Seth Jones had it all going for him coming into the 2013 NHL Draft. His father Popeye Jones played basketball for the Denver Nuggets. The team picking #1 is from the same area, the Colorado Avalanche.
During his playing days, Popeye asked Joe Sakic, an Avalanche legend, for advice on Seth playing hockey.
Jones was rated the number one prospect by NHL Central Scouting. Colorado had a huge need for a shut-down defenseman in spite of all their offensive talent. Jones was supposed to become a hero for the Avalanche. The Avalanche surprised a lot of people by bucking conventional wisdom.
The hockey world was surprised was when newly named head coach and vice president of hockey operations, Patrick Roy announced that Nathan MacKinnon, not Jones was the number one prospect on their board and the prospective pick.
It seemed like an odd fit considering that Colorado has three very good centers, Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. Clearly, the team was planning on taking the best player available. Colorado decided that MacKinnon was indeed their guy and they drafted him.
The two players were regarded as “1 and 1A” so there was no way that Florida would pass on Seth as well.
Boy, were we wrong as well as stunned by the second pick.
Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon shocked many people by taking Alexander Barkov at two. Barkov is a physical center who can anchor a top line. The Panthers were looking for help in the middle but to pass on a difference-making defenseman stunned a lot of people. Florida was one of the worst teams on defense last year and could have used Jones.
The third pick was a given because the Tampa Bay Lightning needed a winger to pair with Steven Stamkos. Jonathan Drouin was drafted at three by the Lightning. Many people were left wondering why Jones had fallen this far.
Fortunately for Jones, the next team got it right and Lady Luck was smiling down on them.
The Nashville Predators had said that Jones was the number one player on their board. And what luck did Nashville have?
They got a top of the line defenseman to pair with All-Star Shea Weber. The thought of these two on the first line is enough to shake even the gutsiest enforcers. Patience paid off for the Predators and they now have their guy for the next 10 years.
GM David Poile made the right decision here. Jones being rated first by Central Scouting was not just for show. The kid has real skills and many experts had him rated ahead of MacKinnon. Having done my research on many of the drafts, several defensemen are still in the AHL and have not set the world on fire.
I wonder if there was a fear that Jones would not pan out and that the three selected before him were considered “safer” picks. Florida took a huge risk by passing on Jones considering the need.
The perception of defensemen being harder to predict at the pro level and the “safety” of offensive prospects is what I think caused Jones to fall to four. This should give him motivation to make those three teams that passed on him to regret their choices.