Jones or MacKinnon: Who should go first overall?

Seth Jones' potential to be a rare superstar could land him as the first overall pick in June. (Leech44/Wikimedia Commons)

Seth Jones’ potential to be a rare superstar could land him as the first overall pick in June. (Leech44/Wikimedia Commons)

By: Chris Messina

@cmessina85

Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon? That is the question for the team picking first in this June’s NHL draft. Teams still have several months to make up their to decide, but with all the different independent scouting agencies releasing their mid-season rankings not long ago, the debate has heated up once again about who will go number one?

Remember the draft isn’t about picking the best player today; it’s about projecting who is going to be the best player down the road. That might be why Central Scouting, along with many other independent scouting services, have Seth Jones listed as the top player available among this year’s crop of draft eligible players.

Seth, the son of Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Popeye Jones, is a tall, sleek-skating, puck-moving defenseman many scouts view as having the potential to become a rare breed of blueliner in the game. With his dad having played in the NBA, he comes from an athletic background and could have picked a number of other sports to play – especially being from Texas – but he decided on hockey.

For a team trying to build a franchise having a stalwart defenseman like what Jones is projected to be is crucial. TSN’s draft scout, Craig Button – also a former general manager of the Calgary Flames – joked on his latest edition of the network’s draft center podcast that Chris Pronger and Nick Lidstrom should be candidates for the Hart Trophy this year. His point was elite defenseman are hard to come by and a teams that have a chance to get one in the draft need to capitalize on that opportunity.

Ray Ferraro – a former NHLer that played 1,258 games while collecting 898 points himself- while doing colour commentary from between the benches during a game at the World Juniors on TSN said he believed the team picking at number one will be hard pressed to pass on Jones and the potential he posses. It shows that regardless of who is better now there seems to be a number of hockey people that think along the lines of Ferraro and Button.

MacKinnon is a completely different type of player. He’s a bull, maybe the next great power forward with his ability to skate, his size and the soft pair of hands he possesses. Watch clips of him on YouTube and you’ll see tons of instances where he stick handles in tight spots on the ice, something only the game’s top players are capable of but because he is a different type of player, a type that is much more common to come across he might not be the first player taken on June 30 in New Jersey.

A year ago when he was tearing up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as a 16 year old rookie it didn’t look like anybody could challenge him for number one in 2013, but then as the year progressed, Jones – a member of the US Development Team at the time – started to tip-toe onto the scene.

The great thing about comparing these two has been the stage we have been able to judge their hockey abilities on. They played each other in Ufa, Russia last month, they played against each other in the Top Prospects game earlier this month and in May there is a chance they could face each other in the Memorial Cup. There is still a lot of hockey left and it will be interesting to see how each does.

In Canada draft junkies were eagerly awaiting Bob McKenzie’s mid-season draft show on January 31. Over the years McKenzie – who is closing in on 500, 000 twitter followers – has provided accurate predictions of where players will be selected in the draft. There are many lists out there for hockey fans to glare over, but a lot of them are independent scouting bureaus – like Central Scouting – that aren’t trying to predict where players will be taken, instead they compile lists of their own rankings.  McKenzie doesn’t do that. He polls scouts from NHL teams and makes his list based on where he believes the players will be selected in the draft.

There is an old saying about drafting players, it says that you don’t draft based on need –especially in the first round or two – you take the best player available. What that means in 2013, we will find out. One thing we do know is that we probably aren’t going to have an idea of who goes number one until the team picking steps up to the podium in New Jersey on June 30.

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