It’s a known fact that the Colorado Avalanche badly need a solid franchise defenseman to round out a young and very talented roster. many expected the Avalanche to select Seth Jones with the first overall pick when they won the Draft Lottery to jump ahead of Florida. However closer to the draft they made it no secret on who they were taking. I’m going to take a look at how the draft could have looked, had each team in the top four drafted on needs.
First Overall: Colorado Avalanche
Drafted: Nathan MacKinnon
Colorado took MacKinnon after his outstanding performance in the Memorial Cup tournament. Had they drafted on need one would think Seth Jones was the likely pick, especially with a solid crop of Centers already on the team. Had they picked Jones they would have the player on their back end every team would be jealous of, and hate playing against. He could help mold the teams defense to go along with the powerful offense still maturing in the forward positions. The downside however is that defenseman take longer to develop, would the Avalanche management be willing to wait? They could always flip Paul Stastny for defensive help, but with a cap hit of over $6 million, what type of return could they get for a 60 point production?
Second Overall: Florida Panthers
Drafted: Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov
Needs: First line Center
Florida certainly filled their need for a top line Center when they drafted Barkov, but was he the man they had at the top of their list? Had Colorado drafted Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon would surely go to Florida and be thrown onto the top line with Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau. It would certainly be an exciting time in South Florida as they haven’t exactly been feared by opposing teams defense and goaltending since Pavel Bure left over 10 years ago. But is there a down side to drafting MacKinnon over Barkov? Huberdeau isn’t known as the most physical of forwards and may be seen as undersized when it comes to his weight. Could throwing a 6’0″, 180lb forward onto a line with Huberdeau be a bit much to ask of the two? Barkov was drafted at 6’3″, 205lb and has the ability to use his size to fight for the puck or open ice. He’s also only 17 years old and has a lot of filling out and growing to do still. Along with playing in the top men’s league in Finland since he was 16, he may be the most NHL ready player in the draft.
Third Overall: Tampa Bay Lightning
Drafted: Jonathan Drouin
Needs: Defense, top six forward
No matter what happened with the top two picks, Tampa was sure to get a man they needed to fill in their roster. They selected forward Jonathan Drouin who had just finished off an amazing year in the QMJHL. Did they may the right choice though? With Steven Stamkos tearing up the NHL and Martin St. Louis not appearing to age, Tampa is set on offense, at least for now. However, Marty will eventually retire, and while they can never replace a player like him they could certainly come close with Drouin. But for now, offense is not the issue in Tampa. Had they taken Jones they would have a dangerous pairing putting him with former second overall pick Viktor Hedman. This could have developed into one of the most dominating defensive pairings in the NHL in the future.
Fourth Overall: Nashville Predators
Drafted: Seth Jones
Needs: Top line forward
The Predators had their sites set on Barkov, expecting Jones (who was at the top of their rankings) to be taken in the top three. However with Colorado throwing a curve ball in drafting MacKinnon the Preds were given a gift, being able to draft Jones. They may as well have won the draft lottery, because they definitely got the steal of the draft, so far at least. Having a defenseman projected to be as good as Jones is never a bad thing. Especially when he has Shea Weber to mentor him as he transitions into the NHL. Now the Preds have one of the best goalies in the world backstopping them, and they toss two world class defenseman in front of him to help out? Scary. Had Barkov dropped to Nashville however, they would have one of the best offensive players, maybe in their club history. This of course isn’t meant to take away from Peter Forsberg, or Paul Kariya, but combined games played for the two with Nashville is just over two full hockey seasons. Both of which were also in Nashville towards the end of their careers, Forsberg only playing in 17 games with the team. So could Barkov broken the Predators’ record books? Definitely. But for now they’ll just have to settle for winning games with an amazing defensive effort until another Forsberg (Filip) is ready for NHL action.
As you can see, the draft could have been very different for a few teams, and shaped their future much differently. Every team in the top four has hit a homerun, so far at least. Until the players step into the NHL and develop we won’t know for sure who the real winner was.