft day. This is a projection based on the best available information I have. And -- as I often remind people -- Rule No. 1 for most draft rooms is "Take the best player on the board." Rule No. 2 for most draft rooms is "Take the best player on the board." Teams will not overreach to accommodate a need -- particularly a need on the current NHL roster.
That said, let's take a look at where the Avalanche and the rest of the teams in the lottery might turn their attention.
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Seth JonesColorado Avalanche
TEAM: Portland (WHL)
Pick analysis: It's pretty likely that Jones will either go No. 1 or No. 2, but I don't see him slipping by the Avs. There's an obvious lack of depth at the position in this organization, coupled with the fact that Jones could easily be a No. 1-overall pick in many draft classes. Colorado has plenty of young bright stars at the forward position, with Gabriel Landeskog (1st round, 2011), Matt Duchene (1st round, 2009) and Ryan O'Reilly (2nd round, 2009). Jones could play this fall based on his physical skills and size, but they might want to look at their current roster and remember how forcing a young D-man into the league can work against a prospect's development. Erik Johnson (the Blues' No. 1 overall pick in 2006) has never lived up to his billing. That said, Johnson could certainly help guide Jones through the pressures of being a top pick and could end up being very important to Jones and his development. I believe Jones has the ability to rise above adversity he encounters, though.
The selection of Jones would be too perfect. Back when the Avs won the Cup in 2001, Seth was at the game with his father, Popeye, then playing with the NBA's Denver Nuggets. It was Avalanche legend Joe Sakic who recommended to Popeye that Seth start taking skating lessons. As Sakic's name continues to be mentioned in connection with a front-office position in Colorado, wouldn't it be something if his first notable move was to reap the benefits of the advice he gave Popeye nearly 12 years ago?